Frager Factor

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Domaining's Most Fascinating 2010: Rob Monster "The Future of Domaining"


“I met Rob at Traffic and as someone with corporate experience in the consumer products industry. I was immediately impressed that he knew what he was talking about. He understood the economy and investments. Having worked with them for a long time now, the emails fly back and forth late at night and he is always on and always responsive. I love the fact that I can give the team product input, and they really take it seriously."



Our next "Most Fascinating Domain Person for 2010" is Rob Monster, who is being recognized in the spirit of this year's award for both innovation AND marketing. He's another of 20 diverse entrepreneurs who are generating real wealth through a disciplined process that can be followed by everyone who dreams of striking it rich online. It’s old-fashioned marketing, reengineered for the digital world. Rob exemplifies that the true path to revenues and riches is to build a brand with an actual business model based on differentiation, relevance and value.

Born in the US to Dutch parents, T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s "developer of the year" for 2010, Rob Monster lived and worked in Holland, Germany, Belgium and Japan before settling in the US to start first entrepreneurial venture. But Rob is no stranger to awards.

He founded Global Market Insite (GMI) in 1999. He won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 and grew GMI into an INC top 100 company. Still privately held, Rob remains the largest individual shareholder. In 2007, after 7 straight years of 100+% revenue growth, Rob stepped down as Chairman and CEO of GMI to spend more time on new ventures. He founded Monster Venture Partners to invest in companies at a level that he called "North of Angel, South of a VC", making more than a dozen 6 and 7 figure investments in new ventures over a 2 year period.

A common theme in the angel investing was domain names. Some of the earliest angel investments include Healthcare.com , Patents.com, Internet Real Estate Group, and EVO Landing. Also in 2007, Rob pursued a leveraged buyout of Snapnames, only to be outbid by Oversee.net.

In early 2009, Rob founded Epik with the goal of developing a scalable methodology for creating high quality websites that could be stitched together in a unified network. The architecture of the network follows a Web 3.0 construct that Rob has referred to as "The User-centric Semantic Web", and combine portal identity (Identity.net, share components (e.g. Comments.com , Questions.com).

We've written a lot about Rob this year, hoping that mainstream takes notice, because he brings much needed credibility to an industry best known for its colorful characters, ties to porn, and sleazy tactics. I remember at an early Traffic when Rick Schwartz confronted a Google executive taking questions from the podium with “Why rent when you can buy?” i.e. Why pay a percentage of revenue to domainers when you can just buy the domains? Same with Amazon whose spent a king's ransom over the last decade buying adwords campaigns for the exact match keywords to just about every one of the domains in Epik’s portfolio.

I believe that while many have tried and failed to get the Big G,Y and M's attention to domains, something big is finally going to happen in 2011 and that Rob is the one with the pedigree to pull it off.

Everyone we talked to about Epik and Rob, and from comments left about Epik on many other blogs, might disagree on somethings and be disappointed on the progress or setbacks of others— but all agree on one. Like Blake Moser commenting on Domain Shane: "I’ve communicated with Rob Monster, and think he is a great guy. Epik has a lot to offer other than just developing e-stores, and I think Rob is going to be one of those guys we talk about ten years from now as, “changing the Internet.” Or Prosper commenting on Domain Name Wire: "I applaud Rob for his forward thinking and trying to take this industry to the next level. All these other weak minisite developers that have their own agenda really need to take notes because EPIK is doing things they never thought would ever be possible."

Ian Lopuch (aka PPCIan.com) in an interview on these pages is bullish on Rob and for good reason. “I met Rob at Traffic and as someone with corporate experience in the consumer products industry. I was immediately impressed that he knew what he was talking about. He understood the economy and investments. And his management philosophy is right in line with my own personal beliefs. Having worked with them for a long time now, the emails fly back and forth late at night and he is always on and always responsive. I love the fact that I can give the team product input, and they really take it seriously."

Vishal Vithlani, who was also interviewed on these pages, said "Aside from the results, what I like about Epik is transparency. They are quick to respond. They have a future plan. They know where they want to get to” What has impressed Vishal the most is Epik’s responsiveness to site performance issues. They took the developer’s feedback and made the needed changes. Not a single email was ignored.”

Since this year's most fascinating domainer honor focuses on marketing applied to advantage, it should be noted that Rob came out of the chute with marketing with a capital "M' and its set him apart from the pack. Dividing products into brands (portal, wiki, video, e-commerce, recipes), holding DevCon; a developer conference in the first year of business and sparing no expense to make the guests feel like family, the innovative programs like Swapfest and Epik bucks that have brought liquidity to domaining and made possible what would have been impossible before, and attracting a new breed of investors to domaining like Lopuch and Vithlani who hold day jobs and bring practical business skills and analysis to the game.

Says Monster, "Many domain investors would like to strengthen their portfolios as well as begin to develop domains. However, the challenge for much of the industry players is that cash is finite. And because cash is the medium of exchange for most transactions, deals that should get done, often do not get done. Why? Because at any given time, Person A does not have what Person B wants, whether that is cash or a like-for-like exchange. The result is a Buyers market where only the guys with cash get to play. Raw deal? You bet." Epik bucks ended up being redeemed in unexpected ways. Like for admission to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. or DevCon or to purchase (or steal) domains at Swapfest.

Of Swapfest Lopuch bragged, “I bought a bunch of sites on the cheap at Swapfest at T.R.A.F.F.I.C in October. Nobody understood Swapfest so the crowd had their eyes off the ball. They didn’t know that some up for auction were already #1 on Google and had a check waiting for the new owner for October’s sales. My secret was, like buying a domain on the drop, picking ones that were established on a platform already, had been indexed and ranked well, had traffic and therefore started generating income immediately. In essence I bought a domain with a site and traffic that was already churning cash and, in one case, in the next month I got 20% of my investment back in affiliate commissions. Where else can you do this with $300?”

Another good example of the returns possible from Monster's Swapfest marketing invention is Developer/Flipper Morgan Schwartz. He... bought BeachBags.net on 6/10 for $249 - sold on 9/17 for $2500 (900% return) Bought ExerciseMat.net on 6/24 for $249 – sold on 9/17 for $1200 (381% return) Bought CamcorderMicrophones.com on 4/25 for $249 – sold on 9/17 for $2000 (700% return)Bought ClothingRack.net on 4/29 for $249 – sold on 9/17 for $1000 (300% return).

These Epik affectionados are actively out in the market seeking Epik Bucks from others who cashed out domains or whole portfolios for them. Such as veteran domainer Ron Josephs who sold his prized collection of "Plus Sized" domains to Epik and received $25,000 Epik Bucks. Said Monster, "The latest transaction is the largest EB one to date. It is the Ron Josephs PlusSize portfolio which Epik has already developed. They look like this: http://www.plussizetops.com/. Plus size is the fastest growing segment of fashion. So, we now have a pretty complete portfolio of Plus names. They will start as Product Portals, but down the road can either go eCommerce, or be sold to a major online seller of Plus size apparel." Ron will sell some and keep some and has been advertising his ambitions daily at Domaining.com.

Rob lives in Seattle. Married to Jill, a Naturopathic physician and Founder of Naturomedica.com . Jill and Rob have 5 kids. In addition to enjoying entrepreneurial ventures, travel regularly.

What a lot to accomplish in the last year. Way to go Rob. I have to believe 2011 will bring continued innovation and success.

Photo: Rob Monster and Daughter (one of my favorites) by Barbara Dillman Neu###
Catch up with the series by familiarizing yourself with the seven people we've profiled so far:

10. Barbara Dillman Neu
7. Teen Domainer
15. Ryan Colby
18. Patrick Ruddell
5/6 Mike Sullivan & Fusible
15. Jeff Gabriel
19. Rob Grant
12. Rob Monster

And stay tuned for daily profiles of our remaining champions...
1. Francois Carrillo
2. Jeff Bennett
3. Warren Royal
4. Colin Pape
8. Adam Mazurek
9. Ron Josephs
11. Mike Fiol
13. Lori Ann Wardi
14. Monte Cahn
16. Bill Kara
20. Jeff Tinsley


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About The Author: Owen Frager is an Internet marketing expert ready to help take your company to the next level.

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