Frager Factor

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Most Fascinating Domainers 2010: Jeff Bennett -- Building A New Ecosystem, from NameMedia to Swap.com

"Our goal was to build the largest community of swappers in the world. Millions of people swap things each year, and businesses swap at a massive rate.
What's cool about this is we're finding ways to enhance a system of behavior that's been active for thousands of years."

Start with NameMedia and an industry-leading inventory of nearly one million domain names, then get restless and look for new growth opportunities few others have the imagination to explore. That's just the beginning for Boston's Jeff Bennett, now CEO of Swap.com and an innovative leader in the ever-expanding Collaborative Consumption movement.

Collaborative Consumption? Think sharing on a global scale - lending and borrowing, renting, gifting, from anyone to anyone anywhere. And swapping - music, books, games, even Halloween costumes (but not that green an orange 70s easy chair in the basement). It's C2C bigtime, but without the annoyance or ego of money getting in the way. It makes sense - in a recessive economy, bartering is more popular than ever (except maybe the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was the dominant form of trade). In fact, according to the International Reciprocal Trade Association, "swapping" amounted to $12 billion in value for North American companies in 2010 - twice what it was ten years earlier. Voila! Swap.com - the largest barter site on the web.

New electronic-based ecosystems is a lofty concept, but you could hearken back to the now legendary story of entrepreneur Dee Hock and the founding of Visa in the late 60s - embracing an organizational strategy that broke every known rule of business, like ownership and governance flowing out from the center to the users. Jeff's brain, we think, works the same way: iconoclasm with a savvy edge. How do you take accepted business practice, turn it on its ear, and come out with something that defies conventional wisdom - and is also a smash hit?

"One of the things I've been looking at for the last 20 years or so is nascent market space and disruptive business opportunities. When I was advising SwapTree.com here in Boston, I saw a very big market space and a chance to bring the powerful name of Swap.com to the opportunity, and then broaden the strategy to attack that massive market space." The enterprise also combines Jeff's commitment to advising young companies with his knowledge of the domain industry from a brand perspective to maximize the opportunity for descriptive domains to build new business.

It's a business with a zero environmental footprint. "I love the outdoors," he says, "and I do whatever I can to help preserve the environment. This company model is really compelling because it helps people save money, helps them make use of what they've got. When we can better use things that are already in the secondary market, we have no environmental impact."

When not Swapping, Jeff stays on the board of NameMedia and mentors young web entrepreneurs via TechStars and the MassChallenge program in Massachusetts. I'm excited to be honoring Jeff today for his vision, success, altruism and spirited pursuit of the next great opportunity.

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Catch up with Domaining's 20 Most Fascinating People of 2010:
Be inspired by the success of people who did the work to transform their dreams into reality: Domaining’s Most Fascinating People of 2010. These 20 diverse entrepreneurs 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. Every one of these Most Fascinating People knew that the true path to revenues and riches is to build a brand with an actual business model based on differentiation, relevance and value.



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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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