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How NamesCon Global's Joyous Return to Real Life Re-Energized the Domain World

By Ron Jackson

Almost everyone who reads this  start to finish account of the 2022 NamesCon Global conference that ran August 31-September 3 in Austin, Texas are in the business of buying, selling, monetizing or developing domains or providing services to those who do (many are also delving into other digital assets). So, we are all dealing in virtual rather than tangible "products" - yet most of us have a  powerful desire to see and talk to our industry friends and colleagues in real life

Perhaps it is because we spend so much time behind a computer screen that the need to see people face to face is even more compelling for us than most. However, I think the heart of 

the matter is the kinship we feel for people who share our passion for domains and other digital assets in a way that most of the world does not. Though we are spread all over the world and come from a wide variety of cultures and very different backgrounds - this common interest has bonded us into something that feels more like a family than just a business. 

So, while NamesCon did a very impressive job of bringing us together virtually through NamesCon Online events over the past two-and-a-half years while a global pandemic kept us apart, the old  Motown song "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" still holds true. That's why the most common word I heard attendees use in describing how they felt about seeing everyone in Austin again was overjoyed (or one of the many synonyms expressing that sentiment). We hope this article will remind those who were there how good it felt and encourage those who weren't there to make a special effort to get to NamesCon Global in 2023 when it will return to Austin (exact dates are still to be determined but expect them to be in either the spring or fall season).

The Night Before NamesCon - Tuesday, August 30, 2022

I noted above that NamesCon Global 2022 started August 31 - and that was the official start date - but it actually began the day before when early birds started arriving at the show venue - the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin.

Above: As soon as we walked into the Omni Tuesday evening (August 30) we spotted some old friends in the bar area that is immediately across from the registration desk. After hugs all around, I had them huddle up for a quick group photo. In front are Nancy Bianchi (Senior VP at Trellian/Above.com) and Ilze Kaulins-Plascakz (ExcellentDomains.ca). In row two are Steven Kaziyev (NewYorkMedia.com), domain investor Kevin McKim, Diana Jackson (DNJournal.com) and David Warmuz (President and Co-Founder of Trellian/Above.com) and in back, where he is inevitably placed due to his commanding height, is investor/entrepreneur Marty Kaulins. By the way, Trellian is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and they served as the Title Sponsor for NamesCon Global 2022. Congratulations to David and his entire team on such a long and impressive run!

Above: Shortly after arriving, I was also delighted to bump into the two people who are most responsible for making NamesCon Global run so well, Head of NamesCon operations Helga Neumer and the Chairman of the NamesCon Advisory Board, Soeren von Varchmin. I knew I was lucky to see them together at the same time because once the show began they would both be running in 100 different directions putting out fires and making sure the show stayed on track!

Above: Domain industry giant Sedo has traditionally thrown a party for their clients and friends the night before NamesCon and this year was no different. They picked a spectacular venue this time too - Zanzibar - and open air bar that sits atop Austin's downtown Marriott Hotel. Left to right are Sedo CEO Michael Robrock, Diana Jackson and Ron Jackson (DNJournal) and Sedo Senior Domain Broker Dave Evanson.

Above: Also among the many familiar faces we were happy to see again at the Sedo party were NamesCon Founder Richard Lau (left) and PTL.com Chairman Dr. Gregg McNair with his lovely wife Lorraine.

Below: Any time we can see Kate Buckley (Buckley Media) and Todd Henderson is a special occasion as well. Kate is one of the great brokers in the industry and she has mow succeeded in selling Todd (a professional branding consultant) on personally investing in domains. Turned out to be good advice as he recently made his first sale at $45,000!


Opening Day (Wednesday, August 31) - Bodis Keynote Hall

The next morning it was time to get down to business with the official opening of NamesCon Global 2022!

Above: A full house was on hand when NamesConGlobal opened at 10am local time in the Bodis Keynote Hall at the Omni Hotel in Austin Wednesday (August 31). This was the same location where the last edition of NamesCon Global was held in January 2020 - just weeks before the global pandemic hit and stopped in-person NamesCon events for the next two and a half years. The long wait was finally over!

Above: When NamesCon Advisory Board Chairman Soeren von Varchmin took the stage to welcome attendees, the joyous look on his face made it clear how happy he was to bring everyone together again.

Below: After Soeren introduced the NamesCon MC's (all of whom you will be seeing in photos of the various sessions in this article) he called me up to chat about what it was like to be back and what has been going on the industry. Shortly after we started I was surprised and touched to have NamesCon CEO Christian Jaeger and Head of NamesCon operations Helga Neumer bring a cake on stage to help celebrate my birthday (it fell the day before when I was flying to Austin then getting settled in at the Omni). For me, there could be no better way than this to spend a birthday! We also talked about the show marking big occasions for both Trellian (25th Anniversary) and Radix (10th Anniversary)! 

NamesCon Global has a dual track format so during most of each business day two sessions are going on at the same time - one in the Bodis Keynote Hall and another on the TITAN Breakout Stage. I think the best way to give you a sense of how things flowed on each stage is to give you a chronological rundown of everything that happened on the Keynote Hall Stage, followed by a similar rundown covering the Breakout Stage. Those will be followed by our coverage of the evening events for that day.

Above: In the first business session in the Bodis Keynote Hall, Paul Nicks, the President of GoDaddy's Domain Registrars and Investors division, delivered an illuminating address titled Igniting Investor Success. Paul has always been an advocate for domain investors as he has risen through the ranks at GoDaddy. We would not be getting the attention and continually expanding investor-oriented services from GoDaddy we have seen in recent years were it not for Paul. GoDaddy has also become a major supporter of the Internet Commerce Association, the non-profit organization that fights for domain owner rights.

Above: After Paul's talk I returned to the stage for a Fireside Chat with Domain Investor/Artist Christian Calvin (at right). Christian has been converting his colorful large scale abstract oil painting to NFTs so he was the perfect guy to cover a lot of bases at once with. We talked about domains, about art and how he developed his unique style, as well as about NFTs and how those are created from original works and the prospects for this rapidly emerging class of digital assets. Christian's painting (seen above) as well as the NFT version of it, were both sold in the NamesCon/RightOfTheDot Live Domain & Digital Assets Auction the next day. 

That led to an interesting story and a big career break for Christian on the art front. The buyer, M2C Digital Founder Mike McConville was approached by industry legend Scott Day after the auction with an offer to buy it and give Mike a significant profit for his trouble. Turns out the painting is titled "Late Night" and Scott owns the domain LateNight.com. Mike, who spent several thousand dollars on his new acquisitions, loved the painting too and wasn't interested in selling, so Scott commissioned Christian to do a new painting for him and they may work together on a series of additional works now. Plus, another industry veteran, Luke Webster, bought two other paintings that Christian had done before the show. Looks like there Christian's trip to NamesCon will be paying big dividends for a long time to come!   (Photo Credit: NamesCon)

Above: In another popular opening day session in the Bodis Keynote Hall - the last before the lunch break, DNAcademy Founder Michael Cyger (who recently sold his company to GoDaddy) covered How to Value Domain Names Step-by-Step. As the synopsis noted, "To become profitable as an investor or broker, you must understand the key characteristics that define a domain name, use them to find relevant, recent, and retail-priced comparable sales, and know how to value domain names in the wholesale and retail markets. You must also make educated assumptions about aspects like desirability, traffic and appreciation. Increasing your valuation accuracy sets you up to make better decisions in both buying and selling domain names." No one does that better than Michael, the best Educator on the domain business.

Above: As soon as the lunch break begins many attends head for the Exhibit Area that is a short flight of stairs down from the stages on the second floor. (Photo Credit: NamesCon)

Below: Three of the most familiar faces in the domain business set up shop in the Exhibit Area for their enticing new TLD .HipHop. The best thing is that at this shop the HipHop T-Shirts were free (got one myself)!  Left to right are Partner and  Chief Legal Officer Jeff Neuman, Partner Monte Cahn and Director of Marketing Scott Pruitt. The third partner in the enterprise, Ajene Watson, is not pictured but was also at NamesCon drumming up interest in .HipHop.

Above: After lunch, it was back to the Bodis Keynote Hall for a very busy afternoon schedule. First up was a session titled Be Ready For The Brussels Effect, It s Coming Our Way featuring Pawel Rzeszucinski, Global Head of Data and AI at CentralNic Group PLC (standing) with moderator Kelly Hardy (seated). "The Brussels Effect" was a term coined to reflect the fact that the European Union is a truly global regulatory power. Take GDPR for example: created to protect only EU citizens, it's impact was profound globally. The newest legislation - the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act might have similar effects on many business domains, including ours. This talk outlined the planned changes and gave tips on how to stay up-to-date with the inevitable. 

Above: The next session titled The Traffic Report gave attendees the latest insights into how to monetize the traffic hitting their domains. This expert panel, featuring (left to right) Gregg McNair (PTL.com), David Warmuz (Above.com), Adam Wagner (Parking Crew), Christian Voss (Sedo), Rick Latona (Giant Panda) and Matt Wegrzyn) explained the dynamics shaping this cornerstone of domain investing by examining real-life expiring names and how to make them active in your portfolio. 
(Photo Credit: NamesCon)

Next up on opening day was Real Deals, Real Numbers, hosted by Andrew Allemann (Domain Name Wire) and featuring Mark Levine (Domain Theory LLC) and Logan Flatt (Media Code LLC). Most domain investors play it very close to the vest when discussing domain portfolio performance, so getting a sense of the dollars and cents in play can be harder than you might think. Mark and Logan laid their cards out for all attendees to see, and shared what they’ve learned in putting together dozens of solid deals over the past year.

Above: In this session I was back on stage with Trellian President and Co-Founder David Warmuz (right) to share our Insights Into the Domain Industry's Evolution.  As I mentioned above, Trellian is celebrating their 25th Anniversary so David has been there to see and help build this industry from its beginning. He had some great stories to share, including a fascinating account of his 22-year-long efforts to acquire the domain Trillion.com. The original plan was to use Trillion as the company name. David did finally get it but by that point Trellian was the established brand. Still, you can check out Trillion.com to see how many well-known brands the company owns and operates now. I think you will be surprised!

Above: Another highly anticipated session closed the day in the Keynote Hall and drew a wall to wall crowd. This one featured two of the best negotiators in the business, Kate Buckley (Buckley Media) and the Domain King himself, Rick Schwartz. Kate is seated at far left and Rick appeared via a video link from his home in Florida (moderators J.T. Tenenbaum and Krista Gable are seated next to Kate). Rick and Kate shared their views on the The Art of Negotiating. The two industry veterans have very different negotiating styles, yet both consistently ring up huge sales. Insight into the way they go about that made this session alone worth the cost to attend NamesCon. 

Before we move on to what happened on the TITAN Breakout Stage Opening Day, a shout out to the Tipalti.com crew that sponsored the Coffee Breaks throughout NamesCon. I cannot tell you how essential good coffee is over the course of a big conference - it literally keeps you going! Meanwhile payment solutions provider Tipalti keeps growing! They had a booth in the Exhibit Area where personable Tipaltians Tameem Shah (left) and Craig Gonzalez held court and handed out free mugs!

Opening Day  (Wednesday, August 31) - TITAN Breakout Stage

Now let's reset the clock to 11:05am Wednesday and take you through opening day on the TITAN Breakout Stage.

Above: Our long-time friend, ParkLogic Founder Michael Gilmour, got the ball rolling with a talk titled Be Inspired About the Future. Michael discussed many undeveloped opportunities he believes will provide huge dividends for both the investment community and founding entrepreneurs in the years ahead. Unfortunately, I didn't get to to sit in on that session because I was hosting a Fireside Chat on the other stage that ran at the same time. Fortunately, Michael also delivered a series of domain monetization MasterClasses during NamesCon and I was able to catch up with him at one of those to get this photo of him at work.

I was still on the other stage when another friend, attorney Ari Goldberger, was scheduled to do a session on Negotiation 101: The Real Deal. I later learned Ari had to cancel his trip but I'm pretty sure his able partner Jason Schaeffer would have stepped in and done his usual superb job. Jason was already scheduled for an afternoon session that we will be telling you about. 

Unstoppable Domains Co-Founder Brad Kam also pulled double duty Wednesday with a 12:15pm session on How Domain Names Are the Future of Consumer Identity and a second panel we will be showing you in a few moments.

After the lunch break, action resumed on the TITAN Breakout Stage with this session about How to Meet Customers Where They Are In Their Domain Name Journey. It featured (left to right) Michele Neylon (CEO at Blacknight), Neha Naik (Radix), Mariah Reilly (Identity Digital) and Elisabeth Klughardt (i2Coalition). Entrepreneurs and content creators can unlock hidden branding power to set themselves apart from the global crowd, but it‘s all about getting the domain investor and the end user on the same page. The panelists advised how you, the domain name investor, can thrive by connecting the right name with the right person or company. 

Above: The Domaining on the Blockchain panel that followed at 2:35pm was a fiery one with proponents of competing decentralized domain platforms taking aim at each other. The panelists (left to right) were Ray King (CEO at Porkbun.com), Thomas Barrett (EnCirca), Chjango Unchained (dWeb Foundation), Brad Kam (Unstoppable Domains), Chris Jeffrey (Early Contributor to Handshake) and moderator Soeren von Varchmin. The session synopsis noted "As the decentralized internet grows, so does its namespace. Domaining on the blockchain is an intricate dance with the existing DNS, and the rules are still being written. The panel featuring blockchain-and NFT-based domain builders explained how entities such as Ethereum Naming Services (ENS), Handshake (HNS), and Unstoppable Domains (NFT-based naming) differ (differences that were loudly vocalized between Brad and Chris) - and how cryptocurrency, NFTs and domaining come together. 

Above: Next up the question was Should the UDRP be Changed? That was debated by (left to right) Jason Schaeffer (ESQwire.com), Karen Bernstein (Bernstein IP), Zak Muscovitch (Internet Commerce Association), Nat Cohen (Telepthay Inc.) and Paul McGrady (Taft Law). Trademark owners and domain name investors have come to rely upon the UDRP for 23 years, and ICANN is now committing to review it. What should a revised UDRP look like? This panel shared their proposals for meaningful UDRP reform and heard audience concerns about the issue.

Above: Domain investors, especially new ones, are always looking for tips on How to Build a Domain Portfolio? These experienced panelists, (left to right) Deepak Daftari (WebVision Pvt. Ltd.), Rehan Ahmad (AccuMedia) and Braden Pollock (Legal Brand Marketing) provided some great advice for getting started on the right foot. 

Above: In the final opening day session on the TITAN Breakout Stage, the subject was gTLDs: When Lightning Strikes. The panelists were (left to right) Bill Sweetman (Name Ninja), Ajene Watson (Dot HipHop), Karn Jajoo (Radix) and Negar Hajikhani (Sedo). Hundreds of gTLDs are  competing for investor and end-user attention, but sometimes the stars align and smart investors can score big. It’s not as random as it might seem and this expert panel explained how to find order (and good buys) amid the overabundance of choices.

Now that the day's business was over on both NamesCon stages, it was time to party!

Above & below: In addition to being the Title Sponsor of NamesCon Global 2022, Above.com hosted the official Opening Night Reception. Company representatives on hand to greet guests included (left to right) Simon Saleem, Liz Corona, Nancy Bianchi, David Warmuz and Nathan Parker.

Above: In addition to being a party, the reception was the place where winners from Above.com's daylong Scavenger Hunt received their prizes. The top prize that included a bottle of Macallan 18-year-old Scotch (typically retailing for $400-$500) went to Mark Mojica (Sniamod LLC). Unfortunately, shortly after Mark won the bottle, another attendee picked it up to admire it and accidentally dropped the bottle, shattering it and sending the sweet smell of Scotch through the room - at least one attendee even dipped a napkin into the pool of liquid to sniff it! In yet another example of how attendees at this NamesCon attendees were not going to let anything dampen their spirits, Mark brushed off the incident, noting  he now has a great story to tell even if it leaves a big hole in his liquor cabinet! (Photo Credit: Above.com - preceding 3 photos)

Above: After the Above.com reception a number of attendees headed out to attend various corporate events or to explore Austin on their own. We were honored to join some longtime friends of industry legend and Uniregistry Founder Frank Schilling (at left above with dinner host Dr. Gregg McNair (center) and Frank's closest friend, Vern Jurovich) at Eberly in Austin. The event gave us an opportunity to celebrate Frank's success and thank him for the inspiration and encouragement he has provided to so many of us along the way. 

Below: After the private dinner, a party (also hosted by Gregg McNair) that was open to all NamesCon attendees got underway in another room at Eberly and ran well into the night.

Above: The colorful party and Eberly featured a great band and roving acrobats alongside the food and drink.

Below: The lead singer wound up in the audience more than once. Here Dynadot Founder Todd Han (standing at right) appears to be waiting for his turn on the microphone)!

This was a great way to wind up Day 1 at NamesCon Global 2022. Now click this link to proceed to our rundown of Day2  (Thursday, September 1) at the biggest domain show on earth!

*****


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