"When I entered a
standard school the teachers told my mother that they
were sorry but her son would just be dumb,"
Schermann recalled. When a new school for handicapped
children was opened Schnermann was sent there for the
next four years. At the age of 11 doctors gave his
parents the bad news - Markus would not be able to make
it on his own.
The Schnermann family needed a
miracle - and they got it. "During adolescence I
showed fewer and fewer symptoms of convulsions and
my wish to attend a normal school grew bigger and
bigger." When his chance finally came he made the most of
it. When Schnermann found his way to the gymnasium he found his
previously missing physical skills were now blossoming.
By the time he completed his Abitur
(final exams) Schnermann said, "I realized I could
easily catch up with other standard school students and
I proved that I knew a thing or two. From that part of
my life I learned how much I could accomplish if I just try
hard enough and believe in myself. I owe my parents
and especially my mother so much for supporting me in
these difficult times."
age 2, Markus tries out the heavy machinery
on the family brickyard in Wettringen, Germany
was born on April 2, 1968 in Ochtrup, Germany -
the second of Franz-Josef and Regina Schnermann's
four children. "My father was a brickmaker who ran
our family brickyard in Wettringen, Germany. While
my mother took care of us kids my father worked six days
a week doing some of the hardest work people could
possibly do," Schermann said.
"It was hot from
the brick oven, dirty and the bricks were heavy. I
remember my father telling me that the factory had
problems finding workers who were willing to do the job
and often the only people willing to do it were
former prisoners. So
|I learned what hard manual work
was from my father with whom I spent every free
minute, starting as a teenager, working together in
mother came from a big farmer's family with 10 kids,"
Schnermann said. "She taught us to treat people
with respect, all the soft skills you need in life
to deal with challenges and problems and how to
communicate openly and frankly. She supported us in
everything we did and gave us the love and support that
made us believe that we can achieve everything in life."
surviving his childhood struggles, Schnermann's next
challenge was deciding what he wanted to do with his
life now that he was an adult. "I started working
in construction, building houses, then got a job as a
lifeguard at a big public pool. In 1994 when I met Susanne, the woman who would become my wife, I realized
that there has to be more in life for me. Trying
different jobs in manual labor was fun and taught me an
important perspective on work in general but I never
felt challenged enough."
started studying education of handicapped children
at the University of Dortmund and got a degree in
Education," Schnermann said. "I then started
working with handicapped children and even spent some
time working at the school for handicapped children that
I attended as a kid. Today I know that going through
this experience was my personal catharsis, a
process I had to go through. I also believe that I
benefit today from these experiences. I can take a
lot of strength from it."
had also taken up a pastime that would eventually lead
him into the world of domains. "In the early 80's,
like many others I started becoming fascinated by
personal computers. I learned Basic on a Commodore
C64, then worked with all of the PC generations. In
1995 at the University of Dortmund I stumbled upon the
internet and domain names. Uni-dortmund.de,
by the way, was the first registered .de domain and
the university was responsible for the maintenance of
the registry in its early years," Schnermann said.
at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Silicon Valley conference in April 2009
domain names was very expensive then so the first
homepage I tried to publish happened to be on Geocities.com.
In 1997 I registered my first .de domain when I
wanted to publish a private travel site dedicated
after I had taken a long trip there. I realized that all
of the generic keywords that came to my mind to register
were already gone. Most of these were owned by
individuals whose names I saw again and again when doing
a Whois search."
I ended up with a lousy domain name for my India site (Alles-ueber-Indien.de,
which means "All about India") I instantly
got infected by the "domain virus", started to
register as much as possible and as I could afford. I
taught myself programming and designing websites, got a
degree as a webdesigner and spent nights researching and
learning on the Internet about SEO and online
and his wife Susanne (center) with a family
friend on a visit to India in 1995.
His fascination with this country led to his first
domain registration, Alles-ueber-Indien.de
1999 I applied for an internship at an insurance company
which had just launched a new unit for the Online
Business. After a few months they offered me a fulltime
job as an Online Marketing specialist, followed by a job
as a Project Manager to build the company Intranet. I
continued to invest in mostly .de domains and
started listing them for sale on Sedo
in early 2000. I also exchanged ideas and fantasies with
friends online about all the stuff we would buy once we
start selling these names for ridiculous prices!"
took another year though until I sold my first domain
for 3,000 Deutsche Marks and I had to learn about buying
valuable names or catching dropping names to be able to
make real money. My first purchase was Diaet.com
(diet.com) for 700 Euros. Selling this domain three
months later for five figures to a German Duke
was the real kickoff for my domain business as I
reinvested all the profits again and again and cumulated
I made more money with my hobby than with my fulltime
job, so I founded KeywordDomains.com and decided to
focus on this business instead of working as an
employee. This was the first time in my life I had the
feeling that I found my profession, with all the
challenges and excitement I was always looking
for," Schnerrman said.
demonstrating one of his many talents -
playing a didgeridoo at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Under conference in Australia in
Schnermann's domain business has grown far beyond
anything he could have imagined when he started registering
domains a dozen years ago. "We currently manage
around 30,000 domains with KeywordDomains.com and
16,000 more with Domain Invest S.A.,"
Schnermann said, adding "These numbers can change
very quickly though in our dynamic industry."
asked about the kinds of domains he goes after
Schnermann said, "I am a big fan of classic
established gTLDs like .com, .net
and .org and ccTLDs like .de, .co.uk,
.nl, etc. I never liked the new extensions as I
never saw any real demand for these in the Internet
community besides the one pushed by
| ICANN and
registries and the hype caused by latecomers to the
domain business. The big problem with these extensions
is the lack of a real content base. The average internet
Joe seldom finds the services or products he is looking
for on a .eu or .biz. He is either looking
for the keyword.com or the keyword.ccTLD depending on
where he is based at. Therefore my portfolio contains
around 80% .de, 10% other ccTLDs like
.es and .at and the rest is spread amongst
.com, .net, .org and very few .info and .biz."
Schnermann added, "Although I own far fewer
gTLDs than ccTLDs, they had a huge impact on building my
business. Without flipping decent keyword domains like Base.com,
Fitness.org or Medicine.org I wouldn´t
have been able to raise enough money to fund the growth
of my company."
racking up more frequent flyer miles on a trip
to Rangoon, Burma in 1999.
travels around the world have made him a better, more
knowledgeable domainer. He has been a frequent attendee
at the major domain conferences staged in America since
2005 - a routine that started because of a special
connection he felt to the U.S. "My grandfather
immigrated to the U.S in the 1920s when my aunt Betty
was born in Cincinnati," Schnermann said.
"So besides being fascinated and interested in the
country I stumbled upon U.S. domain communities like DNForum.com,
and Rick Schwartz's private forum and learned so
much about new aspects like Type-In Traffic and
of the guys I met there were already fully into the
domain business for a living, a path I tried to follow.
When the 2005
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show in Delray Beach was
being promoted I got instantly excited to meet these
guys I read about so much. I will never forget my first
show in Delray Beach and I can say today that I wouldn´t
have accomplished so much without exchanging ideas and
networking at all these shows. A lot of the people I met
there I consider today as my friends and not only
business partners. So there is no regret at all about
travelling so often.
knowledge of both the U.S. market and his home market in
Germany gives him a unique perspective on the
differences between the two. "The German domain
market is probably the most mature one of all ccTLDs in
the world," Schnermann said. "Both published
and unpublished sales have reached levels lately that
most people have expected only from .com (kredit.de,
poker.de, shopping.de, etc.). The core German
domainers are very savvy and professional in what they
do. A lot of them can cover at least two markets, for
example the German and the English speaking ones. It is
also no surprise that the leading domain sales platform,
Sedo.com, was established in Cologne, Germany,"
I think there is plenty of room for growth in Germany
as many potential investors, espescially end users and Fortune
500 companies don't get it yet, so we deal with the
same situations as the .com market. The current
recession and environment will probably have a positive
impact on this situation - from what I can tell the
sales volume has grown significantly lately. A lot of
brick and mortar businesses are starting to move online because
they have to. This must have an impact on future
values as there is a limited supply of good
keyword domains and a growing demand. New
investors into .de can still find lots of opportunities
if they have enough cash to invest and can consolidate
the market. Hand registering potentially valuable
domains is nearly impossible now as all keywords
that make sense are gone already," Schnermann said.
thinks some of the best growth opportunities will be in
European ccTLDs. "These ccTLDs get more and more
popular because a lot of registries opened the namespace
and reduced prices and restrictions for
registration," he said. "They follow the
footsteps of the .de Registry (DENIC). Registries like
the Polish one for .pl even actively
promote services like domain tasting and offer
drop lists to satisfy the demand from the domain
the internet penetration in these “late markets” is
growing more and more, which goes along with local
businesses promoting their services using the local
ccTLD. This is a trend I can follow
and fellow ccTLD fan Jothan Frakes
at T.R.A.F.F.I.C Down Under (Nov. 2008)
| on some
portfolios I own, for example .es (Spain's
ccTLD) is attracting more type-in traffic today then two
years ago. I believe that .com will always rank 1st in a
global ranking of TLDs but in local markets ccTLDs will
continue to grow in popularity. Protectionism caused
from the current financial crisis might even accelerate
this process." Schnermann opined.
the current global recession, the past year has been
Schnermann's busiest ever. "In June 2008 I began working as a
Managing Director, together with Frederick
Schiwek and Xavier Buck, for a new domain investment
fund, Domain Invest S.A. I commute every week between my
home in Muenster, Germany and Leudelange,
Luxembourg. We have a very strong team of founders
and investors and believe we can accomplish a lot being
based in Luxembourg in the heart of Europe. The quality
of people involved in this is amazing and timing for
investing couldn´t be better than today,"
Invest S.A. partners (left to right): Frederick
Markus Schnermann and Xavier Buck.
friend and partner in Domain Invest S.A., Frederick
Schiwek told us that having Schnermann on their team
gives them a huge advantage. "I am impressed how
straight forward he is, if he wants something he works
for it until he is successful. He is a very intelligent
person who knows a lot about many things. This is part
of why he became such a successful domainer. Knowing a
lot about many fields gives you the advantage of
understanding search terms much better and he was and
still is an early bird."
Schiwek added "Markus,
inspired by the American domain industry, started the
first big domain community in Europe and that made him a
kind of a superstar - someone who always has his finger
on the pulse of the domains business. Many very good
decisions brought him to where he is today. I am very
proud to have him as a partner and friend."
his new partnership venture at Domain Invest now on the
front burner, Schnermann said Keyworddomains.com GmbH is
being run by his brother Joerg Schnermann and Paul
Porzky. "Around 90% of our revenue is
still coming from PPC but we are trying to
establish new revenue streams beyond that,"
Schnermann said. "One exciting business model we
are trying to grow is something we call affiliate
arbitrage. We buy targeted traffic for some
verticals and send it to CPA based affiliate
programs. It seems we have a proof of concept here with
very promising results on some domains that exceeds the
former PPC based revenue significantly. There is still
a lot of work to do but I am very confident that the
potential is huge."
and Schnermann at
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley in April
keyword domains for these kind of campaigns had a big
impact on the CTR (click through rate) and conversions,
something that has also recently been backed up by Edwin
about the impact of keyword domains in PPC campaigns. Of
course Domain Invest is benefitting from the domain intelligence
we have build at KeywordDomains.com and will continue to
do so," Schnermann said.
are still so many opportunities in the domain business
that it is difficult for many in the industry to tear
themselves away from work, but Schnermann tries his best
to stop and smell the roses whenever he can. "I
love spending time with my family, my wife Susanne and
my kids Leander and Valentin," he
said. "We all have a passion for travelling. Last
year we did a long vacation in California and Hawaii
and my sons keep asking when we can go there again. I
laso like playing golf or riding my motorbike, a BMW
left: Susanne and Markus, Above
right: their sons Leander and Valentin.
months ago I started working out again and started to
learn boxing with a personal trainer. I not only lost
more then 30 pounds since then but have also had a lot
fun doing it. I never realized how much fun it can be to
punch something or someone (with rules involved of
course!). 20 years ago I was quite successful as a track
and field athlete and I am now considering a comeback in
the seniors class," Schnermann said.
Schnermann is now at a place where doctors said he could
never be. The balance he enjoys between the profession he
loves and a fulfilling personal life leaves him deeply
grateful to those wh have helped him along the way. He
closed our conversation by saying "I want to
thank all of the unnamed friends and people who
supported me in my professional career and in private
and I especially want to thank my wife Susanne who
supported me and believed in me no matter what decisions
I had to make."
at 21, throwing the shotput.
He is considering a track & field comeback.
most of those decisions have turned out to be the right
ones. As successful as he has been, for Schnermann, who
is still just 41 years old, the best is almost certainly
yet to come.