Sneak preview: this morning and during the TRAFFIC Show we thought that we'd leak the first of our 2011 series of Domaining's Most Fascinating People in the hopes of getting more nominations (send to me via the contact button above): Today we recognize John Ferber as one of Domaining's Most Fascinating People for 2011.
Watch the March 27, 2011 airing of ABC's Secret Millionaire, and you will meet - and never forget - John Ferber. Plucked from his posh Boynton Beach, Florida estate by the program's producers, he was hustled off to Skid Row in Los Angeles for five days, with just $60 in his pocket, to mix incognito among thousands of homeless people and the organizations that try to help them. It was quite a different travel destination for a man who, with his brother Scott, sold Advertising.com in 2004 to AOL for $495 million and has been enjoying some of the finer things in life.
Finally revealed to those he'd met as the program's "secret millionaire," he presents a check for $25,000 to a homeless shelter. Throughout his experience, his eyes are wide open and his heart's always on his sleeve. This is a modest, self-effacing man who's 100% soul and fortunate enough to have deep pockets - by dint of setting the all-time revenue record for the sale of a single domain name.
Secret Millionaire was hardly the first time John has connected in a significant way with people in need. In fact, ABC found him through his main "heart project," Microgiving.com , launched in 2007 as an eBay-style crowdfunding network connecting donors with hundreds of hopeful recipients who need help with medical expenses, recovering from disaster or loss of income, dealing with disability, and more.
The idea for Microgiving, he says, germinated with 9/11, when he felt frustrated wanting to help in the most effect possible way. When his sister-in-law died from cystic fibrosis in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina followed in 2005, he again felt a personal need to contribute help as directly and immediately as possible. "After Muhammud Yunus of Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in microlending, that really gelled it for me."
Jason Boshoff was John's microgiving.com co-founder, and is now CEO of their company, Domain Holdings, Inc.. "It was John's enthusiasm that got me involved with Microgiving. It was clear this was one of his life goals that he'd aspired to for a long time. He sees the big picture - he's very caring and understanding and sensitive to other people's needs."
"Doing good in scale," John says, "is what the people-to-people connection is all about. So many people have small-scale but desperate needs - to get back on their feet or pay medical bills. On this small scale, helping poor people with small loans - or in our case, small donations - you have a true emotional connection." But when microphilanthropy can connect so many people in need with so many who are able to help, the impact can be impressively large scale. John points to his family upbringing and his own DNA as the impetus behind Microgiving. "I've had a loving, caring family, and have a desire to help the world in a grand way. And I have the resources to make it happen - to make a positive impact on society."
Jason adds, "John is one of the most unassuming people you'll ever meet. He treats everyone very well, he's extremely generous in lots of ways. At the same time, I'm often astounded by his intelligence - you have to be on your toes around him because he's very, very smart."
Microgiving.com recently expanded its services to include people with business start-ups, creative projects and more - similar to Kickstarter, but without a minimum funding threshold. If you want to make a movie or start a community art project, Microgiving.com will welcome you.
The website probably didn't require the sale of Advertising.com to get started, but the $495 million sure didn't hurt. The profits also contributed to the launch of Domain Holdings, the natural culmination of John's life work as an internet pioneer, along with his partner and co-founder, domainer Chad Folkening, and CEO Jason Boshoff. Now with some 28 employees, Domain Holdings positions itself as (in John's words) "a five star, top tier, top-rated investment bank type of service" to provide a "world-class service experience" to its customers. Aiming that high takes more than marketing chutzpah: the company prides itself on a super-analytical and data-driven approach to portfolio management, and a domain savvy that comes from more than a decade of direct experience and hard work in the field.
The company also breaks from the mold of focusing on parking and brokering. "Parking is not a sustainable or value-creating solution," Jason says, "and we're moving away from that model. We're unique in this industry as a domain lifecycle management company, facilitators of acquisition, monetization, and ultimately divestment of properties. We have a heavy focus on technology to increase efficiencies, and also client services and management. Offering our clients a better product is our primary goal."
Do something well, and the money will come: in its second year, Domain Holdings doubled its growth and its revenue.
For his leadership of DomainHoldings.com and his commitment to helping others through Microgiving.com, we're proud and honored to recognize John Ferber as one of Domaining's Most Fascinating People for 2011.
Photos: Top- John Ferber and Girl Friend Jenna Wehner and lower- John and the Microgiving/Domain Holdongs team via Facebook
(To dig deeper into John's work and life, see http://dnjournal.com/cover/2011/march-april.htm. - optional)