iWantMyName – The Next Steps

A lot of people have been asking me recently how iWantMyName is going. The short answer is that it’s going great! We’ve been profitable this year and have had our heads down working hard laying both the technological and business organisational foundations that we need to grow. The challenge has been in making the transition from a small start-up business to a fully fledged, high growth technology story.

I certainly won’t say that it’s been easy. Everyone on the team has made sacrifices and we even had one or two nervous moments during the early days when we wondered if we would make budget and be able to pay salaries or rent. It comes with the territory. Being a start-up entrepreneur is like being on a mad roller coaster ride. It can be both thrilling and terrifying, especially if you are bootstrapping.

I meet a lot of budding web entrepreneurs and one of the first questions I ask them is, “are you ready for 2-3 years without a proper income?” It can easily take that long to carve out a niche for yourself and get meaningful revenues going. That’s without factoring in the vagaries of foreign exchange rates.

Notwithstanding the challenges ahead, we’ve got big plans for lots more features and fresh content on our New Zealand domain registrar site plus a major makeover of our search functionality across all four of our sites globally. There are also new and popular hosted services being posted almost weekly, so users can have smart one-click DNS set-up on their domains. We’re positioning iWantMyName as a next generation domain and DNS management service with an eye on future opportunities emerging with the new top level domains and internationalised domain names.

In addition, we’ve also started a new venture to advise young web entrepreneurs and share some of the experience we have gained on the journey so far. In fact we continue to be actively involved in supporting tech community events such as through Unlimited Potential, Startup Weekend, PXLJam and Perl Mongers to name but a few. We think it’s an exciting place to be as technology entrepreneurship continues to gain a greater profile as a career and lifestyle choice.

Keep in touch with us on Twitter @iWantMyNameNZ

Brand Value + Cashflow = Win

Despite some over cooked fund raisings causing a few ripples recently . A couple of high profile trade sales underline the value that a great brand brings to a business.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether there’s another tech bubble forming, but I see two separate themes emerging. On the one hand there’s companies like Color and Pandora that raised funding purely on the strength of an idea and a solid team. Neither company has revealed how or when they will generate revenue. There was much hand wringing after Color’s VC round and Pandora’s share price crashed almost immediately post IPO. These are worrying signals in a market where entrepreneurs are being told to go out and raise as much cash as possible, whilst times are still good.

On the other hand, there are solid companies with good revenues and little debt that are cashing up through trade sale opportunities. The Go Daddy transaction was a case in point. This deal had been in the making for some time and looks like a win-win for both the founders and the institutional investors in terms of timing. Obviously it was of great interest to us at iWantMyName because GD are the largest domain registrar on the planet, with around a quarter of the entire global market.

Closer to home, the $139M buyout of listed drinks maker Charlies by Japan’s largest brewer Asahi also looks like a big win. What all of these companies have in common are great brand assets. Where they differ is that some of them not only do not generate profits, but in some cases the value proposition is less than clear. Even a great brand cannot compensate for these failings. Winning companies have recognisable brands, high performing systems or technologies and a means of generating repeating revenues. You’d have to be a right Charlie to invest in a company that didn’t have these attributes.

You can follow the author on Twitter @GeniusNet

2010 Rocked Us, Roll On 2011

To say that 2010 was a year full challenges and opportunities is somewhat of an understatement. For many people in business it was a case of  hanging in there as a recessionary economy misfired and struggled to get up off its knees. But much worse than this, New Zealand (and in particular the south) was stricken by the triple tragedies of a huge investment business failure, a destructive earthquake and a terrible mine disaster. Whilst these events provided a much-needed distraction for the government, they were devastating for the people directly affected and shocked all of us.

When national morale takes a hit, I’ve noticed the economy tends to suffer as well. Good spirits lead to more spending which in turn leads to more optimism. It’s a virtuous circle. On the plus side, we have been sheltered a little from the storm by high global dairy prices and the fact that our banks are stable and government debt not completely out of control like elsewhere. But there’s still lots more work to be done on diversifying the economy and I don’t think we should rely entirely on the Thugby World Cup to reignite our passions in 2011. We can’t afford to sleepwalk through another year.

The government needs to be looking at providing a more aspirational science and innovation framework that goes well beyond moving the deck chairs around with yet another departmental restructuring. In the lead up to the election, we also need to start thinking about reforming our entire legal system. When a senior judge thinks it’s ok to preside over a court case involving a business partner and peeping toms get longer prison sentences than drunk drivers who kill and maim, we know we’ve got a serious problem.

On a personal level I had the immense satisfaction of working with two great teams. The first was the crew at ideegeo from whom I learn something new every day. We headed into our third year of domain renewals this month at iWantMyName and grew revenue at over 200% during the year. We also addressed some growing pains by improving our platform technology as well as our management systems as we position for the next chapter. The most exciting aspect of going global with the technology was that we secured a core following of early adopters amongst the developer community worldwide that may open some interesting doors for us in 2011. Watch this space.

My other team are the good folks at the Unlimited Potential committee who help bring the coolest events to the ICT community here in Wellington. We had a very busy year with a strong focus on promoting technology entrepreneurship through a number of well supported events. We also completed our wonderful new website. All of this was achieved in a very tough funding environment. Because of UP activities, teams got built, tech businesses were started and people found jobs. Real life social networking is important. Thanks to the supporters who made it happen and let us know if you’d like to get involved as an event partner or committee member in 2011.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous 2011.

Starting Lean: When to Pivot

Lean Startup methodology when applied to technology start-up companies advocates rapid prototyping, iterative re-testing of market assumptions and soliciting frequent customer feedback to more quickly evolve a product offering. At a recent lunchtime seminar hosted by Wellington’s Lean Startup group, we discussed when to pivot.

Pivoting involves a fundamental change to one or more of the three fundamental questions that frame the business model and could be a response to either a flawed model or a new opportunity.

We Are Selling What? + Via Which Channel? + To Whom?

Bruce Aylward from Psoda described how his company underwent a complete change in strategic direction in terms of how their product was marketed and distributed. Psoda is a SaaS suite that assists professionals to manage programs, projects, requirements, testing and product development. Psoda’s pivot point came when they realised that customers only wanted some of the services being offered – so they created a pick ‘n mix option. It was a subtle change that boosted the company’s revenue take.

The domain registrar industry has a well established model and hundreds of incumbents. Finding ways to innovate within such a model is tough, but it is the only way forward for a new company. At iWantMyName our pivot point came when we realised we were creating a scalable platform-as-a-service offering that we could rapidly roll out to channel partners. It was a great learning experience for us that added a lot of value to our business.

Kiwi iWantMyName Continues Product Evolution

ideegeo’s successful launch of iWantMyName as a global domain registrar site and the opening of sites for Germany and the Netherlands last year were exciting milestones in the evolution of iWantMyName into a highly scalable industry-wide platform solution and in the development of our company.

Although our focus was global from day one, we felt it was now time to turn our attention to home. We had many requests from our friends to establish in the New Zealand market, because of our unique service offering, friendly user interface and great customer support. Finally we just had to say yes and so we now have a dedicated Kiwi site offering fixed prices in New Zealand dollars.

The Kiwi iWantMyName has by far New Zealand’s widest range of domain extensions, many of which are unavailable from other local domain registrars. Examples of exclusive domains include the recently launched .TEL and .ME suffixes plus interesting country code top-level domains from all over the world such as .LI (Liechtenstein), .IO (British Indian Ocean Territory) and .FM (Federal States of Micronesia).

Customers from the existing site can use the same login details to access their accounts across the iWantMyName platform suite. We also offer the same free services on our Kiwi version so that you can hook up your own domain to customise a wide range of great web applications such as GMail, Blogger and Zoho. In the very near future we also plan to add some cool new Kiwi-made services that we really want to support.

We think it is appropriate that the launch of a new product should be celebrated with some special offers. So until the end of February we are offering new .COM, .NET, .ORG and .NAME domains for only $19.90 NZD plus .INFO for $9.90 NZD. We are also able to offer a FREE one year extension if you transfer your existing domains across to iWantMyName NZ. Transfers can be handled from your personal dashboard once you join up. Please note that all domain prices quoted on the Kiwi site are GST exclusive and that we provide full GST invoicing to all our valued customers.

Euro Doppleganger for iWantMyName Platform

Speaking of taking Kiwi tech global. It was with a huge amount of pride that that we announced the launch of two new registrar sites over at ideegeo this week. In conjunction with a great partner in the Netherlands we’ve created Ben ik Vrij a Dutch language version of our iWantMyName site. With all the functionality of our existing platform plus full Euro currency integration Ben ik Vrij allows us to enter one of the largest domain markets in Europe.

benikvrij

But we aren’t just stopping there. We’ve also opened a wholly owned and operated German language site and we called it simply Mein Name. The German site is a special achievement because ideegeo in part has its origins in an idea that began in Germany. Mein Name is a little bit like a return home for us.

meinname

The new sites demonstrate how ideegeo can powerfully leverage the underlying technology behind iWantMyName and how we can make other partnerships work in new markets. Expect to see further rollouts and cool new services in the future as we change the face of domain name management.