The new TLD business opportunity for entrepreneurs

8th March 2012

In a video interview, Tom Brackey, Intellectual Property Attorney and Partner at Beverly Hills law firm Freund & Brackey, and George Minardos, Entrepreneur and CEO of Minardos Group, discuss their thoughts about the business opportunities presented by new Top-Level Domains.

Savvy entrepreneurs move on from .com

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, strategises with entrepreneurs over the business opportunities presented by new generic Top-Level Domains (TLDs).

The Internet is about to change in a major way and savvy entrepreneurs from around the world are poised to make multi-million dollar annual returns in an online real estate gold rush set to create a 'Dot Anything' boom.

In January, the Internet's global governing body (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) opened the door for brands and entrepreneurs to secure an entire Internet namespace similar to the traditional .com or .net and sell second level domain names to end users around the world.

Recently I sat down with two of our clients – Tom Brackey, Intellectual Property Attorney and Partner at Beverly Hills law firm Freund & Brackey, and George Minardos, Entrepreneur and CEO of Minardos Group – to discuss their thoughts about the business opportunities presented by new Top-Level Domains. Both Tom and George are experienced entrepreneurs who draw on experience from the .com boom in the late 90s and who, like me, have been following the development of the new TLD program from the very beginning.

Together they are applying for several new generic Top-Level Domains and they saw an opportunity to move on from the .com model - a new way of looking at domain names as a business - and began their strategy development process straight away.

Whilst talking to me about their new TLD journey and their application, we discussed the advice we'd give to any entrepreneurs out there beginning their own new TLD journey right now. With only a few weeks left until the application deadline (12 April 2012), here are the key take-outs.

1. Identify a community

The opportunity is not just about selling domain names at high volume and creating an alternative to .com – there's now an opportunity to build an online business model around a specific community or industry vertical. The defined community could be 100 people or 10 million people – but it's vital to be clear on your target audience.

2. Immerse yourself in research

To develop a strategy that speaks to a specific audience, you're going to need to do some market research - really know that community, perhaps even be part of it. The other option is to invest in some advice from an expert in that community. The demographics and needs of your target market become the basis for your business model. To help entrepreneurs get started, ARI Registry Services commissioned a research report on the commercial potential of new TLDs which provides example business models.

3. Strategy before the string

Choosing a string (the generic word to the right of the dot) is very important. However, we've noticed many potential applicants coming to us with their proposed idea for a string and then try and develop a business strategy around it. Our advice is to turn that process on its head. From here, go back to points one and two - firstly identify your target market, identify a need and then work backwards to determine a string that is representative of their values and needs. Doing this will also help you answer question 18 in ICANN's application around defining the mission and purpose of your new TLD. Question 18 is the heart and soul of the application process and the question that will help all other sections flow.

4. Surround yourself with strategic partners

Whether it's support for the robust technical aspects of ICANN's application or strategic guidance on your business and financial model – you need to surround yourself with strategic partners that can add value. When you're first confronted with the application it's daunting, long, complex and immediately apparent that you need a good registry services provider. A registry provider needs to be nimble, adaptive and share your entrepreneurial mindset. Our clients have told us the guidance we offered them was crucial.

5. Brands can be entrepreneurs too

The word entrepreneur is used loosely when I talk about new TLDs – you don't have to fit the stereotype of a Silicon Valley multi-millionaire to grasp this opportunity (although sufficient financial backing is imperative). Really, it comes down to having an entrepreneurial mindset and a desire to innovate. Brands can do this too – not only through their own trademarked TLD, but through a generic TLD that allows them to own a category relating to their business. We call this a 'category killer'. Imagine if Nike owned a key word like .sport or the Marriott owned .hotel – I don't need to explain it further - the competitive advantage in this opportunity is as clear as crystal.

The entrepreneurial opportunity presented by new generic TLDs is much more significant than has previously been available. It's not about selling millions of domain names – that's just what we're used to with .com. If you define the right audience and need - a lower volume, premium price model for a new TLD will work wonders too. Imagine buying .bank and selling domain names to the world's top retail banks at a premium price - there aren't hundreds of thousands of retail banks, but it would still make a very attractive business model. So it's time for entrepreneurs to seize upon this limited time opportunity and secure a slice of digital real estate before the application window closes on 12 April.

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.