ICA Member Profile: Michael Castello

Michael Castello is CEO and President of Castello Cities Internet Network, Inc. CCIN owns, manages and develops some of the most recognized Geo and Generic domain name brands in the world including PalmSprings.com, Nashville.com and Traveler.com. He is also the owner of Daycare.com which he and his wife Sheri Castello founded in 1997.

Michael has spoken internationally at many conferences including TRAFFIC, Borrell Advertising Conference, GEO Domain Expo and the Internet Marketing & Domaining Conference in Punta del Este Uruguay among others. He was inducted into the Targeted TRAFFIC Hall of Fame in 2009 and Geo Domain Hall of Fame 2010. Michael was on the Board of Director for both Associated Cities and Geo Publishers and has been an active member of ICANN’s Business Users Constituency since 2008 and previously a member of the DNSO since 2000.

In prior years, Castello was a singer songwriter having learned his skills from legendary Tin Pan Alley songwriter Lou Stallman in New York City and produced the nationally syndicated gospel radio show Gospel Traxx for fifteen years which was nominated by Billboard Magazine, for top R&B Syndicated Radio.

Profile Questions

Name: Michael Castello
Company: Castello Cities Internet Network, Inc.
Favorite Domain: Nashville.com
Favorite Industry Conference: TRAFFIC/THE Domain Conference
Favorite Industry Blog(s): TheDomains.com, DomainGang.com, DomainInvesting.com, DomainNameWire.com, Domaining.com

Tell us a little bit about your background and your personal story.
I’ve lived off of domain names for over two decades. I was a member of Prodigy back in 1986 which taught me a lot about its intranet and tools such as FTP, telnet, BB, baud transmission and email. I was able to register domain names back in 1994 using whois and telnet. I have a broad understanding of domain names and their value mainly because I built businesses on websites back in 1995 such as PalmSprings.com and Whisky.com. I’ve developed, bought, sold, rented, leased and parked many domain names over the last twenty-two years and know what works and what doesn’t.

How did you get involved in the domain industry?
I was pioneering random-access, hard-disk recording back when most people were still using floppy disk computers. It was expensive. Back in 1992, I had a 16 track hard disk recorder that cost me around $100,000 but it was the future and a very exciting time. I used it to record live performances at the Roxy in Hollywood and produced the nationally syndicated gospel radio show Gospel Traxx which is still on the air today. Gospel Traxx and voice Walt Baby Love are nominated this year for the Radio Hall of Fame. I am very proud of starting that three hour show with Walt.

I realized back in 1993 that the internet would play a pivotal role in the distribution of information. The music I was creating were files, and the internet was the perfect avenue to move that music as data. My company at the time was called Powwow Production, and I went about the process of trying to acquire the domain name Powwow.com. I had no idea that I would have a need for any other domain name so it was several months before I was thunderstruck that maybe there would be a market in acquiring more names.  That started the beginning of my portfolio which has made me a lot of money. For several years, PalmSprings.com was making $700,000 a year pure profit from the just the front page. My brother David Castello joined me in 1997 and we have been working together ever since. We sold Whisky.com in 2014 for $3.1 million which was a domain name I registered for back in 1995 for free.

What is your current role?
I am currently CEO and President of CCIN and the founder of Daycare.com and Adopt.com

Why did you choose to support the ICA?
That’s a no-brainer. The ICA is the one organization that can truly make change, for the better, for domainers and domain names, which along with the DNS is the cornerstone of the internet. In essence, the ICA can advance change to make the Internet a better place to support people and the freedoms that are needed for the expression of ideas and commerce on the web. I think the ICA is what ICANN should be; small, yet powerful in its ideas. The people that make up the ICA have a vision and have set a course. I mentioned how the ICA could make dramatic change in my “Call to Action” letter to the industry, which I think everyone here should read. It is more relevant now than when I wrote it: http://www.ricksblog.com/2014/05/doamin-industry-call-action

Can you share a prediction about the future of the domain industry?
The future of the internet will revolve around the logic of “I want it, and I want it now!” We should not get caught up too much in apps, or mobile since they are episodic and time sensitive. We need to look more at connectability of devices like Virtual Reality and Beehive Dwellings. In essence, we will be living more physically in a confined space that has vast space to virtually dwell in. The visuals of the internet will not be limited by a screen or mobile device but the freedom to virtually go where your imagination will take you. Words are what will be most important. Since we think in words, those words become places, and isn’t that what we are developing now? Domain names connect the real world to what is virtually about to happen in our evolution.

What do you like most about the domain industry?
Its creative players. Those that take chances to create something new that will have the gravity to draw others to its inventiveness.

If you could change one thing about the domain industry what would it be?
ICANN’s direction and overgrowth. Let’s replace it with the ICA!

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the domain industry is faced with?
Corporatism which has gained too much power has reduced many businesses and invention into a shell of what they could be. On the other hand, capitalism is something that drives innovation and enhances lives when done correctly, but at the same time, there is a role for our government to insure a healthy balance in the growth of the private sector as well. I believe, over the last decade, there has been an unholy alliance between the top corporations and our government that have placated each other’s role in its growth and displaced its trust for our citizens. We see the results in a shrinking middle class and stagnation of small businesses. How could this be when we have such incredible tools at our disposal in regards to the internet and our ability to distribute products, data and services?

We need some sort of a Magna Carta and Bill of Rights for all those on the web. The internet grew exponentially in its inception but now has too many large corporations that control too much of what we’ve created and inherited from ARPANET. Once people realize that they “need” the internet for their livelihoods, they will then demand recourse and correction that the duty of our government should afford us.

We are giving up control of our independent future by allowing others to detour us from our true destination. We need to see the bigger picture. How we educate the masses to what is at stake, is of most importance to me. We should not get caught up in walled gardens of corporatism. We possess the tools to create our own virtual worlds and this should be encouraged and taught.

What do you wish other people knew about the ICA?
I wish people understood how much ICA does for our industry. I’ve been a member of ICANN’s Business Constituency since 2008, and can see the incredible work and leverage Phil Corwin has within ICANN. Phil and the ICA have saved our industry hundreds of millions of dollars and lobbied congress on important issues. Our industry is well served by the ICA and it needs members and donations to continue forward.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining the ICA?
Join and become part of a group of people that create real change in a movement that will be historical and evolutionary. Everyone should donate something or become a member.

What unexpected doors opened for you because of your involvement in the domain industry?
Everything. I’ve lived off of domain names, everything in relationship to my family and business has been gifted and blessed by this industry. It is why I offer my time and money. It is my duty.

What’s the best advice ever received (domain related or otherwise)?
Hold onto my names for as long as I can. I could have sold them early on but have fought to keep them. The names I have will always be worth more in the future. The trick is knowing when hold them and when to sell them.

What are your main interests outside of the domain industry?
My children and family. I like directing indie films and editing. I wish I still owned Director.com which Adobe now owns.

Favorite place to get away:
I love Islands. Its why I registered many island names like Moorea.com, Vavau.com, Taveuni.com and Islanders.com to name a few. I hope to buy an island some day and retire there.

Anything else you’d like to share:
I think the board of ICA is doing a great job in advancing its outreach to new members and its growth in branding and marketing.

The views expressed here are the personal views of the member and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ICA.

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