Edward Zeiden is a business strategist and entrepreneur specializing in brick and mortar companies, start-ups, and the domain industry. After co-founding the startup, NameLayer (subsequently acquired by Techstars), he pursued a career in management consulting and web design.
He currently coordinates daily operations and fosters strategic partnerships at NamePros as Managing Director. He’s an avid investor in domains and the stock market. In his spare time, he still likes to help startups and local business as well as write about business strategy. Some of his most recent articles geared towards startups can be found on Morgan Linton’s blog.
Name: Edward Zeiden
Favorite Domain: Edward.co
Favorite Industry Conference
I’ll admit that I’m biased since I’ve only been to NamesCon, but they put on a phenomenal show every year, and for a great cause. NamePros conducts video coverage and interviews every year at NamesCon that you can check out here. In addition to NamesCon, we’re lucky to have many domain industry related conferences around the globe, like THE Domain Conference in Florida or DomainFest that was in Hong Kong in 2016. I’m ecstatic to see registries, registrars, and more, growing their presence at large tech conferences like SXSW or Disrupt. To name a few, .Club, .XYZ, GoDaddy, and Uniregistry are doing our entire industry a great service by expanding our market’s reach into the startup and small business ecosystems.
Favorite Industry Blog(s)
This is a difficult one for me since I try to read them all. I love our NamePros Blog. We’re very lucky to have James Iles as our lead writer, and the community submits some of the most interesting articles or suggestions for them.
I’ve become so accustomed to industry news that I often pick a few sites based on how I’m feeling. I’ll also frequently read whatever article that’s garnering the most attention within our member-curated Handpicked News section. Lately I’ve been reading quite bit of Michael Gilmour’s work on Whizzbangsblog.com.
Tell us a little bit about your background and your personal story
I had the great pleasure of being part of an interview on DomainGang where I wrote:
“My professional history can be broken down into three categories: domaining, business consulting, and film production.
After studying business economics at UCI, I sought a change of pace and moved to Hollywood. I co-founded a small production company named “sixhundred” as a producer specializing in shorts and music videos. I eventually segued to commercials, infomercials, and also produced a short web series on COMINGSOON.NET. Over time I grew tired of the more monotonous tasks and the too often 24-36 hour physical work sessions, so I followed an opportunity with one of my old business partners to transition into the domain industry.
I subsequently co-founded NameLayer, a curated domain inventory for startups and tech businesses. I gained most of my domain industry knowledge from parsing through thousands of names every single day in pending delete lists, auctions, and NamePros. Also, reading news outlets like DomainGang and MorganLinton.com allowed me to keep a pulse on the industry.
After NameLayer was strategically acquired by TechStars, I wanted to gain perspective on how businesses operated from the inside across a variety of industries. From investing in the stock market, I knew what was required from financial statements and quarterly reports, information that could make or break a company, but I wanted experience working with entrepreneurs to build their companies from the inside-out.
I joined a mergers and acquisitions consulting firm to foster growth in startups and solidify brick and mortar businesses for the M&A process and exit through financial modelling, various marketing endeavors, and improving efficiency. Reflecting on my experiences in these three very different fields, I found myself wanting to focus all of my expertise into one venture that never left my sights: NamePros.”
How did you get involved in the domain industry?
I touched upon this in the previous question, but I’ll dig a little deeper. Even when I was teenager, I was always a bit enterprising. All along the way I knew the importance of marketing and the Internet. Every time I started a new business, and tried to flesh out an idea, I tried registering or buying a name. Domains were still unwieldy and difficult to figure out, so I didn’t solely focus on them until later. I eventually came to realize that every successful business needs a great domain and all that entails. Years later, a business partner of mine asked me to join him in a new venture and helped me realize the investing power behind domains.
What is your current role?
I’m the Managing Director at NamePros. I have a helping hand in everything, but I chiefly handle daily operations and strategic partnerships. By and large, my most important responsibility is educating the uninitiated about domains, and reminding those within the domain industry that NamePros has been revitalized and changed over the last several years. Day-to-day activities often range from figuring out marketing campaigns, overseeing the editing of video and written content, fostering and fleshing out new ideas, budgeting, and keeping team members focused. I can’t say this enough, but with a community the size of NamePros, it’s a team effort moving everything forward, and we all have to wear a lot of hats.
Why did you choose to support the ICA?
While I’ve dabbled in other industries, I’ve never seen another one as rewarding as domaining. I’d like to give back to the industry and help others to understand it better. Part of that involves providing great resources to members on NamePros and expanding our marketing. The rest of that battle is the ICA helping to safeguard our digital assets.
Can you share a prediction about the future of the domain industry?
Loosely quoting Warren Buffett, every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the skies, and they will briefly rain gold. When downpours of that sort occur, it’s imperative that we rush outdoors carrying washtubs, not teaspoons. The domain industry has its ups and downs, but I believe we’re in a momentary low compared to what’s coming. Another influx of new investors (including more Western and institutional investors) and large corporations will enter the domain space as time goes on. As the domain market grows and domain names continue to mature into a respectable asset class, the industry will see more and more money invested. These are exciting times!
What do you like most about the domain industry?
The people and its low barrier to entry. I haven’t seen another industry like this one. Running a community has opened my eyes to just how much people are willing to help newcomers and share their expertise. The domain industry has a high ratio of educational resources to investors, and most of them are free, like NamePros and DomainSherpa. Any new investor can go out, do their homework, and start investing to make a substantial return, while avoiding the headaches of many other industries such as dealing with a plethora of paperwork and bureaucracy.
If you could change one thing about the domain industry what would it be?
More mainstream marketing from registrars, registries, and most importantly, ICANN educating the public about domains as an integral asset of the open Internet.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the domain industry is faced with?
Marketing, education, and abuse of the UDRP/URS systems.
If you ask someone on the street what a real estate investor or institutional investor is, they’ll give you some sort of response. If you ask them what a domain investor is, they’re usually perplexed or they had a single bad experience with a cybersquatter and associate it with the entire industry. Massive companies with large marketing stacks that advertise domains to the uninitiated, like GoDaddy and Squarespace, are helping all of us. Domain names are a source of wealth, but they’re also essential to the democratization of the the web. As investors and frequenters of the open web, I believe educating others about domain names is one our best safeguards for it. The more people learn the value in a name and the ecosystem it lives in, the better off we’ll all be. The other large safeguard is the ICA. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to fight for our rights as domain registrants and investors.
What do you wish other people knew about the ICA?
How important it is to join and support our industry through the ICA and the pivotal work it does to move this industry forward and protect our digital assets. We believe the ICA is vital to the long-term stability, integrity, and success of the domain industry.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining the ICA?
If you’re a professional domain investor or aspire to be one, it’s our responsibility to join the ICA to help protect the wonderful opportunities and business models that the domain industry affords us.
What unexpected doors opened for you because of your involvement in the domain industry?
I don’t think it will always be this way, but going quickly from a small fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond. Working in the film industry or business consulting, every “expert” is a dime a dozen. People don’t heed advice, and everyone thinks they can do it themselves without research or a strategy. Years or decades pass without this realization. People realize this much more quickly with domains. They know so little and are unable to do much from the onset that they’re forced to learn and ask questions. Comparatively, there’s only a fraction of experts, even self-proclaimed ones, in this industry than in any other. Because of this, I get more questions about domains than I received about business or marketing tactics when I was a consultant.
What’s the best advice you ever received (domain related or otherwise)?
Money is a byproduct of success, not the source of it.
What are your main interests outside of the domain industry?
These days I’m laser focused with NamePros and domaining. I split my time between work and hobbies with the love of my life, Kristin. I’m a movie buff, so I’ll usually make time to watch whatever is out on the weekends. I’m a member of my local gun range, but I have difficulty finding the time to go as often as I would like (I still wouldn’t throw me any surprise parties any time soon). I also occasionally give startups and businesses advice to help them grow or streamline operations.
Favorite place to get away:
Anything else you’d like to share:
Anyone that wants to learn more about domaining, check out NamePros. Create a free account and ask questions. Veterans, please give back and share your expert advice when you have time. We’re all in this together.
If you want to freely sell or liquidate your domains, or search for rock-bottom deals on great names, use our commission-free marketplace. Members also have an opportunity to advertise their NamePros auctions for free via our Promoted Auctions where I personally hand-pick entries to advertise across the entire site.
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