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January 08, 2016

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

How .Ski Has Allowed StartingDot's Rob Rozicki to Turn His Favorite Pastime Into a New Profession

While the NamesCon conference covers every aspect of the domain business the show (which will make its 3rd annual run Sunday through Wednesday (January 10-13, 2016) at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas) has served as an especially effective showcase for new gTLDs. All of the major players in that category (as well as many of the smaller ones) will have representatives at the show to answer questions about their extensions.

One of them will be Rob Rozicki, Senior VP at StartingDot Ltd. and Co-Founder of the company's .ski TLD. StartingDot also operates .bio and .archi (for the architecture world). I first met the personable snow skiing fanatic at the first WHD.USA conference in Pennsylvania last spring and am looking forward to seeing him again at NamesCon. Like so many people in our industry there is an interesting story behind how he arrived at his current position in this business. While Rozicki's focus is on the company's new TLDs, he is not new to the space. 

"I’ve been involved with domains and the Internet in some form or another since 2000." Rozicki said, "My first exposure to domains was working with large corporations and brand 

Rob Rozicki
Senior VP at StartingDot Ltd.
and .Ski Co-Founder

owners on their domain portfolios. The early 2000s were an exciting time in the domain name industry. People were beginning to understand the value of the web as a business driver and importantly how domains influenced peoples Internet usage. I learnt a lot about what drives people and businesses to register domains, which was a great experience and took me around the world." 

"In 2010 I left the domain name industry for SEO, helping to successfully grow one of the top SEO technology start-ups in New York. This gave me a real entrepreneurial itch and new gTLDs gave me the opportunity to scratch the itch."

"Launching the .ski extension was a natural selection for me to get into new gTLDs. I’m a passionate skier and know that community like the back of my hand. If you look at the demographics of the community and role technology plays in modern ski culture its easy to see how important it is for skiers, businesses and brands to have their own piece of internet real estate like .ski. Spending lots of time in the 

community made it really easy to see there was a viable business model in the .ski extension," Rozkicki said, adding ".bio and .archi are the same. Both service communities that really see value in having their own TLD and its great to see their growth on a daily basis, validating our assumptions."

"One of the best parts about working with these three TLDs and StartingDot is that I get to work with people who view the space in exactly the same way. Godefroy Jordan, our CEO and Founder is a serial French entrepreneur, who brings a wealth of business and community experience to the organization, showing you really don’t need to be a domain name veteran to build a successful registry. Stéphane Van Gelder is a real domain industry insider. He was Cofounder and General Manager, INDOM for over ten years and is heavily involved in ICANN as the ICANN Nominating Committee Chair Elect and a member of the ICANN Business Users Constituency, GNSO. With this balance of skills and experiences between myself, Godefroy and Stéphane there is never a dull day at the office!," Rozicki declared. "We also have an amazing international team supporting the business, which we couldn’t live without and are really the engine room of the operation."

Not many people get to combine something they most love to do in their free time with what they do at work. Rozicki is one of those rare birds and he realizes how fortunate he is. "It's not every day you get to apply what you are good at with the thing that you are passionate about and then on top of that get to see real results from that," Rozicki agreed. "This is what makes doing this really special for me. I’ve grown up a skier (apart from a few years snowboarding) and it’s a sport that just stays with you. The feeling of community, friendship, adventure and shared risk all skiers have is an addiction. I love the way all-cultural and language barriers disappear when you’re on the ski lift, about to drop into a line or having a beer after a powder day. I could go on for hours," Rozicki laughed.

"Being able to build a business in snowsports is a dream come true for me. I love every conversation with business, brands, athletes and skiers about .ski. And people love .ski, which makes it even better. Its early days but it really feels like we’re building a  

Skiing image from Bigstock

legacy for the snowsports community. A real resource that will become part of the norm," Rozicki said. "Another bonus is that promoting .ski keeps me out of the office and on the mountains!"

Of course, new TLDs are just that – new – so, as with the hundreds of other news extensions, the biggest challenge StartingDot faces is making the public aware that .ski exists. "Awareness is a huge challenge for us," Rozicki acknowledged. "That’s why we took a very different approach to other TLDs when it came to raising awareness. Many waited to launch before marketing and promoting their TLDs (and some still don’t). We’ve were promoting .ski to the community for at least two years before launch. This really paid off. A survey we ran across brands, individuals and resorts showed there was over 60% awareness of a new .ski extension over a year before we launched. With .ski we have a very top down approach. Our goal is to get resorts, brands, athletes and media adopting .ski domains and they are. One example is that almost 1500 resorts already have their .ski names because of the partnerships we’ve created with national resort organizations around the world."

"Once the community begins to realize they are naturally using .ski domains to visit their favorite .ski sites, we hope they will think about .ski when it comes time for them to launch their site," Rozicki noted. "But that’s not it. We’re also really active in the community. We’re at resorts and mountain, at shows and competitions, involved in the governing bodies and heavily promote .ski in social media. This approach is the same for .bio and .archi. It’s a model we’ve developed that has been proven to work"

With bigger new TLD operators running dozens or even hundreds of extensions, we wondered if StartingDot has ambitions to run more than the three TLDs they started with. Rozicki told us, "We have our hands pretty full at the moment managing just three. However, if the right opportunity came along, we would certainly look at it seriously. The right opportunity would need to be a TLD that fits into our wheel house of expertise, be easy for the community its aimed too understand, have a global community big enough for the TLD to be successful and can where our marketing strategy can work."

In closing Rozicki added, "I also think there is something to be said for building a portfolio of related TLDs. I think there are a lot of TLDs in 

certain sectors that are underdeveloped. Sports TLDs is one example. I think we might see registries build small portfolios of similar TLDs whether it is sports or something else."

If you see Rob at NamesCon be sure to say hi. I know sometimes people are uncomfortable approaching someone they don't know and wonder how to break the ice? In this case, just mention skiing and Rob will take care of the rest! 

(Posted January 8, 2016)  


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