course, NamesCon has been different every year,
even though the venue has remained the same. In
addition to changes that are made annually to align
the agenda with the latest industry trends, ownership
of the conference itself changed when CloudFest
acquired it in 2016. The last two events got a
noticeable makeover as Cloudfest President & CEO Soeren
von Varchmin and his team continued to build on
the solid foundation that founder Richard
Lau had established over NamesCon's first
three years. After acquiring the event, Cloudfest has
expanded the NamesCon brand around the world with the
U.S.-based global event now complemented by several
popular regional shows as well.
President & CEO Soeren von Varchmin (left) with
NamesCon Founder Richard Lau at the January
2018 conference in Las Vegas.
find out more about what the show's producers have in
store for you in their last go-round in Las Vegas (and
beyond) we connected with both Soeren and the Senior
Marketing Manager for NamesCon/Cloudfest, Helga
Neumer, for a wide ranging conversation about all
things related to NamesCon and Cloudfest.
Since this will be the last NamesCon in Las Vegas,
let's get one obvious question out of the way before
we get into your specific plans for the 2019 global
event. Has a new host city been selected yet and, if
so, can you tell us where it will be in 2020? If not,
how about a hint about the criteria you take into
consideration when looking for a new location?
von Varchmin: Every event and every
industry has its own life cycle. For example, Domainfest
was a meetup held during the days when domains
got sold for insanely high prices.
Entertainment such as hanging out at the
Playboy Mansion was part of that scene and
helped make Domainfest memorable. The industry
went through some turbulent changes: companies
consolidated and domain portfolios emerged.
The next step in the evolution of major
domaining events was NamesCon in Las
Vegas. It was a bigger production and
could bring together more attendees, serving
as a broader and bigger matchmaking
by now we’ve done what we can in Las Vegas,
and it’s time for something new. If
we don’t re-invent ourselves, it can get
boring and lose value over time. When we
acquired NamesCon, we also took over a
long-term contract with the Tropicana Hotel:
that ends with the 2019 event. So we have a
blank slate to start something fresh in
the NamesCon Global event in Las Vegas attracts around
half of its attendees from North America, over the
last two years we tested NamesCon events in Asia
(specifically India and China) as well
as in Europe (through the transition of Domaining
Europe from Dietmar Stefitz to NamesCon
Europe). This helped us get a truly global
overview of the domain industry and people involved
all over the world, and we really learned a lot.
Neumer: We have a shortlist for a
2020 location, but have not made a decision
yet. As an event organizer you can never quite
make everyone happy—it’s a hazard of the
profession! We’re taking into consideration
factors like sponsor and attendee feedback,
access to a major international airport, and
the ability to keep production costs down so
ticket prices can stay low. There has been a
few articles about East Coast vs. West Coast
(as examples, Helga noted stories at OnlineDomain.com,
Our current number-one choice is Austin,
Texas, if we decide to do the event in the
US. However, we have some other, crazier ideas
about location as well, like maybe a cruise.
We are also thinking about moving the event to
the second half of the year.
A challenge that all conference organizers
face is delivering a fresh, relevant product every
time so past attendees feel they can't afford
to miss it and newcomers see it as
"the" place need to be if they are
serious about making smart investments,
valuable contacts and/or building a business.
What are some
Senior Marketing Manager
of the new twists
you have planned for NamesCon 2019 and some of
the key issues that will be addressed on the
von Varchmin: As previously mentioned this
is our last year in Tropicana Las Vegas, so this time,
what happens in Vegas really will stay in Vegas!
That also means that dramatic changes to the format
will only happen in 2020.
We did make some changes to this year’s event
though—here are a few of them - Sunday
(opening day, January 27) is divided in two tracks:
one for beginners and first-time attendees, and one
track for “experts”, people who have been active
in the industry for longer. Everyone will have the
opportunity to learn new tools and skills at their own
also having our first keynote on Sunday
evening, and we’ll have our opening-night
get-together in the warm atmosphere of the Havana
be closing the event Wednesday (January 30)
with a series of expert-led round table discussions,
so you can get your most pressing questions answered
before it’s time to go home.
we’ve drilled down to bring carefully-selected
keynotes, sessions and panels—we’re going
deeper than ever.
have new title sponsors for 2019 - the .GLOBAL
Registry and RegistryOffice.
.GLOBAL is obviously a natural fit, since the event is
coincidentally called NamesCon Global.
CEO Rolf Larsen and VP Jeanette Soderlund Sause
welcomed guests to the opening night party at
NamesCon 2018 last year. For 2019 .GLOBAL will join
RegistryOffice as a title sponsor.
von Varchmin: RegistryOffice is a platform
which gives registries insight and intelligence about
the performance of their strings. There is a clear
need for this service in the market, since the backend
providers only deliver a limited amount of information
to each registry, which is not enough to be useful in
making decisions on campaign management with
registrars, pricing of premium domains, or determining
the lifecycle value of customers.
Domain names and hosting are two fields that would
seem to go together like love and marriage. Before
acquiring NamesCon CloudFest (previously known as
WorldHostingDays) was already running one of the
world's biggest hosting conferences with 6,000 or
more attendees at the annual global event in Germany
(and more at regional conferences around the world).
What are some of the things you learned from running
CloudFest that you have incorporated into NamesCon to
take it to the next level?
Soeren von Varchmin:
There are actually fewer similarities then you might
think. Yes, at both events, we do have registries and
registrars as attendees and sponsors. Actually, by now
we have MORE Registries sponsoring and visiting
CloudFest than at NamesCon. The reason is very simple:
at CloudFest they meet EVERYONE from around the
world, who is selling domains to end customers. Not
only Registrars, but also representatives from website
builders, traditional hosting companies, cloud
providers, telcos, and many more.
small sampling of the massive crowd at Cloudfest 2018
in Rust, Germany.
contrast, the secondary domain industry is quite niche
compared to cloud and hosting—only 10% of .coms
are in the hands of domainers, compared to 90%
everywhere else. Also, domainers are a unique breed:
it’s a very special community. A domainer would not
necessarily go to CloudFest, and someone working for a
telco would not go to NamesCon.
factors that make the two events less comparable are
size and location. It’s a totally different thing to
organize an event for a community of a 1,000 people,
compared to 7,000 people. Also, with CloudFest we have
more of a captive audience, in a theme park closed to
the public during our event. It is called the
“Alcatraz of the Cloud Industry”! There are no
nearby cities or distractions near the CloudFest
venue, compared to the Vegas Strip that’s right
outside our door at NamesCon. We all know that Las
Vegas specializes in distractions! Also, production
and format of these two events are really different.
With the quality of attendees NamesCon
attracts from across the industry (and related
fields) you have also been able to attract highly
sought speakers. What can you tell us
about the 2019 keynoters and some of the
featured speakers that attendees can look
forward to seeing this year?
Soeren von Varchmin:
We have some sessions which examine the domain
industry from a totally different perspective:
for example, one of our keynote speakers is by
Erin McKean, a lexicographer talking
about how new words get created. We have
sessions where you learn how to price and
sell portfolios, and we’ll have a talk
on the importance of storytelling to
land premium prices when selling to end
customers. We’ll hear from some of the
brilliant people who actually invented the
technology on which the domaining
industry—really, the whole modern
internet—is built. We’re also continuing
our exploration of the opportunities that Blockchain
brings to the domaining industry.
Founder and Google Developer Relations
Program Manager Erin McKean will be a keynote
speaker at NamesCon Global 2019.
While the speakers, host city, social events, etc. all
contribute to what makes NamesCon a can't miss event,
attendees - when surveyed - always say the main reason
they go to a conference is networking. What are
the best places and times for attendees to meet and
get to know each other during the course of the show?
Also, do you have any advice for shy newcomers who
aren't quite sure about how to break the ice?
von Varchmin: Actually, we as the NamesCon
team do not see ourselves as event organizers, but as matchmakers.
We consider ourselves successful if visitors and
sponsors tell us that they were able to find new
business at our events. Sunday evening’s
get-together party is a great place to mingle and meet
people. Don’t be shy: no-one bites, and
generally domainers are a very friendly crowd!
Global 2018 attendees networking at last year's show
in Las Vegas.
newcomer track is a great opportunity for first-timers
to team up and tackle all the new information—it can
be quite a good bonding experience. Oh, and around
one-third of the crowd will be newcomers, so you
won’t be alone!
One of the things that really floored us last year was
the amazing turnout for the Women in Domaining dinner
at NamesCon. More than a hundred professional women
from across the industry got together for a truly
unique event that made a powerful statement aboiut how
diverse our corner of the tech world has become (and
how much better it is for it). I noticed the 2019
Women in Domaining dinner has been moved up to opening
night. What are you expecting to see at that exciting
event this time out?
scene from the Women in Domaining dinner at NamesCon
Global 2018. In addition to
filling up this entire room the crowd spilled over
into an adjacent dining room.
Soeren von Varchmin:
This year, the Women in Domaining event is a cocktail
mixer, and not a sit-down dinner. This format
should be perfect for an event that takes place on
opening night. Even in the last few years, we’ve
seen our female-identifying attendance increase so
much, and we’re glad to reflect that on the keynote
stage as well. Around 25% of this year’s
attendees are female, which is both a good sign
compared to events in the past, and a reminder that
the tech world still has a ways to go in creating
NamesCon is the only major domain conference that is
still staging a live premium domain auction. NameJet
and RightOfTheDot.com will
be running the sale again in 2019. This event always
creates a huge buzz and requires coming early if you
want a seat as the hall inevitably ends up packed wall
to wall with a standing room only crowd. I know you
leave the production of the auction to ROTD and
NameJet but what have you gotten any feedback about
the catalog they are assembling for the 2019 auction?
von Varchmin: 2018 was a record auction
with $2.7 million in sales. Monte Cahn
from ROTD and the team behind NameJet wants to top
last year’s result, and has sourced an amazing list
of premium domains, many for no or small reserves.
Take a look
here for the domains in auction and make
sure to register in advance. Remember, you have to bid
to win! The domain auction is a highlight of NamesCon,
so dive in, participate, and have fun!
of the standing room only crowd at the live domain
held at last year's NamesCon Global conference in Las
There are a lot of people who would love to experience
NamesCon but won't be able to make it across the ocean
for the Las Vegas show in January. However, I
understand you have more in store in for other parts
of the world just as you did in 2018 with new plans
for Europe that look especially interesting.
Soeren von Varchmin:
We took over Domaining Europe from Dietmar Stefitz
last year, and he is enjoying his well-deserved
retirement now. The event is now called NamesCon
Europe and will take place in Cascais, Portugal
(near Lisbon) in June 2019. You can
already register here: https://namescon.com/europe/
view of Cascais, Portugal (near Lisbon), a seaside
resort town famous for its
beaches, spas, cuisine, and nightlife, that will host
NamesCon Europe June 20-22, 2019.
carefully chose the venue: it will have a more
intimate atmosphere than if we held it in a larger
city. This location exemplifies what we like to
produce most: events with a tight focus on
networking and matchmaking.
Thank you for your time. We will look forward to
seeing you in Las Vegas, but before we go, is there
anything we missed that you would like to add about
what's ahead in 2019?
von Varchmin: In addition to NamesCon
Europe in Portugal we will pop up with NamesCon
India again in 2019. However most of our team’s
work will be behind the scenes as we plan a totally
new NamesCon Global for 2020!