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T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Conference Advances to Next Level With Silicon Valley Show This Month

By Ron Jackson

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. domain conference co-founders Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu have faced doubters ever since they announced plans for their first trade show in 2004. There is an old saying that those who can do and those who can't criticize. The pair proved they were doers as they went on to stage three smash hit events over the past 15 months in Florida and Las Vegas

Still, at the last conference in Delray Beach in late October, even their best friends were a bit skeptical when the dynamic duo mentioned they might take the conference to California's Silicon Valley just 3 months later. 








 Howard Neu (left) and Rick Schwartz
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders

After all, successful events like theirs take a lot of pre-planning and the time frame they were considering looked challenging to say the least. None the less, sensing an opportunity that had to be acted on immediately, Schwartz and Neu moved forward and all signs indicate conference attendees will be in for another unforgettable event when T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley convenes Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Marriott in Santa Clara, California. 


To give you an understanding of why this particular time and place was so important to their ongoing strategy to move the domain industry forward, we sat down with Schwartz to get the inside scoop. The transcript of our interview is below:


DN Journal: OK, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005 is just ending in late October at Delray Beach and I hear you saying you are thinking about doing a show in Silicon Valley in January. “THINKING” about doing a show in January and it’s already late October! I am also thinking – thinking “This man is CRAZY!”.  I admit, having seen you pull off the impossible three times now (twice at Delray Beach and once in Las Vegas) I shouldn't have been so skeptical, but this really seemed to be pushing the envelope. Yet, already I am seeing many signs that this show will be a big hit and am receiving calls from people who have never been to a T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show telling me they will be at this one. What did you know that I, and no one else (except Howard Neu) knew?


Schwartz: So that’s what you were thinking! (laughs). Can’t say I blame you. I knew that we had a limited window of opportunity and that we had to be there at the right place at the right time to pull this off. It never entered my mind that we had enough time or not. Just that that window would shut if we didn’t pull it off on time. Opportunity just does not wait around. When it says “Fly”…..you gotta fly. 


Dan Warner, COO
Dark Blue Sea & Fabulous.com

Dan Warner of Fabulous.com has been instrumental in bringing this event to life. Dan is armed with numbers that are sometimes chilling just how good they are. Others are now paying attention to these numbers because they can no longer be ignored. This will be a huge event that will be talked about for years to come. A lot of big deals will be made because the makeup of the attendees is such that there is no other outcome. 


DN Journal: Why did you decide to go to Silicon Valley at this time when it will give you two West Coast shows within five months (T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West will follow in Las Vegas May 2-5, 2006)?


Schwartz: They tell me that’s where the money is these days. That’s where the ideas are. That’s a good place for a group like ours to go and see what develops. We come armed with staggering statistics and numbers. The ones that get the interest of the people that should be interested. Watching the huge shift in interest over the past few months is a significant event.

Plus how bad can it be to be across the street from Yahoo! and just a few minutes away from Google yet still close enough to the financial centers? Lastly, if you want to sell something for millions of dollars the first thing you need to do is to go to a place that has folks looking to invest millions of dollars.  

DN Journal:  I understand you are looking at this as a one time only event (unlike the East and West shows). Is this true and if so why? 

Schwartz: Yes, that is true, which makes it that much more important. We have no intention of making it an annual show. But to be 100% candid…..we just don’t know for sure and we won’t know until we look back on what transpires at this event. But we will always follow the path to wherever it leads. Events will dictate to us the right course to take. I think two shows a year is more than enough. But if opportunity shows up on the porch tomorrow, our job is to follow it. Whether it is New York, Chicago, London or anywhere else, we must let events dictate how we proceed. We are small enough to follow no rules, and big enough to follow results.


DN Journal: Despite this being a relatively small industry with a fairly narrow focus, you somehow keep managing to make the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows fresh with interesting new seminars, discussions and people on hand to learn from. What have you got in store for Silicon Valley?


Schwartz: If we said a year ago that we would have a show in Silicon Valley and the first night Google was going to sponsor a big bash at Google World Headquarters they would have taken us away for evaluation. But in 2006 that is exactly what is going to happen! Also one of our major sponsors is Yahoo! And their campus is across the street from the hotel. So I think we found the right neighborhood to pay a visit to. It allows us to bring another element into the equation by bringing the financial guys from San Francisco, New York and other markets to discuss the opportunities that domains are bringing into the marketplace.


The show is fairly short and we hit the ground running. There is a lot to accomplish in just 2 or 3 days and we expect to accomplish it and much more. It will lay groundwork for future shows and each show will be pulling in another essential part of the puzzle in the form of new industries. We know we have to keep things cutting edge or folks won’t come back. We need timely seminars that provide priceless info that allows attendees to increase their bottom line. If attendees can increase their bottom line by 10% on each show, how many shows could they afford to miss? Plus there is a certain amount of energy that helps to sustain domainers that work most of the time by themselves and have few people that understand what they are doing. 


DN Journal: Considering the stature T.R.A.F.F.I.C. enjoys today it is hard to believe that just 15 months ago no domain conference of this scale had ever been held. Aren’t you worried that if the show continues to grow at this clip you are going to wind up with the one thing you have always feared most – a job!?


Schwartz: It will never be a job! I look at it as “Missions”. Ones that you must complete and ones that can’t be ignored. These missions are not endless. I see just a few years, maybe 5 years in which we will have to bring different parts of the business world together as domains and traffic are the new common denominator in business. We are at the center of that conversation and the success depends on staying fresh and current. Most importantly is bringing the right folks together. I know there is a line in The Godfather about “Sucking me back in”…..so I sure hope not. I just want to launch this in the right direction and then maybe someone else can guide it the rest of the way. This is a labor of love and it is just too damn exciting not to pursue or to stay on the sidelines.  

Part of the crowd at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East
October 2005 in Delray Beach, Florida

DN Journal: If I remember correctly, you said that you won’t know how successful Silicon Valley was until the Las Vegas show rolls around and you see who shows up there from Silicon Valley. Do you still feel that way and if so why?


Schwartz:  I think that will be one of the elements. How many of the financial folks want to follow their path. I think it will be a really good percentage. Since I made that statement I have been impressed when I see the quality of folks that have registered. It was originally planned as a smaller “boutique” type of a show. But as we move forward and the interest grows it is becoming larger than we expected and we have secured enough space to double our expectations. The Las Vegas show will start where this show leaves off. Those that come to Silicon Valley may not know what to expect. When Vegas rolls around they will know what is going on and will be very well prepared. 


DN Journal: I mentioned earlier that I have been surprised at how many newcomers I have spoken to who told me they will be at the Silicon Valley show. Much of this interest is stemming from a huge breakthrough in mainstream reporting on the domain space in the past couple of months (for example articles in Business 2.0 and the Wall Street Journal). You were prominently featured in that coverage. What kind of impact are you seeing on this upcoming show from that publicity?


Schwartz:  There are quite a few “casual domainers” out there and they have casually built themselves some portfolios that are focused on the industry they are connected with. Many are from real estate and they are finally seeing the connection between electronic real estate and “real” real estate. In addition is the finance community that is sitting up and taking notice. Let’s face it…..it took 10 years for the secret of domain names to finally hit mainstream. The secret is now out and time will take care of everything else. The expansion we are seeing is significant. The articles have been able to reach people in every walk of life and they are being exposed to something for the first time. Most of these folks are not rookies. They come with success in other businesses and now are looking our way for their next venture. That is a very good thing and domainers will be well rewarded. 


DN Journal: Another feeling I have been encountering in recent weeks is a sense of urgency among these new folks to get up to speed fast and make a move while there is still a window of opportunity. Do you think that the window is in fact closing now that the cat is essentially out of the bag?


Schwartz:  I see so many more windows opening to have time to even concern myself about the ones that are closing. Picking the right windows to fly thru is the challenge. There has never been opportunity like this ever before. The domain business is just starting and it will be another decade before it hits maturity. So there are plenty of ways to still make your fortune with domain names. Those that think they missed the boat need to learn from another guy that thought he missed the boat in 2000 and now makes $36 million annually. It is attitude that will determine your success more than time will. It’s just a matter of how much time it takes you to figure that out. 


DN Journal:  While people love to see their old friends at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. it would seem that with so many new people coming to this particular event, there may be more new opportunities at the Silicon Valley show than any previous gathering. Would you agree?



Above: Photos from T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2005
Courtesy of MyrtleBeachInc.com

Schwartz: Oh yes. This is going to be an explosive show. This show is going to set things in motion that we will hear about for years to come. The dynamics keep changing and that guarantees fresh, cutting edge results. There will be a certain energy present that none of us will understand but we will all know it was there. Folks that are too busy to come or think it is too much to pay are missing as big an opportunity as may ever come their way. 

We are not doing this for our health. We are doing this because the time is right and there is much interest in what we are all doing. Folks that are just starting out know one thing. They need to overpay to get in the game and make up for lost time. The days of finding bargain portfolios is all but over. A new game is about to emerge and the new players come from many different past successes. The amount of money being held and looking for a great investment is staggering. This show will help break that log jam and open those investment wallets. 

DN Journal: Thanks for your time and good luck with the conference. Anything you would like to add before we go? 


Schwartz: While it will be a fun event it will be a very serious show because we have an overall mission that the speakers need to pull off. We have a short amount of time in which to shift things around and set things in motion that will pay dividends for more years than most of us will be alive. The reason the show has grown so rapidly is we keep trailblazing a path that folks like and that has produced results. Our job is to keep that happening. Keep it on the mark. Bring in new industries that have reasons to embrace domains and the traffic they produce, let alone the sites they can become. 


Anyone that does not believe what we are doing is possible has never been to a T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show. Those that have attended do not doubt that we can pull it off. We have a track record of unblemished accomplishments. That record will be intact thru all the shows of 2006 and beyond. We know we have to do great things to have folks spend their time and money. In Silicon Valley we are poised to move mountains and to change the domain business forever!




Editor's Note: DN Journal will be in Santa Clara to cover the Silicon Valley show. Our coverage will appear as our February Cover Story that will be published the week after the conference concludes.

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