Only 3 years…seems like about 10 years! It’s been tough, it’s
been great and it’s been rewarding. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. came to be when
there was no industry in an effort to establish one. Looking back,
looks we played a substantial role in making the conditions for that
to become a reality. It’s up to others to comment and judging by
their comments I think we have moved mountains in the last 3 years. T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
facilitated and escalated the inevitable. We harnessed the power of
a group of folks doing well and living in obscurity as far as the
business world was concerned. Then we introduced them to those that
could help them realize their dreams.
co-founders Rick Schwartz (left)
and Howard Neu at their New York City
conference in June 2007
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. played a major
role in not only exposing domain investing but has also
helped to drive prices up with the new awareness brought on
by our Silicon
Valley show in early 2006. Each show we have had
a focus, a mission and a successful result. In 2004 sponsors
and domainers and registrars had largely never met face to
face even though many had done business for years. T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
changed that. In 2005 nobody paid attention to domain
hijacking. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. changed that. In 2006 we decided
there were not enough serious investors in our domains so we
went to Silicon Valley and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. changed that. In
2007 we took on Madison Avenue and went toe to toe.
The result may not yet be evident, but when it is, T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
will have changed that.
Plus we have
changed the face of the marketplace by partnering up with Moniker
and having live domain auctions that have resulted in $25
million in sales during the past 3 shows. Plus we go to
other vertical markets to introduce domains and auctions to
them. I think friend or foe alike would have to admit that T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
has played a major role in the industry and that it has had
a profound effect on how they do business, their earnings
and the increased values in their portfolios.
Journal: As the industry has grown, so has the schedule
of conferences focused on the domain business. That has raised a
challenge for you to keep the programs and venues fresh and relevant
to those who have now been to numerous conferences. In many fields
shows would soon become “old hat” but the rate of change in this
business occurs at such a phenomenally fast pace that, if show
promoters do their job well, there is something new and important to
learn and take away from each event. What do you have in store for
attendees next month that, in your view, makes this a show that
people should not miss?
Schwartz: I think going forward domain owners and
sponsors are going to be much more choosey of where they are
going to invest their time and money. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. proves
with every show that we give a great return for the
investment. When folks come to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. they are
struck by the quality of people there and the array of
companies represented. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has set the tone and
agenda for 3 years now. But it is not me setting the course,
it is the attendees because we listen to their feedback.
Yes, there have been a lot of shows popping up and sometimes
we see it is not as easy as everyone believes. Our
reputations are on the line with each event, each seminar,
each meal, each registration. We have to make them
successful. We have to make them important. We have to make
an agenda that trail blazes the path with IDEAS. Others have
taken some swipes at us, but you can’t build another show
by trashing T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and then copying what we
You can’t copy T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and let just anybody attend and then
consider yourself a leader. You can’t have the quality of
networking we provide when there are distractions or folks that are
just not qualified and therefore waste your time or end up spamming
you after the show. So because of our basic formula to begin with
the shows are always fresh and cutting edge and more important it is
always timely to what is going on and what is to come. All one has
to do is read the before show interviews and match them with the
post show reviews that DN Journal does at each show and there is not
much more to be said. Each time I would make bold predictions and
knowing that all eyes were on me to see if Howard and I
speaker Steve Forbes
would deliver and each time we
did. We could not hire people to do what we do. I think
about it all day every day. I look far down the road. Years
down the road and at the same time figuring out how it plays
with today’s realities.
On another front, I think when
you get someone with the stature of a Steve Forbes (the
keynote speaker for this year's event), it says more than I
can possibly say. He does not sell us one extra ticket. He
costs a hell of a lot of our profits. But what he does do is
make folks sit up and take notice. Notice that we are
serious about what we do and want to discuss what we have
learned with someone who could actually appreciate it and
even possibly help move things forward either directly or
indirectly. It raises the level of the industry and we
believe there will be dividends realized when we engage
folks of this caliber. Steve Forbes is first class.
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is first class. The attendees are first
class. When you use the best ingredients, you have a damn
good chance of putting out the best product.
Journal: Recent times have been very good for those who
had the foresight to see the value inherent to high quality domain
names. Yet there is no guarantee that the good times will go on
forever. Threats are starting to appear from several quarters from
over-reaching trademark interests to reverse hijacking attempts to
character assassination aimed at an entire industry by those who
would like to see laws changed to make it easier to take domain
assets away from their rightful owners. Will these dangers be
addressed during the Hollywood show?
Schwartz: Definitely no guarantees in any business at any
time but still a very bright outlook even as the storm clouds
gather. We will be addressing these threats in a multitude of ways
with different folks, different panels and different points of view.
For example, we have an IP panel made up of the industry’s
top lawyers (Ari Goldberger, Steve Sturgeon, John
Berryhill, Paul Keating and Jeremiah Johnston) and
they are going to address the “Gray area” and the future
ramifications of wrongful decisions. This has the possibility to be
a very explosive panel.
note: here is how the program describes this session) "Meet
the Lawyers IP discussion. Do domainers know where to draw the line?
"There is no question that the TM laws and how they are applied
online are NOT consistent with the decision making for offline
enterprise. Someday there will be hundreds of reversals as domains
taken wrongly from domainers that were not actually violating a
we have a separate issue as it is Google and Yahoo that actually T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
and make all this profitable whether right or wrong, violation or
not. There are a lot of moving parts to all this and not everything
is obvious. There are nuances that can be legally exploited. The
thinking has yet to catch up with the technology. Some of the issues
are so gray that one could argue on either side for or against. This
panel will let it all hang out. A heated debate from all sides will
be the result."
also have a panel discussing “Parking under attack” and
we will be hearing from the Internet
Commerce Association (ICA) as to the current
challenges we face. I am sure the bloggers panel (that
includes Frank Schilling, Sahar Sarid, Michael
Gilmour, Owen Frager and myself) will discuss
this as will the meeting of the chiefs. So the threat that
is gathering is high on our agenda and we will fight back
with everything at our disposal.
is no question we are entering a period of some turmoil. The
good news is that domains will continue to increase in value
as the fight heats up. If the assets were not so valuable,
why would they be investing such resources into painting all
domain owners as cybersquatters? There is an outright
campaign of slander, name calling and outright lies against
legitimate domain name investors practicing capitalism at
its truest form and some of it is coming from companies that
should know better.
Will be part of Bloggers Panel
They want what
we have because they blew it. Some don’t think I should
make harsh statements like that…..but what color lipstick should I
use to color the picture any differently than it is? The truth is
that they finally recognize the value and they will try alternate
means to get what we own. They can try, but they won’t succeed.
Some may be intimidated, but the majority of domain investors will
fight. Fight and win. That is why the ICA is an important
organization for domain investors to support both verbally and
financially. The harder they try the more value will be associated
with our assets and the more eyes will be watching who is
doing what. Eventually their
conduct will backfire and they will pick on some mom and
pop, reverse hijack their domain, drive them out of business
and a ground swell will develop.
They will try to save money by
using their legal department instead of mergers and
acquisitions. They use methods to intimidate folks that
can’t afford to fight. However, when one of these popular
companies gets caught, it will cost them hundreds of
millions of dollars or more in the brand they spent so
much to develop. This will only have to happen to one major
company and the rest will learn not to pee on the electric
fence. I can’t tell you when this will happen, I hope it
is tomorrow, but there is no question in my mind that it
will happen and when it does, this practice will stop in its
Journal: It is common knowledge that the highest value
from attending T.R.A.F.F.I.C. comes from the networking
opportunities presented there. You have always preached the value of
assembling a unique mix of people at your events. Tell us about your
views on that and whether or not they have changed at all since you
Schwartz: As you might imagine I come under a lot of
pressure to change this or that or to open the show up to everyone.
I analyze things to the nth degree. Whenever I go against my gut
instincts, I live to regret it. So yes, they have changed. My
convictions have only gotten stronger. Our formula works and
works well and while others take their shots at us, we still provide
something that nobody else has been able to duplicate.
We offer events
that are life changing and I repeat that often. I repeat that
because nobody else can make such a claim and actually be telling
the truth. Howard and I have taken the bull by the horns and we have
history as our witness. From no industry to a worldwide industry
that is both powerful and cutting edge. We have demonstrated with
each show that we are at the forefront and clawing our way to the
future. We don’t do it alone. We do it with the help of every
single attendee. THAT is part of the formula.
from T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York conference in June
We are very
proud of what we have created and hope that the show will live
longer than our personal involvement. The one thing attendees
comment on more than any other single issue is when they look around
the room they are awestruck by the quality of people filling the
seats. Everyone there is qualified and most capable of doing
business on a handshake. To assemble such a fantastic group and be
able to accomplish so many great things in just a short amount of
time is a sense of great gratification for everyone that
Journal: I just heard a very powerful testimonial about
what T.R.A.F.F.I.C. can do for a domain business when I was in Los
Angeles researching our upcoming October Cover Story on TrafficZ
founder Kevin Vo and his partner Ammar Kubba. Their
business has exploded over the past couple of years and Ammar told
me it all started when they drove from L.A. to Las Vegas
(across the desert in a van with no air conditioning) to tell people
about their company at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West show in May
2005. He said their business doubled as a result of attending
that conference (and has gotten a huge boost from every show they
have attended since then). They were so impressed they have since
become T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’S lead sponsor. They say word of mouth
advertising is the best kind and that is quite an endorsement.
Schwartz: First of all I want to say it could not
happen to two nicer gentlemen. We have had the pleasure of
working with Ammar and Kevin and their teams since 2005 and
that relationship has only grown closer and I am glad T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
has had a hand in their destiny. Their LIFE CHANGING
destiny. Their story is one shared by many that have come to
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and have had their businesses and lives
transformed. We have a testimonial
page on the website that has some 50 completely
unsolicited letters and notes from folks that found T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
important enough to take their time and write a note.
I think we have
helped many of the companies in our space grow by providing
them an opportunity to slow down. Compare notes. Break
bread. Party together and stay out all night. We believe we
have helped to facilitate and accelerate every aspect of the
partners Ammar Kubba (left) and
Kevin Vo. Their company is the lead sponsor
for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2007
by providing an environment and
a vehicle to make GREAT things happen. You can look as far
back as our first shows to see we aimed very high and were
not just going to produce a “trade show.” We wanted to
create an atmosphere and a climate to allow networking in a
way that would allow major deal making and that is exactly
what T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has become, a place to make BIG deals.
Yes, there are
many ways to advertise but the oldest is still the best and most
powerful. Word of mouth advertising is my personal guiding
light. I believe in it that much. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is proof that it is
still powerful and it still exists.
Journal: You hinted after T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’s successful
show in New York City in June that you are considering stepping
away from the conference business and returning to “civilian
life”. You have had some time since going through the rigors of
staging an event of that magnitude to think more about this. During
that time you have also hired a new Executive Director for the
conference, John Epp to shoulder some of the load. What are
your thoughts on stepping away now?
Schwartz: My thoughts are still the same. I was retired
before we started T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and I want to get back to that. T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
was never set up to be a recurring event. It was just to be a series
of shows to get us from point A to point B. From where we started to
where we are today, we have largely accomplished what goals we set
out with 3 years ago. I now see T.R.A.F.F.I.C. entering another
phase, another stage, another orbit of sorts with a redefined
mission as the industry continues to grow and mature.
I would say
that this show in Miami is the crown jewel of what Howard
and I wanted to accomplish and having Steve Forbes is like
the diamond on the crown. So when I look back on the show on
October 13th I will be able to see clearly where we are at,
how far we have come and what yet needs to be done. We
already have the 2008 schedule in place and are actually
working on 2009. Either way, this will be a very special T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
that nobody reading this should miss. We would never
have another T.R.A.F.F.I.C. if we felt we could not exceed
what was accomplished at the events prior. Each show MUST be
the best we ever put on. Each show MUST be the best.
Journal: Let’s close with an invitation for you
to address any other points about the upcoming show or the
industry in general that you would like to make as
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East kicks off the always key fourth quarter
of the year for this industry.
The New York show was a great success beyond any of our expectations
and it has opened many new doors. I believe many of the dividends of
the New Yok T.R.A.F.F.I.C. event will be paid at the Miami show. We
are positioned for a turbo charged fourth quarter. The fourth
quarter is what it is all about. This is the time of the year where
we see the fruit of our labor. This is the time of year that online
advertising skyrockets and with each passing year the percentage of
their overall ad budgets rely more and more on the Internet and less
and less in print, broadcast and other media. What a great place to
be and what a great time to be here. What will things look like when
there will be more online advertising than all other media put
together? When “Critical mass” is achieved?
I think the big
story at the Florida show besides what we accomplish with Steve
Forbes may be the auction. The list may be out by the time this
article is published (Editor's note -
it is and can be downloaded from this
page). I can tell you it is the BEST list of domains I
have EVER seen at Moniker/T.R.A.F.F.I.C. event. I believe the
headliner will be Computer.com which is owned by TigerDirect.com
and will be sold at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.. But there are so many other good
names, I think we could sell more than the New York auction which
was the largest domain auction in history.
of the crowd at the Moniker Live Auction at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York
in June 2007
I don’t know
what we will end up with, but I will say our target is in excess of $20
million in sales. I think that is pretty ambitious and we may
not make that number but we sure are going to aim for it. I am sure
we would all be satisfied to hit that $10 million mark again.
With a weak Dollar and a strong Euro, Europeans can come and buy
GREAT dotcom domains with a HUGE discount. They will probably never
have such an opportunity again and it would be a good indication of
just how strong the European market is. This promises to be the most
exciting and competitive domain auction ever.
We will all
witness history in the making. Each auction we raise the bar in
quality and overall sales. To watch millions of dollars in domains
change hands in 210 minutes is exhilarating. To know that eventually
we will have $20 million, $50 million, $100 Million auctions coming
is nothing short of stunning and in the next 3 years we will see
exactly that. With every passing day my entire premise for being
here gets stronger and stronger. “Domains will continue to go
up in value faster than any other commodity ever known to man.”
I said that and believed it over a decade ago among laughs and
snickers. I stand by it today and wait for the day that the world
actually recognizes the power of that statement.
In closing I
just want to remind folks that we may have many agendas and
different goals, but we all share a common direction.
I believe that the next 12 months will prove to be a very
important period and that things will accelerate to a pace
that will even surprise me. I would say we are entering the
“Sweet spot” of domain name investing. This period that
may last anywhere from just 5-7 years to one that can last
thru all of our lifetimes and beyond. I believe it will be
the latter. I strongly believe that.
only confusing thing to me is which parallel is the
strongest? Is it the traffic that is like the mineral rights
from oil pumping from the land that the oil wells are on? Is
it the domain itself that is like real estate and property
in the real world? Is it broadcast media like TV and radio?
Is it print media like magazines? Is it buying a share of
the entire stock market? Is it an investment like gold? Is
it an investment like diamonds that can be easily
transported throughout the world? Is it a collectible like
art or stamps or coins? Is it a storefront at the
|intersection of the universe? Is
it just brandable widgets looking for a clever marketing
plan? There are many more. Whichever parallel you would like
to talk about there is a profitable discussion worthy of
depth and width that a discussion like that would have would take
quite a long time to truly grasp. It is why I believe domain names
are an historical opportunity that will be written about when future
generations look back at this period of time. For those that believe
otherwise, they are simply wrong and have missed a great and unique
opportunity in time. Our mission at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is to take
advantage of the greatest opportunity in any of our lifetimes.
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