Interview with Darren Cleveland – I have asked various parties within the domain industry to take part some interviews to give us a little background about themselves, where they see the industry heading and how they feel the current market for domain names are our thirteenth interview is by Darren Cleveland.
Florida native, proud father of two beautiful children, Darren Jr.(5) & Talia(2). Graduate of Lynn University in Boca Raton which is literally in my backyard with a Degree in Business Administration. Avid sports fan and poker player (regular at the WSOP). I consider myself a Serial entrepreneur and business developer with a focus on internet and software related businesses although I get persuaded into other deals at times. I have been involved in a variety of businesses from startups to multi-million dollar organizations, at the founder(which includes janitor-secretary-coffee runner), executive and consultancy levels.
President/CEO/Co-founder Recall Media Group Holdings, a diversified technology holdings company. Our portfolio includes Niche Directory Platform which is our software licensing division & City Advertising which operates www.funeralhomes.com, www.accidentattorneys.net, www.paintingcontractor.com and other related ventures.
In addition, I am the Managing Partner of Start Up Consultants, LLC a consulting firm primarily focused on start up ventures and providing guidance to entrepreneurs in all aspects of successfully launching a business. We have incubated and consulted for over 145 ventures in a variety of industries over the last 10 years.
1) What are your current thoughts on the Domain Aftermarket? i.e. Sales and Enquiries etc – General Mood of Domainers / End users?
I love the domain aftermarket personally, I consider it my equivalent to the stock market. Domain names are the foundation of the internet, branding and believe it or not the mobile world, however with the recent addition of the new GLTDs I am not convinced it will be positive for the domain industry as a whole. Not because a lack of knowledge from the current powers to be but because of further confusion for the general masses. In order for any market to mature, the general masses have to have an understanding of it or at least be aware of it and that is not and will not be the case moving forward. I have been involved with domain names for the last 13 years and we have yet to see a mature .com/.net/.org or CCtld market therefore by adding this new round of GTLDs (inventory) will only further confuse the masses and further create downward pressures on the maturity level of the market. Which in my opinion is like developing new real estate where the occupancy level is below 50% in a particular market, sure some projects will succeed and some investors will make money but the overall market will be negatively impacted until there is a reason the masses catch on and supply & demand balance out which I do not see in the foreseeable future in either market. I believe the general mood of domainers is always optimistic as each are entrepreneurs in their own right therefore the mind of the entrepreneur is always positive however we should all tread with caution as I believe the overall economy will continue to negatively impact our industry as will new regulations and the current powers to be from the monetization side of things. End users (most) still do not understand the market and traffic valuations, thereby negatively impacting the industry as well. Hence in point, www.Cowboys.com.
2) Where do you see GTLDS in 3 years time?
Struggling to create an identity as a whole with very few winners and mostly losers.
3) What are you or your companies investing in? i.e. Dot Com only Domains – Typo – etc?
As a company we invest primarily in .com, every now and then a .net or .org where we believe there is an opportunity and are always in the market for a good deal. I personally invest in a variety of businesses and am always interested in new opportunities regardless of the nature.
4) Do you believe in Parking or Developing? What are your tips for either i.e. Top Parking Platform (What Do You Use) – Developing your thoughts on what to develop and how best achieve it?
I believe in both, however having two jobs which are distinctively different is a challenge. Think of it like this, let’s say you were a police officer at night and a brain surgeon during the day do you think you are going to be good at both? Therefore, focus on what you do best and leverage it to the fullest. There are a lot of great companies in the space, none of which I will endorse personally as I do not believe there is a one size fits all fit solution for anyone in this industry. For instance some companies are great at travel domains others at finance, managing that process as a domainer is a full time job. Attempting to meet the needs of everyone is part of the challenge this industry and monetization face, now and forever (at least in my lifetime).
Developing is a whole other story, in a domainer’s mind, developing is putting up a word press site and adding Google Adwords, unfortunately that is not the true definition of developing, I wrote a piece a few years back on what it takes to develop a domain name and I think it gave some very interesting insight to what developing requires. There is no such thing as developing a domain name, you develop a business and that takes a skill set which many domainers do not have. There are no short cuts, no way to avoid risk, you have to jump in, fail, reassess and go back at it. I caution the approach, as I have seen tens of millions of dollars get thrown down the drain on betting on ideas that lack execution. That is part of the game, so be prepared because chances are you will fail if you are developing a business.
5) What is your favourite domain personally or company owned?
Hmmm, that is like asking which of my children I like more ;). Therefore DarrenCleveland.com (My son’s name as well) & TaliaCleveland.com (My daughter) which are equally my favorite! No seriously, we acquire domain names based on our internal acquisition criteria therefore there is no emotional attachment to any. Which I think domainers as a whole have a problem with, becoming emotionally attached to a domain name and a dream (read 4 part 2), not realizing dreams are dreams and there are no dreams in business, it’s just business. Don’t get me wrong, I dream often however I don’t develop businesses on dreams or unrealistic ideas as execution requires real world skill and know how.
6) If you were starting out in the domain space today what are your 3 top tips?
1) Look for niches, don’t follow what others are doing, find your way and develop your niche.
2)TEST everything, just because you are having success in a particular area, make sure it works thoroughly before scaling it.
3)Prepare for the worst, while it seems like a cliché, for us that have been in the industry for awhile and have seen our earnings drop by 75% overnight, anything is possible. So be smart and plan accordingly.
7) What’s the next big thing that your companies are working on?
Conquering the world, what else? We do not believe in the next big thing as we have a viable business which we continue to focus on and expand. I do believe mobile will continue to grow primarily in the app space and that eventually all websites/apps will be universal essentially functioning the same on all devices regardless of who makes it which I believe will have a positive impact on the domain channel.
8) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
God willing, alive and well first off, semi-retired and hopefully enjoying my children while managing our continued success.
9) What has been your biggest challenge in the domain business?
Great question, I would say domain valuations have been and continues to be the biggest challenge in our industry. Lacking a centralized valuation/appraisal system is one of the main reasons the industry is considered by most (outsiders) as a “snake oil salesman” business, early on we invested a lot of money to attempt to unify the powers to be but that failed. I believe not having a centralized system for trading domain names like a stock exchange with the ability to liquidate these assets is the primary reason we have not reached the masses and will remain a fairly immature market as I have already stated. Apparently there are some new players attempting to do just that but until it’s done right the market will remain an underground asset class with no mass appeal. When you consider other asset classes, stocks/bonds; commodities; real estate, the inventory is so vast it’s scary but the only reason it’s considered a legitimate asset class is because there is liquidity and established valuations, not because an ounce of gold is really worth $1700 it’s because if I buy it at $1700 I can with some certainty sell it somewhere near there shortly after hence providing liquidity and can also hedge against future losses. Establish valuations and the rest of the market will follow. The challenge also relates to acquiring domain names as well, as with a $10 holding cost why would a domain owner take $2500 today if they are looking for $25000 tomorrow with no basis of requesting that valuation outside of their gut feeling.
10) What do you feel has been your largest accomplishment in the Business / Personally?
Man you ask some tough questions, well personally it has been the birth and raising my two children, which I owe a lot of credit to my wife for. On the business front, I would say forging the relationships that I have in business, there are not that many people I have come across in this business or any that I do not get along with. Given the privacy and nature of it, I have managed to maintain some great relationships and that is what has afforded myself and our company a lot of success.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate in this interview, wish you and your readers all the success in the world!
Carpe Diem (Latin for “Seize the day”!)
would like to say a big Thank You to Darren Cleveland for taking part in this interview for RobbiesBlog.com – Please check out Darren Cleveland’s sites and many others www.funeralhomes.com, www.accidentattorneys.net, www.paintingcontractor.com