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Taking Care of Business: Is Ari Goldberger the Domain Industry's Ultimate Entrepreneur?
Page 3 

My original plan in going to law school was to get a degree so I could open up my own office, “hang a shingle” so to speak, and represent little guys that needed help.  At law school I also started developing this idea for an online network for small solo-practicing lawyers who could work together and share a common infrastructure.  I had no desire to work for big corporations. I ended up doing pretty well, however, and got interviews with all the “big firms” that were offering the biggest salaries. This was too enticing for me to pass up and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get a good job, earn a decent salary, and go out on my own later,” Goldberger said. 

“In 1992, I began work for one of Philadelphia’s top firms, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz – but the thought of ultimately having the freedom to go out on my own was never far from my mind. In 1994, I had heard of Compuserve and AOL and revisited my idea for the lawyer online network.  My idea was to be kind of an AOL just for lawyers.  I came up with the name ESQwire and filed a trademark application. The Hearst Corporation that owned Esquire Magazine opposed my trademark but someone said I should get the ESQwire.com domain name. So I did that and used Microsoft Front Page to build my first web site.  The site said: ESQwire, Your Firm – away from firm!” and had this introductory note on the site: 

ESQ.wire ™ - - pronounced esk-wire - will provide virtual law firm support services, legal information services and products to enable attorneys to practice law anywhere on the planet with the simple click of a mouse. We are in the early stages of development. If you would like to be a part of this revolutionary virtual legal community as either a legal services provider or as a participating attorney, e-mail Ari Goldberger 

Clipping from the National Law Journal detailing Goldberger's battle with the Hearst Corporation

Once Hearst learned of this, they filed a lawsuit against me in Federal Court in Manhattan.  I knew this was big and was going to be some sort of an opportunity.  I was lucky that my law firm allowed me to spend time at work on this case. I was living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey at the time and set-up a web site from my home. Hearst sued me in New York.  One of the first things you learn in law school is a concept called “personal jurisdiction.”  In order to be hauled into a court, the court must have jurisdiction over the defendant – meaning you must either reside where the court is or have some kind of “minimum contacts” with the state." 

"Here, Hearst said there was jurisdiction because they could access the web site from New York.  But of course, as I argued, you could access the website anywhere in the world, which means any court in the world could have jurisdiction over any web site in the world – a position which would make the concept of jurisdiction obsolete with respect to the Internet.  I prevailed on that argument and Hearst and I ultimately settled the case, enabling me to retain the domain name. The case (which has now been cited in 374 other court cases) ended up getting me a lot of recognition and domain owners began contacting me to help them with their domain disputes,” Goldberger said.  

The case also opened up new windows of opportunity in the business world for Goldberger. “I was contacted in the spring of 1997 by an Internet start-up known as iName (which ultimately became Mail.com). They were buying up a lot of great domain names and were looking for a lawyer to help them protect them, as well as someone to help with the overall business. This sounded perfect for me.  I could be a lawyer, and also participate in the business end.  At the same time, they agreed to allow me to operate ESQwire on the side.”

If this sounds like a marriage made in heaven, Goldberger said that is exactly what it was. “Mail.com was a wonderful experience.  As VP of Business Development, I had the opportunity to come up with new business ideas, negotiate deals with huge companies like NBC, CBS, New York Times, NFL, Paramount and Universal Studios.  I learned a great deal from this experience and am very thankful to the folks at Mail.com for giving me that opportunity. While I was there, I made contact with and began assisting many of the pioneers in the domain business including ProDomains (now Digimedia), Reflex Publishing, Rick Schwartz and several others."

“One of the great things that came out of Mail.com was becoming associated with the founder of Anything.com, who was referred to me by their Best Domains domain brokerage business. Anything.com has amassed one of the best domain name portfolios in the industry, with names like medicine.com, marketing.com, children.com, ticket.com, design.com, land.com, stocks.com, songs.com and hundreds more.  The founder is one of my best friends and one of the most loyal and trustworthy people I know and I owe much of what I have achieved to our relationship,” Goldberger said. 

After seeing Mail.com grow from 12 to 600 employees, Ari left in April 2000. “I continued running ESQwire, having built-up a client base of domainers, with my most significant being Anything.com. However, I was concerned that, because of the collapse of the Dotcom bubble, I would not be able to maintain a steady income that had been based in part on representation and handling escrow for domain sales. Later that year, I arranged for one of the earliest parking deals with then Goto.com. Goto put up a basic page on Anything.com’s domains and gave us a small share of the advertising revenue earned.  We later allowed other domainers to be a part of the program and I formally founded SmartName in October 2003 as a Yahoo! syndication partner.”  

While the ESQwire.com decision was the one that put Goldberger on the map as a domain attorney, it was just the first in what would become a long string of successes. “I made it a point to handle a large number of cases in 2000-2001 at a very low fee in order to get a bunch of winning decisions I could cite, as well as build-up a good body of law.  Any victory for a domainer is gratifying but if I had to point to a couple that were especially important they would be NewZealand.com and Mexico.com,” Goldberger said. 

“NewZealand.com was the first case of a country trying to claim its domain. The owner’s entire business could have collapsed if this case was lost, so the pressure was on big time.  It was a wonderful victory, particularly since the panel found that the Complainant engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.  The funny thing is that the case was in the name of HRM, the Queen of England, so CNN.com had the headline: “British Queen Loses Out on Cyber Name.” Mexico.com was another case where an individual had invested a lot and worked very hard could have lost an entire business if I had not won.”   

Goldberger’s venture into domain parking has also been a winner, with SmartName.com drawing high marks for the exceptional degree of landing page customization made available to their clients. “One of the principle things we focused on was giving domainers the ability to make their pages look like real sites.  I always believed it harmed the long-term value of a domain if it just had a parking page, which lessened the chance for repeat visits and also discouraged users from sticking around and clicking on ads."  

"We have built our reputation by focusing on making sites look nicer and treating domainers as truly the king of their domain. Lawrence Fischer, who was one of the early domainers from the Goto days has helped (as VP Business Development) in our mission to be one of the best PPC companies out there.  Lawrence has an amazing sense for what makes a good domain and we operate as a great team.  He is a great friend and our families have also become close including our boys,” Goldberger said.    

Lawrence Fisher
VP Business Development
SmartName.com

The domain business continues to move at warp speed and new issues continually boil to the top. One in particular has special significance to attorneys like Ari. “The biggest changes in the legal space include an increased focus on typo-squatting of trademark misspelled domains. I was surprised how long the trademark community has tolerated this, with millions of dollars in advertising being spent on ads appearing on trademark domains that the trademark owners could get for free if they owned domains. The increased focus on PPC and recognition of the value of type-in traffic has increased the heat on domainers and PPC companies alike to stay away from trademarks.  With my background in law I have always been uncomfortable with trademark typos and we have worked to stay away from that sort of traffic,” Goldberger said.  

Ari has come a long way from collecting Coke bottles on the beach for a few pennies. Like many who have gained business success, he has just about everything he could wish for except more spare time. “Like many in this field, I spend a lot of time glued to a desk chair in front of a computer screen. However, I try to get in some bicycling every day and hope to get into some longer rides this summer. I enjoy spending time with my wife and two boys (ages 6 and 9).  I like going to flea markets and looking for “old stuff” with my kids. I also enjoy classic movies.  As everyone knows, the irony of the Internet and new technology is that it was supposed to give us more leisure time. The punch line is that the technology has just made it easier for work to follow us wherever we go.” Goldberger said.

Goldberger family June 2006 (left to right at back): Ari's father Adam, 
sister Leora, Ari, mother Ruth and wife Sharon. Ari & Sharon's two sons are in front
.

Earlier this year Ari got some trusted and much needed help when his big sister Leora agreed to come on board as his assistant at ESQwire. “I have worked the past six years with no help. I answered the phones, did the billing, typing, copies, everything.  It's been crazy.  I've been talking about hiring help for a few years but the problem is that I'm so busy that I can't take the time to train anyone.  My sister has been working for attorneys for over 25 years so I always knew she could be a great help. My life is much more relaxed now as I can go on vacation and know someone I trust is back at the shop. Looking back I don't know how I did it without her!" Goldberger said.

Ari reserved special praise for his wife Sharon whom he met at law school where she was the best friend of one of his fellow law students. "It's been an interesting ride for Sharon to say the least. She's had to put up with my long work hours. Our first son was only about 3 months old when I was offered the job at Mail.com. We had just just purchased our first house the year before and had to sell it, pack up everything and move to an apartment in New York."

"Sharon was an entrepreneur too, leaving our comfortable, stable life in Cherry Hill behind and supporting me in joining this start-up in the new unknown territory of the online world. Sharon did all the banking for ESQwire, even though she had her hands full raising our first born in the big city in a one-bedroom apartment, and giving birth to our second son before we packed our bags and headed back to Cherry Hill."

"I don't think I could have succeeded in my endeavors without her love and support along the way. We will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary next month and I hope my gift will be to spend more time with her and the boys. Nothing is more important than that!" Goldberger said.

Sharon & Ari Goldberger

Of course it is easier to put endless hours into your work when you love what you do and Ari does. There’s only one other profession he thinks he might enjoy as much and that is filmmaking. When Schindler’s List came out, Goldberger  got a first hand look at the power of film. “I was very pleased when Spielberg made Schindler's List and told the story of the horrible experience our people suffered, particularly since it was so close to my parents’ experience,” Goldberger said. 

“My mom was in that camp and knew a number of people who were saved by Schindler. Their neighbor, Bill Rosner, in Vineland was the youngest of the Rosner brothers, who were depicted in the orchestra in the movie.  Bill played the bugle in the camp. The movie really got a lot of people talking about the horrors that were kind of kept under the rug for 50 years, and the movie brought comfort to my parents and other survivors."  

When I learned that Steven Spielberg created a foundation to videotape the testimony of survivors I volunteered immediately.  The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education collected some 50,000 professional quality video interviews of survivors. I conducted about a dozen interviews for the foundation, which was a very rewarding experience.  People must know about what happened so that this tragedy can never be repeated,” Goldberger said. 

*****

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