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Partners in Paradise: Our Review of the 2009 SedoPro Partner Forum in Key West, Florida 
By Ron Jackson 

We posted daily photos and highlights from this month's SedoPro Partner Forum in our Lowdown section while the show was underway  in Key West, Florida October 7-9. However, with activities scheduled day and night at industry gatherings like this, detailed coverage has to wait until we are back home with time to sift through our show notes and the hundreds of photos we snap at each event. Doing a comprehensive wrap up like this one also lets us put all of the conference details into a single article that serves as another chapter in the history of our industry. 

Let's start with a little background to set the stage for this event. The SedoPro Partner Forum is a different animal than the mainstream domain conferences like T.R.A.F.F.I.C., Domainfest Global and 

Beach at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West, Florida
Site for the 2009 SedoPro Partner Forum

Domain Roundtable. Those shows cover a broad range of industry issues and trends and attract registrants of all kinds - individual domain investors, service providers and venture capitalists to name just a few. 

Sedo's annual Forum is a special corporate event that is staged primarily to thank their top clients and business associates for their support. Less than 100 people are invited to attend the 

annual gathering that alternates between Europe and the U.S. each year. The Key West conference at the Casa Marina Resort was the fourth in a series that began with a 2006 meeting in Maastricht, Holland. The first U.S. show was held in 2007 at the Mohonk Mountain Resort in New York state and last year's event was staged on the French Riviera

The Sedo events focus much more on networking during social and recreational events than they do on business seminars. With the SedoPro Forum's picturesque locations the company knows their guests want to spend more time outdoors than being cooped up in a conference room. A total of just three fast-paced seminars were held over the three days in Key West. 

Sedo hits all of the right notes in making their events especially enjoyable and memorable. The networking opportunities are far greater than you might expect at a meeting produced by a company for a limited number of their clients and business associates. As one of the domain
industry's leading conglomerates, Sedo does business with many other top companies in our space. As a result their guest list includes CEOs and top executives from other firms that are household names in this business. For example, attendees had an opportunity to chat with NameMedia Chairman and CEO Kelly Conlin, Epik.com founder Rob Monster and registry executives like Ken Hansen (.biz) and Lance Wolak (.org), to name just a few of the non-Sedo personnel who were on hand. 

The 2009 SedoPro Partner Forum in Key West got underway on Wednesday evening, October 7, with a cocktail party on the spectacular beach at the Casa Marina Resort. 

Opening night cocktail party October 7

Sedo CEO Tim Schumacher
welcoming guests to Key West

As the cocktail party got underway Sedo CEO and Co-Founder Tim Schumacher welcomed the company's guests to Key West. Schumacher told attendees that he was optimistic about the direction the domain business is headed now, a sentiment he said he didn't hold a year ago when the general economy entered a historic financial crisis. 

Schumacher also took the opportunity to express the company's support for The Water School, a charity project strongly supported by a domain industry group headed by Gregg McNair (International Director of Strata PPX Services) that we told you about in July. McNair helmed a group of 18 industry leaders who just returned from Kenya where they got a first hand look at The Water School's efforts to eliminate waterborne diseases in Africa. Sedo's support came in the form of a much appreciated $4,500 check that Schumacher personally presented to McNair at the end of his brief talk. 

Next up was a lavish buffet dinner on the beach with a stunning Key West sunset serving as the backdrop.

Above: Guests check out the buffet at the SedoPro Partners Forum opening night dinner.
Below: Attendees dined at tables that were set up directly on the beach.

After dinner attendees heard comments from an interesting keynote panel that featured (left to right in the photo below) Sedo Director of Sales Kathy Nielsen, Hotels.com founder Bob Diener (now the Executive Administrator of GetARoom.com) and Sedo Senior Broker Tessa Holcomb.

Diener accepted a five-year non-compete clause as part of the contract agreement when his company sold Hotel.com and Hotels.com in late 2003. Once that expired he decided to re-enter the travel business and called on Sedo to help him secure a memorable domain name. Holcomb brokered Diener's eventual purchase of GetARoom.com for $30,000

Diener presented an end user's perspective on the importance of a good domain name, noting "If a name stands out in the marketplace, it costs you a lot less to market." Diener went on to say that he had also purchased additional travel related keyword domains to drive more traffic to GetARoom.com.

After the keynote session, people stayed on the beach chatting until almost midnight when the hotel staff had to pack up the portable lights that had been set up on the sand.

Sedo Senior Broker Tessa Holcomb

After breakfast the next morning (Thursday, October 8), the conference resumed with a pair of presentations from Sedo Co-Founders and executives. In the opener, Co-Founders Ulrich Essman and Ulrich Priesner detailed Sedo's One-Stop Shop Product Solutions.

Sedo Co-Founders Ulrich Essman (left) and Ulrich Priesner conducting the opening 
seminar at the SedoPro Partners Forum in Key West, Florida
Thursday, Oct. 8.

This session gave attendees a closer look at Sedo's Domain Monetization and Aftermarket services. Essman and Priesner described Sedo's "One Stop Shop" strategy as the first fully integrated suite of online services spanning domain buying, monetization and selling. Guests were also given tips on how to best optimize the domains they have parked on the SedoPro platform and details on new selling tools that offer suggested prices and auto categorization of names put up for sale. Another highlight was a review of the recently launched SedoMLS fixed price sales platform that utilizes partner registrars to increase exposure for domain listings.

Next up was a session titled Sedo: The Future & You, conducted by Sedo CEO & Co-Founder Tim Schumacher (at left in the photo below) and Sedo's COO & General Counsel Jeremiah Johnston (at right).

Schumacher, who was also recently named CEO of Sedo's parent company, the AdLink Group, talked about how his new role there will allow him to oversee the group's strategy focusing on the domain industry and performance marketing. He said this will build synergies between Sedo and its sister companies and also leverage the group's reach with advertisers. 

Johnston talked about his plans to continue championing the value of domains for business and marketing as well as working to protect the rights of domain owners. Johnston is frequently quoted in mainstream news articles about the domain industry and also serves as President of the Internet Commerce Association

Part of the audience at the Thursday morning (Oct. 8) business sessions.

After the two morning business  presentations, everyone hit the beach for a waterfront luncheon on another beautiful day in Key West.

Scene from Thursday's luncheon on the beach (Oct. 8, 2009)

After lunch Thursday attendees could choose from a variety of fun in the sun activities including Waverunner rides, snorkeling, biking or just sunning by the pool or napping in a hammock. 

The more adventurous guests climbed aboard Waverunners Thursday afternoon.

Others headed for the Casa Marina's inviting pool area.

The oceanside hammocks were also hard to resist as Neustar's Ken Hansen proves here. 

Business would remain on the back burner Thursday evening as well. It started with guests walking together to one of Key West's most popular restaurants - The Strip House - where they were treated to a gourmet dinner on the waterfront deck.

Eric Sundberg (left) and Sedo Co-Founder Ulrich Priesner chat 
during the Thursday night dinner at The Strip House restaurant in Key West.

After dinner, everyone headed back to the Casa Marina Resort for a 1920's themed gala complete with flapper girls and a great live band performing in the hotel's ballroom.  

Above: Flapper girls set the stage for the 1920's Themed Gala Thursday night

Below: Domainers hit the dance floor

Anticipating that it would be be a late night for everyone, Sedo let their guests sleep in Friday morning (Oct. 9) and that helped just about everyone make it to the final business session of the conference that got underway at 10:30am. 

That 90-minute panel discussion on The DNA of TLDs was moderated by Sedo's COO & General Counsel Jeremiah Johnston and featured (left to right in the photo below) Andrew Allemann (DomainNameWire.com), Ron Jackson (DNJournal.com), Jeremiah Johnston, Lance Wolak (.Org registry) and Ken Hansen (.Biz registry). 

The wide ranging discussion touched on a number of areas, including valuations and prospects for the various TLDs. Panelists also expressed opinions on ICANN's plan to roll out an unlimited number of new gTLDs starting next year and that topic also dominated the audience question and answer session that followed. 

Hansen, who is the Development Director at Neustar (operator of the .biz and .us registries) expressed support for the ICANN plan. .Org's Wolak said his registry had no position one way or the other, but noted that he felt the widely used .org extension would continue to thrive in any case. Allemann and I both expressed serious reservations about the wisdom of flooding the market with an unlimited number new TLDs at once (we have each written about this topic on our respective sites in the past and I'm sure we will continue to do so in the future, so there is no need to take this conference review article off topic by delving deeper into that subject here).   

Antony Van Couvering (Minds+Machines)
in the audience for the closing business
session Friday morning - October 9.

After the closing session, the curtain came down on the SedoPro Partners Forum with a farewell buffet luncheon on the beach.

Guests sample delicacies at the beachfront buffet luncheon 
that closed the 2009 SedoPro Partner Forum Friday October 9.

The 2009 SedoPro Partner Forum drew high praise from attendees. Sedo's North American Marketing Team Supervisor Heather DelCarpini and Marketing Associate Tiffany Cuddihy took care of all of the details, large and small, that went into making this year's gathering something special. It will be back to Europe 2010 and the Sedo staff is already fielding suggestions for where the next Partner Forum should be held.

*****


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