ICA Member Profile: Richard Lau

Richard Lau is well known throughout the domain name industry having started many registrars, brokered numerous domain sales and quarterbacked the return of multiple high-value stolen domains. With his co-founding of NamesCon he adds to his successes in the industry, having established NamesCon as the largest commercial domain name conference worldwide.

Profile Questions

Name: Richard Lau
Company: NamesCon
Favorite Domain: Face.com or RL.com
Favorite Industry Conference: ICANN Rome 2004
Favorite Industry Blog(s): Domaining.com’s summary email

Tell us a little bit about your background and your personal story.
Probably best to refer you to the DN Journal story on me: http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2015/december.htm

But if that’s TLDR, then here’s the short version: during University I started selling pagers, married at 21, ran a paging company, started one of the first 30 registrars, diagnosed with cancer at age 30, sold to NameZero, recovered from the cancer, became a domainer in 2002, did some big domain hijacking recovery assignments, won the first Domainer of The Year awards in 2004, launched dozens of registrars – most for drop-catching with SnapNames and others, bought and sold premium .com domains, started NamesCon in late 2013. About to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary and have two amazing teenage sons that we’ve been home-schooling for years. Heavily involved with the WaterSchool charity since 2007.

How did you get involved in the domain industry?
A friend had started a dial-up ISP and I wanted to learn how to build a website. I only got as far as registering domain names for the idea (a car website) before Microsoft called asking if they could buy one of the domains I had registered. Turns out it was trademarked so MS didn’t end up buying it but by then I was hooked. That was 1996, and I didn’t really become a domainer until 2002. Instead I sold the shovels to the miners by starting a domain registrar.

What is your current role?
I’m running NamesCon and I pour my heart and soul in to it. It really is a labor of love. The team we are building is amazing and it’s humbling to see the role the conference has taken on for the industry.  We will have more Exhibitors than ever and we hope to hit 1,500 attendees in January 2017. It really has become a “must-attend” show for everyone in the domain industry. And with ICANN changing it’s meeting format, we are seeing even more interest in companies choosing NamesCon as an “ICANN-meeting-replacement”. We are like the Ensure for the domain industry. Full of calories and good for you.

Why did you choose to support the ICA?
The domain name industry is a young one and needs community of end users. It’s not really enough for us to get together and talk business. We need eyes on the policy makers.

Can you share a prediction about the future of the domain industry?
I believe the power of .com will increase, the new tlds will become common-place, and the next generation will look back on this in the same way we look back at the Model T. There’s a ton of room for growth, every device, every appliance, every person will have a domain. I predict that someone will launch a free TLD as a loss-leader for another product/service beyond just website hosting. Why doesn’t a $100,000 Tesla have it’s own domain name? Stop asking why and start asking why not?

What do you like most about the domain industry?
The people. What I like is that it’s friendly competition because everyone’s holdings are differentiated. It’s not like selling ice where every ice cube is the same. It’s more like selling craft beer. Every domain, and every tld has its own nuances. This means that domain investors can share methods, ideas and brainstorm together.

If you could change one thing about the domain industry what would it be?
More cookies. I love cookies. Seriously though, I am enjoying watching the industry grow, evolve and mature. I would like to see ICANN take a good portion of the new gtld funds and spend it on market awareness. When the telephone companies introduced area codes, they spend funds on consumer education. We need this as an industry and ICANN has the funds available.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the domain industry is faced with?
Awareness, ignorance and short-sightedness — by people outside the industry. Awareness of the new tlds. Ignorance of the power of premium domains, and short-sighted marketing people who spend millions on advertising but use terrible domain name choices.

What do you wish other people knew about the ICA?
The membership is growing quickly and filled with people who are valuable to know. Being a member of the ICA separates those who are merely interested in the domain industry with those who view the domain industry as their long-term career.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining the ICA?
Come on in. The water’s warm. Join for a year, converse with the membership, work on a Working Group. Get involved. Don’t be insular – engage with the industry association community.

What unexpected doors opened for you because of your involvement in the domain industry?
It’s been a real honor to engage with companies and people you see in the news. But in terms of unexpected doors opening — I’d say that the power of a premium domain opens up doors that would otherwise be inaccessible. For instance, I messaged a CEO via LinkedIn with a two line message: “We own the domain xxxxxx.com and I’m in town next week. Can I swing by for a 15 min coffee?”  I received a positive response in less than 2 hours and sat down with that CEO for an hour.

What’s the best advice ever received (domain related or otherwise)?
Before you sell, ask your peers. It’s advice I have repeatedly not followed, to my utter remorse. But the best advice is usually the simplest:  Be useful. Life is about relationships, so in every relationship, conversation, and interaction, don’t be a drain but instead find a way to be useful to the other party. This applies to being polite and cheerful to the cashier at Starbucks as well as to all business transactions. Ask me tomorrow and I might have new advice for you.

What are your main interests outside of the domain industry?
There are interests outside of domains? ;^)

I’m quite focused on being a lifestyle entrepreneur. This involves a lot of multi-tasking of work and vacation. Vacation is really just working with a view. If you enjoy your work, is it really work? Running a conference has it’s challenges but really, isn’t it just about taking all year to plan a festive, educational, positive 4-day experience for 1500 people? Besides that, I’m focused on family, charity work and being useful to others.

Favorite place to get away:
Whistler, BC. I’m up there 10x a year and I don’t even ski much. The sheer natural beauty and the quiet is amazing.

Anything else you’d like to share:
Please come to NamesCon in January 2017. It’s going to be a banner year. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there!

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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