Lori Anne rebounded from that low point should inspire
and encourage anyone who is facing a seemingly
insurmountable challenge. We will detail how it
happened for her and how it proves that when one door
closes, being forced to go through a new one can
turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to
you. The door to domains was not the first new
one Wardi had to walk through. She had been testing
"new doors" her entire life on a circuitous
journey aimed at finding her place in the world.
This is how she made it through the maze and found the
home she was looking for.
was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn -
you know, the neighborhood made famous by John
Travolta in Saturday Night Fever,"
Wardi began. "Where I grew up, people were very
traditional. The Dads worked, the Moms stayed
home with the kids - in fact I can’t think of a
single friend whose Mom had a job unless it was inside
of our school! The youngest of three children, I was
blessed to have a very happy childhood. My parents
have been happily married now for close to 60 years!"
girl who marched to her own drum
much from the word “go” it was clear that I was a
kid who was going to march to the beat of my own
drum. I went to a very strict all girls Catholic
grade school taught by nuns. And while I
absolutely loved going to school every morning;
practically every afternoon the nuns would send me
home with the equivalent of a demerit slip for my
parents to sign due to my bad behavior – it
was called a “YOU DO NOT LISTEN”. On
the front of the slip was a picture of an OSTRICH with
its head in the sand," Lori Anne recalled.
nuns were totally right. I really did not
listen. While I somehow still managed to get
good grades – I was a kid who was brimming with
energy; constantly fidgeting; easily bored and almost
always distracted. I also had terrible impulse
control. I was always getting into some kind of
trouble - calling out in class, forgetting
assignments, and breaking all the other Catholic
School rules of engagement. As I got older and my life
grew more complicated – my impulsivity and
distraction only got worse. And that made life
harder and harder as my responsibilities grew,"
there was no ADD diagnosis available back in
those days, or I might have thought I was incapable of
achieving a lot of the things I ended up doing.
Instead, to overcompensate for my challenges, I think
I must have just quietly resolved to work harder
than everyone else simply to keep up. I
suspect that’s where my workaholic roots were born.
The official ADD diagnosis eventually came – but not
until I was 30 years old! By that time I had
already graduated from law school, practiced law for 5
years, and started on my graduate degree."
as ADD impacted Lori Anne's early years, an equally
important influence in her life and the kind of person
she would became was her father. "My Dad
owned a nightclub – which turned out to be one of
the largest and longest running night-clubs in
Brooklyn’s history with a lifetime spanning over 50
years," Wardi said. "For decade after decade
my Dad’s club was “the” place to go in Brooklyn.
And in a true case of art imitating life – it was
actually the disco that inspired Saturday Night
Fever in the first place!"
If you ever met my Dad, you would never believe that
he had been in the nightclub business. He is
(and has always been) gentle, soft-spoken and kind
– a man committed 100% to his family. Never
one to put on airs and without even an ounce of ego
– the furthest thing from the club owner
“stereotype” you could ever imagine," Lori
have often wondered how a man with his temperament was
so successful for so long in such a notoriously fickle
and cut-throat business - especially in a tough town
like Brooklyn. Looking back now, with the benefit of
having my own 25+ years of work experience as my lens
– I realize that it all comes down to people."
Anne Wardi with her father George Wardi
Dad has always had a special way about him. Everyone
who meets him loves him. And in the most
sincere and genuine way. I’ve never heard a single
bad word said about him by anyone – ever. In
fact, to this day, at nearly 89 years old, and
now retired for 20+ years - everywhere we go in
Brooklyn, he is still treated like a celebrity.
People he doesn’t even recognize anymore stop him on
the street to shake his hand and hug him; We can’t
go out to dinner at a local restaurant without someone
sending him a drink; And I have heard countless
stories of former employees or old friends who wax
poetic about how much they just love my father – and
why they think he is simply the best (boss, friend,
my Dad has been an incredible role model for
me. In addition to being a great entrepreneur
– he is a great human being. And as simple as it
sounds - that was the secret to his business
success. I have always wanted to follow in my Dad’s
footsteps - not by owning a nightclub of course - but
by having control over my own livelihood –
and how I treat people along the way. The lessons he
taught me have served me well through the years –and
have helped shape every aspect of my career and life
journey," Wardi said.
College campus in Allentown, Pennsylvania
Photo from Bigstock
high school Lori Anne went off to Muhlenberg
College in Allentown, Pennsylvania where
she graduated with a major in International
Relations. "While I would like to tell you
that my course of study was chosen due to a deep
interest in foreign policy, politics, and geopolitical
dynamics – the reality is, at the time, I simply
wanted a good excuse to allow me to travel the world,"
Wardi said. "Thanks to my major, I finagled my
way to Russia, Latvia, Estonia, London,
Ireland and Spain during my college
years – and started a lifetime love affair with
I wish I could say that my next career step, going to law
school, was made with any real forethought or
planning. It most definitely was not. I was a
straight A student who was bad at math and science,
and utterly clueless about what career path I
wanted to take - so law school seemed to be the
obvious choice. As lame as it sounds, I bet a full
half of my law school class was there for the same
pathetic reason. Perhaps that’s why there are
so many unhappy lawyers in this world!," Lori
law would prove to be the wrong door in Lori Anne's
quest for a fulfilling career, she excelled at
it and graduated magna cum laude from Brooklyn Law
School. "Thanks to my workaholic nature, I graduated law
school at the top of my class. That opened the
door for me to join Proskauer Rose, one of the
country’s leading law firms, based in New York
City," Wardi recalled. "I practiced ERISA
(pension) law for five very long and
very miserable years. While I loved the people I
worked with, and the firm treated me very well – I
was simply never meant to be an attorney."
worked all the time. And when I wasn’t working, I
was devouring every self-help book I could on how to
manage my time; how to become more organized; how to
be more productive; and generally how to “fix”
what I perceived to be my faulty brain. How was it
that I could do the most complex legal analyses, but
managing my time-sheets, keeping my calendar, paying
my bills and managing my giant piles of paperwork were
virtually impossible feats? Why couldn’t I
seem to pay attention in meetings, to remember what
people told me, or to stay on task long enough to
finish my projects on time?," a perplexed Wardi
"Chronically anxious and constantly overwhelmed - I don’t think I slept more than 3 or 4 hours a
night during my entire five years practicing law. It
was on the eve of my 30th birthday that I finally
quit. I was sick and tired of hating my work
– and my life - and didn’t want to live with the
same stress and strife in my 30s that plagued my 20s.
I knew there was something better out there for me
– but I couldn’t imagine what it was," Lori
Anne - the lawyer
without any real plan in mind, I did the only
respectable thing I could think of. I packed my
bags and went back to school. Cornell
University had a one-year Masters Program in
Human Resource Management for people who already
had a JD degree – and so I moved to Ithaca, New
York to earn my Master’s Degree. It
was essentially a “stop the world, I want to get
off” moment. I was there not so much
because I had a plan for what to do with my new
degree, but rather, because I was clearly traveling at
a 100mph down the wrong life path and I needed
an exit strategy that would help me to course correct
- without humiliating myself too much in the
process!," Wardi smiled.
a week at Cornell, I stumbled upon a “Learning
Skills Center” for students. With nothing
to lose - and what seemed like all the time in the
world on my hands – I decided to go there to see if
they could help me figure out what was wrong with what
I perceived to be my “broken brain.” I took
a series of tests, and met with a clinician - and
that’s when I was diagnosed with ADD. It was 1998
and I’d never heard of that term before. I
immediately devoured every book I could get my hands
on related to the topic. There were only a few
books that even existed at the time."
may sound strange – but getting the ADD diagnosis
was one of the best things that has ever happened
to me. For the first time in my life, I
understood what was going on in my head. And
I understood why – despite the
outward appearance of
great success - I always felt like that Ostrich with
her head in the sand! Once I let go of the fantasy
that I could somehow will myself into becoming that
hyper organized, detail oriented, corporate robot I
thought I was supposed to be – everything else in my
life started to open up," Wardi said.
– I could stop trying to contort myself...to fix
what I perceived to be missing... and to start to
focus on just “being myself”. I could
start focusing on simply building upon my strengths
– instead of relentlessly trying to “fix” all of
my weaknesses. For a perfectionist like myself,
I can’t express enough what a giant sense of relief
When Lori Anne
finished her Masters at Cornell, she was
recruited by Goldman Sachs and accepted
a job in their global technology division.
"I was given the opportunity to manage
corporate learning and development for
technology executives around the world. My job
was all about helping people to be their very
best at work – team building, leadership
development, success coaching, etc. I loved
it all right from the start. It was all
about personal development and maximizing
human potential," Wardi said.
go so quickly from doing work I hated to work I loved
was incredible. Even though I was making less money,
work went from being drudgery to being a joy.
I was fueled by passion and purpose – as opposed to
panic and fear. And I was totally addicted."
only thing thing Lori Anne thought would make life
even better would be owning her own business.
"Inspired by the .com boom in 2000, I left
Goldman Sachs to start my own consulting firm (Pebble
Alley LLC) to help other Wall Street firms
maximize the potential of their employees" Wardi
said. "I couldn’t have been happier. For about
a year, things were literally perfect. I had
great “big-brand” clients, I was doing work that I
loved—and I was making more money than ever
9/11 Memorial at the
World Trade Center Ground Zero site.
(Photo from Bigstock)
when her - and America's - world was suddenly turned upside
down. "Then the 9/11 attack happened - and right alongside of the
World Trade Center, my business crumbled, too. “Now
what?, I thought long and hard. But no clear answers
emerged. Instead, a million ideas for
businesses I could start, products or services I could
sell, websites I could create and more flooded my
brain. For each idea I had, I bought the related
Web address. Before I knew it, I owned more than a
hundred domain names," Wardi said.
day, someone called me and wanted to buy one of
my domains. That day changed my life, because I
learned that domain names are like digital real estate
and can potentially be extremely valuable. What a
concept!," Wardi marveled.
domain addiction only grew from there. Hundreds of
domains turned into thousands. When I realized
I was spending far more time on domain names than I
was on my consulting practice, I decided to turn it
into a full time business in 2004. That’s when
I launched Dream Big Media with a good friend
of mine. We called it Dream Big Media because we
were both extremely inspired by all the promise and
potential of the Internet – and how with enough grit
and determination, any seed of an idea could be
brought to life in a big way online."
"During the Dream Big Media days, it’s fair to
say I was a full-fledged domain junky,"
Wardi said. "I was working around the clock to
learn how to find high value domain names, how to sell
and trade domain names, develop websites, blog, use
Google Adwords and Adsense, write Web copy and more. There
were definitely highs and lows. Since domain investing
is something of a junky sport, you spend a lot of time
feeling “high.” Most domain investors
have probably experienced the euphoria that
comes along with nabbing a great domain name that you
just know in your heart is valuable – one that
everyone else seems to have missed."
can think of countless occasions when I would find
myself on a domain buying bender, feeling
pretty high at 2 or 3 am, when the rest of the world
was sleeping, and I had some “light bulb” moment
about a new trend or opportunity where I was sure I
could corner the domain market. The lows
generally came the next morning. I would call it
a “domain hangover.” That’s when
you wake up and get the confirmation email from GoDaddy
(or your registrar of choice) reminding you that the
night before you purchased 100+ domain names
– and you think – “oh boy, what did I do this
time!?” Wardi smiled ruefully.
the biggest highs would come when we would sell a
domain name for a great profit. Our best was
selling a name that we bought for $1,200 for $84,000
a few months later. You can see how that
kind of result can become addictive!
Unfortunately, that was a one-time deal – and
none of our future sales ever came close."
lows came at renewal time each year. When
you have thousands of domain names to manage, it can
become a pretty expensive endeavor. In those days, my
spending typically outpaced my earnings by a pretty
good margin. It was pretty depressing, actually. My
friends and family were really worried that my career
still hadn’t gotten back “on track.” When I
would excitedly brag about my latest domain name
Anne Wardi - the domain investor -
at the 2007 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East
conference in Hollywood, Florida.
(Photo by Barbara Neu)
conquests and Internet marketing exploits, they could
only roll their eyes and admonish me to “get
a job,” Wardi remembered.
poor parents were so worried. My dad gave me pep
talks about how my old law firm would surely love
to hire me back. And my mom, urged me regularly to get
a job with the government, “because they have such
good benefits.” I would often joke with her that
perhaps the DMV or the Post Office could use someone
with my skill set."
my income during much of my 30s was wildly
inconsistent, I somehow knew I was on the right
path. A path to where, I still didn’t know. All
I knew was that I loved what I was
doing, I loved what I was learning and I loved
all the ideas, opportunities and possibilities I was
exploring every day. I was happy and confident that
one day it would all make sense. And then one
day it finally did."
CEO, .CO Internet S.A.S.
(Original administrator of the .CO
Diego Calle in 2007-2008. We hit it off
right away. He had this big idea about turning Colombia’s
.CO domain extension into the world’s next great
Web address – the first true rival to the .com
dynasty," Lori Anne recalled. "Given all my
years in the domain space, I knew better than anyone
the frustration people felt with the lack of good
domains. I also knew how exciting it was to find the
perfect domain name for your business, brand or blog.
The project captured my imagination like
nothing ever had before."
"Although I’d never held a
marketing job in my life, and had no idea how to run a
Domain Registry - I convinced him that I could get the
job done - even though secretly I was not so sure!,"
Lori Anne laughed. "Not
to sound hokey, but I think it was a role I was
born to do."
"Launching and building .CO was
truly a blessing. I loved what I was doing and gave it
every thing I had. My heart, my soul – my
every waking hour. But the amazing thing was –
I was not alone. Every member of our
phenomenal team had the same level of absolute love
and dedication. We launched the .CO domain to the
world in 2010. Since then, people in more than 200
countries have registered millions of
domain names – including some of the world’s
biggest brands and most innovative startups."
had a big vision for .CO – we wanted to change the
fabric of the Internet; to turn the letters to the
right of the dot from just being a commodity - into
being a community – and to create the
world’s first TLD “brand.” We wanted to
become the domain of choice for the world’s movers,
shakers, dreamers, innovators and entrepreneurs. By
and large, we did what we set out to do. Today
.CO remains one of the top domain extensions in the
world – used by some of the coolest companies on the
planet," Wardi said.
for how we did it – I am certain that the secret
sauce was the magic of the team. It
all started at the top, with the leadership of Juan
Diego Calle, who is someone I respect beyond measure.
Wise beyond his years, he was an exceptional and
inspirational leader with a knack for putting the
right people in the right roles – and trusting his
team to get the job done without micro-managing the
details. Nicolai Bezsonoff, Eduardo
Santoyo, Crystal Peterson, Jose Rasco,
Linda Koritkoski – and many others – each were
mission critical to the success of .CO."
I was most grateful for was that, for the first time
in my life, I was able to fully tap into the power of
my ADD brain. Thanks, in part, to some of my crazy
ideas, impulsiveness, and willingness to take risks
– .CO was able to strike big deals with companies
like Twitter, Overstock, Google, Amazon,
and 500 Startups; to create dozens of strategic
partnerships with tech companies, incubators,
accelerators and startup communities; and to create a
thriving community of .CO-ers around the globe who
love and identify with the .CO brand." Wardi
truly believe that ADD is what allowed me to think
differently and approach domain marketing
differently than it had been done in the past.
And that has taught me that sometimes, the things you
think are your greatest deficits in
Anne Wardi during .CO's big ramp up.
just turn out to be your greatest gifts. I
truly believe that any success I have had is
distinctly because of my ADD diagnosis, not in spite
of it. For that reason, I’m always preaching
to people who have kids with ADD to treat it as a blessing
– instead of a curse. For me, it certainly has
.CO is widely regarded as the textbook example
of how to launch and gain recognition for a new TLD
and several new TLDs like .CLUB seem to
have been following the .CO playbook and making
inroads with the same techniques. That begs the
question, "If it worked so well for .CO why don't
they all do it?
had the benefit of a head start of a couple of
years on all the new gTLDs," Wardi noted. "During
that time we spent tens of millions of dollars on
marketing and building the .CO brand – as well as
working with our registrar partners to gain the
attention of consumers. We even invested in three
Super Bowl ads in tandem with Go Daddy. With
upward of 1,000 new TLDs to compete with,
getting the mind share of consumers is definitely more
said, I do think some TLDs are finding ways to cut
through the clutter in a meaningful way.
.CLUB is the perfect example. The .CLUB team is
absolutely, positively passionate about their mission
– and as a result, they are always out in the field
connecting directly with consumers. Their
passion is palpable and their enthusiasm completely
consumers can see that. All the
other registries don’t follow suit because that kind
of passion and purpose is simply not easy to
replicate. It’s especially difficult for
registries with large portfolios of TLDs. The
good news is that there is plenty of room for a lot of
different business models to succeed in today’s
marketplace," Wardi said.
Neustar acquired the .CO Registry in 2014 they wanted
Wardi as well as the extension and in her new role as
a VP there she is still immersed in domains. "Neustar
has been at the forefront of shaping the Internet’s
infrastructure for nearly two decades, and I am so
proud to be a part of this company.' Wardi said.
"Neustar has never been one to toot its own horn,
so forgive me for shamelessly bragging about the fact
that we are now the world’s largest registry
services provider. We lead the industry in
launching, managing and growing Internet name spaces
for over 250 of the world’s biggest brands
(like .Barclays, .Chase, .IBM,
etc.), some of the most innovative entrepreneurs (like
.CLUB, Famous Four Media, etc.), and most
esteemed world governments (like .US, .AU,
.NYC and others)."
have been fortunate to serve as the General Manager
for the .NYC registry. Working directly with
the De Blasio Administration, we launched the
.NYC TLD in October of 2014. We are really proud
that .NYC has become the world’s largest city TLD
- beating out cities like London, Paris,
Berlin, Las Vegas and Tokyo for
the distinction. We are also really excited to
see that the .NYC domain has been widely adopted, and
continues to gain momentum with small businesses,
startups and solopreneurs throughout all five boroughs
of New York City," the native New Yorker noted.
the launch of .NYC, our team was able to apply many of
the lessons we learned from the .CO launch –
everything from how to hone in on our target market,
to what events to sponsor, to what kinds of
partnerships to pursue. We were able to execute
on our plans far more quickly and with a much greater
sense of confidence – simply because we had
learned from the lessons of the past."
a proud New Yorker myself, helping to launch and grow
the .NYC domain has been a particularly rewarding
experience," Wardi said. "I love seeing my
hometown leading the way in digital innovation.
The .NYC name space is really starting to pop, with
more high profile sites launching every day, like Digital.nyc,
We.nyc, TTP.nyc, Silicon.nyc and Link.nyc.
You can learn more about the .NYC TLD at OwnIt.nyc."
Anne added. "I think the local geo namespaces are
just getting started, and in the next round of TLDs
this is a category ripe for massive growth. I
suspect that eventually, every major city in the world
will want to launch and develop their own city’s TLD."
is also bullish on .brands (new domain extensions that
represent some of the world's best known companies). Many
in the new gTLD space think .brands will play a critical
role in the public recognizing and accepting new domain
extensions of all kinds. "The world’s leading
brands are beginning to leverage their .brand TLDs in
a way that, over time, will dramatically shift the
future of digital marketing – and business – as we
know it," Wardi opined.
the past twelve months plus, we’ve seen major brands
go live with .brand websites in some way, shape or
form, including Google, Dell, Chanel,
Microsoft, BMW, Audi, Barclays,
Cisco, Orange, Bloomberg, Fox,
Shell, Deloitte, Canon, BNP
Paribas and Saxo, to name just a few. Google
launched a new blog called “The Keyword” at
consolidating news and updates from 19 different
corporate and product blogs. It also launched its own
retail domain presence at www.domains.google.
Companies like Canon (www.global.canon),
Barclays Bank (www.home.barclays)
and BNP Paribas (www.mabanque.bnpparibas)
have fully transitioned their entire corporate
web presence to their respective .brand TLDs and major
brands like BMW (www.next100.bmw),
and Shell (www.buzz.shell)
have all launched innovative campaigns on their .brand
domains," Wardi noted.
"People often ask why these brands would bother
establishing a new web presence on their .brand TLDs
when they already have a perfectly presence
established on their existing .com (or other legacy)
domain. There are actually many reasons for the
shift," Wardi said. "Big brands are
operating in the most complex and disruptive market in
history. Confronted with continual waves of innovation
and competition, and fragmented marketing channels
dominated by Google and Facebook, it’s
becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stay
connected to their customers. .Brand TLDs give brands
an unprecedented level of control, flexibility, and
security for their digital presence – shifting the
balance of power away from distribution platforms and
back into the hands of the brands themselves."
your brand on both sides of the dot provides infinite
possibilities for creativity and innovation.
It tells customers and prospects that your
content is legitimate – if it ends in your .brand,
they know they can trust it. And because you control
the entire domain ecosystem, .brand TLDs give provide
access to new data sources that allow brands to take
personalization and localization to new levels - more
deeply connecting and engaging with consumers than
Neustar, we believe deeply in the .brand movement, and
have already started leveraging our own .neustar
branded TLD. For instance, if you’re
interested in learning more about career opportunities
at Neustar, you can do that now
and to learn more about our Registry Services, you can
We’ve got big plans for our .neustar TLD, so stay
tuned over the months ahead as we continue to deploy
our plans," Wardi advised, adding, "Anyone
who wants to follow along as the .brand
revolution continues to take shape can visit our new
website at www.MakeWay.world
- where we chronicle all the latest news, developments
and insights on all things .brand."
bullish as Lori Anne is on .brands and geo TLDs, she
knows not all TLDs will find an audience. "I find it
impossible to lump together all new gTLDs and say
whether they will or won’t be a success as a group,"
Wardi said. "It’s similar to asking what the
prospects for “tech startups” or “small
businesses” will be going forward."
in each of these cases is that some new gTLDs, some
startups, and some small businesses will succeed
wildly, some will just scrape by, and some will fail
miserably. In each case the answer will depend
on core business principles, like the vision of
leadership; the viability of the strategy; the
team’s ability to execute; the level of marketing
investment - and the true value that the TLD provides
is the case in any business, there will
be winners and losers in the new gTLD space.
(Image from Bigstock)
Internet is and will continue to grow every year.
As more people come online in every corner of the
world, the need for digital branding options will only
continue to grow. The new gTLDs that provide
consumers with meaningful, memorable branding options
at the right time, at the right price and through the
right channels, will succeed. Many, like .CLUB
and .NYC, have proven that already."
Lori Anne's "domain addiction" obviously
remains unabated she does have some healthy
"outside" interests like traveling and
exploring new places. "I am particularly enamored
with all things Italy," She said.
"Also, my fiancé is the publisher of The Cuba
- .CO, of course!), so he also has me inspired by all
things Cuba. I recently had the opportunity to visit Havana,
and I’m enthusiastically planning my next trip
sailing - Lori Anne Wardi and her fiancé
closing, Lori Anne added, "I’m also enjoying
getting to know my new home city of Miami –
and taking advantage of the sun, sailing, food and
other amazing things this beautiful city has to offer.
I particularly love hosting our friends and
family who visit from out of town – and have
recently fallen in love with cooking – so
now I can even feed them when they come!," Lori
Anne smiled - no doubt thinking about a potentially
unregistered cooking-related domain as she said