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How a Company Started from Scratch Scored Big With a Side Product, Became a Global Powerhouse and Spent Millions to Buy IT.com

By Ron Jackson

When the $3.8 million sale of IT.com closed last month (June 2022) it went straight to the top of our Year-to-Date Top 100 Sales Chart, more than doubling the amount paid for the next highest publicly reported sale to that point in 2022. When that kind of money changes hands a deep-pocketed corporate buyer is almost always involved due to the huge financial commitment required. That was the case with IT.com and its new owner, UK-based Intis Telecom, too but there is a lot more to that story. Here's how the unexpected success of an unheralded add-on product helped the man who started the company from scratch turn it into a global powerhouse. Plus, the previously untold story of why, with several good options to choose from, IT.com's new owner decided to use the world class domain to build a new domain registry

It all started back in 2008 when Founder & CEO Andrey Insarov launched Intis Telecom just four years after earning Master's Degrees in both Telecommunications Engineering and Technology and Education. That education armed him to either teach others how to do things or to do them himself. He chose the latter. The first company Insarov started, right out of college, was one that developed, sold and maintained software for dental clinics. Some success with that venture and the lessons he learned left him with no doubt he was destined for an entrepreneurial life, regardless of the ups and downs that might (and did) entail. 

"I never actually studied business or economics," Insarov noted, "When I began my university studies, I was planning on becoming an engineer in a mobile telecoms company after graduation, but it quickly became clear that I wanted more than to be just an employee in a large organization. I ultimately wanted control over my own destiny! Whilst working in companies that gave me my first technical and organizational experience, I tried to earn extra money and many times tried to create something similar to a startup (in the 2000s this word and concept wasn’t as popular as it is now). These attempts were mostly unsuccessful and much later I realized that a person actually needs to work on becoming ready to start a business. Only after a certain number of attempts and failures (you learn fast from those in particular!), does one truly understand how to approach things by meeting new people and by managing conflict on so many different levels."


"Of course, reputation, honesty and the ability to build relations with others are important - and a sprinkling of luck does no harm either!," Insarov continued. " MBA courses might provide great theoretical foundations for business, but it's only real life experience that truly delivers valuable lessons - and real life is a lot harder too!"



Andrey Insarov
Founder & CEO
Intis Telecom & IT.com

One lesson that Insarov learned early on is how important it is to be ready to change direction if need be. Intis Telecom offered several services, including domain hosting, but it was global messaging services that really sent the company into orbit, even though SMS was just meant to be a side product (one that he first developed just a year after starting his first business). Andrey detailed how the unexpected success of SMS forced him to switch gears - a decision that turned out to be one of the best he ever made.

"The path of an entrepreneur, especially in a small business, is quite unpredictable," Insarov said. " Many factors come into play; market conditions, opportunities, chance, funding and even family situations. It’s unique, like a pattern on a piece of Damascus steel. This indeed proved to be the case with the business of SMS notifications. At first, it was nothing more than a sideline for me, an add-on to my hosting business. However, the financial potential of it prompted me to shift focus. The main factor was the very strong growth of the SMS market between 2009 and 2011; traffic volumes have increased thousands of times. In addition, there were very few companies focused on providing messaging solutions for small and medium-sized businesses - the SME sector. We saw the opportunity and Intis Telecom was created to address this growing niche. It’s worth noting that some clients, who were startups 10 years ago, have subsequently grown into large companies and continue to work with us."

Intis Telecom now operates in 180 countries around the world. Growing a company into that size required navigating through more challenges than the average business person could even imagine. We asked Andrey about what it takes to successfully scale up a business in the way he has with Intis.

"First, no matter how trite it sounds, my team helped me a lot; all of them - developers and managers alike," Insarov said. "Most of our employees have been with us for over 10 years. In 2010, the company was just me and I hit my limits and simply could not do any more on my own; one day it became impossible to perform all the functions of a manager, system administrator, accountant, technical support and a marketer. I had to build a team around me and the company grew on the back of that. Given I had experience in all areas of the business, it made it somewhat easier to establish the processes and tasks for my employees and it allowed me to more effectively monitor performance across all areas."

"I've always been interested in international business, particularly since the time Internet services hit the global market and a huge demand for related solutions arose," Insarov noted. " Naturally, each location has its own nuances, but in general, you’re separated from new markets only by the presence of language localization and convenient payment methods. I was literally amazed by the Mobile World Congress exhibition which I first attended in 2012. It was a real Tower of Babel with companies and visitors from all over the world. From that moment on I began to purposefully move towards expansion, first to Europe, and then to other continents." 

"The rest is a matter of technique and I usually looked to the services of relevant, local consultants to solve problems related to such things as the opening of companies in Lithuania, the UK, and the USA. Intis Telecom generally tries to outsource tasks that aren’t directly related to the delivery of its principal solutions. It allows for focus and provides for economic efficiency too, negating the need to keep on a large team of direct employees."

Turning to the news that put Intis Telecom front and center on the domain industry's radar, the acquisition of IT.com, we learned that Insarov considered multiple ways to utilize the domain before deciding to make it into a domain registry. The 3rd level domains the company sells based on the it.com foundation, makes names like buy.it.com, own.it.com, etc. possible. IT also represents a massive global industry where IT.com would have been the world's best brand name online - and, of course, Intis Telecom's initials are IT, makiing IT.com the ultimate vanity name. So, we had to wonder how much Insarov wrestled with the options before deciding to share the name with domain registrants around the world.

"To be honest, at first I had the idea to create a marketplace focused on the IT segment, but I quickly abandoned this idea," Insarov said. "There were several reasons. One was the problem of a “cold” start, when the absence of clients and performers turns into a vicious circle. The presence of multi-million dollar competitors such as Fiverr and Upwork didn’t inspire confidence. In addition, the SMS business is currently the principal focus of the company, and any attempt to launch such a large-scale project would inevitably lead to a loss of focus and impact our core business to varying degrees in various ways. We therefore decided on a simpler approach. Being a domain registrar is much simpler than building and running a marketplace from both a technical and organizational point of view. Also, the domain business itself was something familiar to us given the origins of Intis as a hosting company.

The it.com domain registration service has only been running for eight months now but that has been enough time to give Insarov some early insight into the prospects for the new venture and how to market it in a way that takes advantage of the multi-faceted IT term going forward.

"Our strategy is to gradually launch with performance tracking, reactions of clients and partners. Since November 2021, when we first presented it.com during Lisbon’s Web Summit, we’ve participated in several industry events: CloudFest and Mobile World Congress for mobile, Affiliate World Congress, the OMR Festival in Hamburg where we partnered with Sedo for marketing, We Make Future Italia and London Tech Week for startups. 

Based on the results, we’ve identified 3 independent markets; a backup zone for the Italian national zone (ccTLD) .it, international users from all over the world that want to use English in their website names, building the word “it” into them and finally, projects which are related to the IT industry - as a competitor to the .io zone. An additional benefit is that the Italian and international markets practically don’t overlap, since the Italian spelling of words rarely coincides with English. We plan to succeed in all these potential markets and operate using all the modern practices of Internet marketing and promotion," Insarov said.

it.com's Social Media Manager, Tatyana Tarassenko,
and Business Manager Rolandas Japertas (right) 
welcomed attendees to the company's booth at the
June 2022 We Make Future conference in Italy.

Andrey added, " From the product sales perspective, we’ve set ourselves a rather aggressive target - to hit the bar of 100,000 domains sold in 3 years. To achieve this though, we have to overcome certain potential drag factors that could hinder us; a rather high price (compared to .com), the registrars' and customers' conservatism, not being accustomed to 3rd level domains, and even the global economic recession underway...Therefore, the only way forward is to convey to the widest possible audience information about the it.com domain zone, its capabilities and benefits. In addition, the modern world is so over saturated with various goods and services that without good advertising, it’s impossible for so many to have a chance of meeting sales targets."

Looking ahead, at this writing, a war in Ukraine, inflation and supply chain issues all have people wondering if the global economy is headed for a downturn than would make it more difficult to maintain growth. Whatever happens, Insarov believes it.com is now well positioned for any ups and downs that may be ahead. 

"Fortunately, we’ve already come a long way," Andrey said. "We’ve launched a domain zone along with software for interacting with registrars - EPP and API. And we’ve been very busy on the marketing front. Our focus is now therefore on building a pipeline of solvent, loyal clients and building reliable relations with registrars. Moreover, both of these directions will reinforce each other. As the popularity of it.com grows, users will buy domains in this zone more often, which will motivate more and more new registrars to become our partners and sell our domains, in turn increasing their recognition and popularity. Together with the Intis Telecom team, we’re ready for any challenges thrown our way and believe that even global economic difficulties will only slow us down, not ultimately disrupting our plans."


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