March 2009         DNJournal.com     The Domain Industry News Magazine

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T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Returns to Silicon Valley April 27-30 Aiming to Duplicate the Success of Its Landmark Show There in 2006

It's hard to believe but the 15th show in the pioneering T.R.A.F.F.I.C. domain conference series is coming up April 27-30 when T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley will be staged at the Santa Clara Marriott. I have been to 13 of the previous 14 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows and it seems like yesterday that I was on my way to the very first one in Delray Beach, Florida

That was in October 2004 and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Domains went on to experience a phenomenal boom and even today, in the midst of severe distress in the general economy, domains are holding up better

Scene from the 1st T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Conference held in 
Delray Beach, Florida in October 2004. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 
#15 is coming up April 27-30 in the Silicon Valley.

than the vast majority of other asset classes. Still, domain owners have not gone unscathed, especially those who depend on PPC revenues that have plunged.

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley should give us a good reading on where things stand now. Just about every leader in the domain space will be there giving us a chance to gauge their sentiment. We will also draw insight from the kinds of deals that are being cut in the corridors and what sort of products and services are being unveiled by the companies (new and old) that will be exhibiting there. Two major live domain auctions will be also held, offering an up-to-the-minute look at where the domainer to domainer (wholesale) side of the aftermarket stands (end users are still scarce at live auctions).

For the inside scoop on what is being planned for T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s return to Silicon Valley we hooked up with Rick Schwartz (who co-founded T.R.A.F.F.I.C. with Howard Neu) for the exclusive interview below.

DNJournal: T.R.A.F.F.I.C. returns to Silicon Valley next month after a landmark show at the beginning of 2006 that played a key role in the long domain boom that continued until the closing months of 2009. General economic conditions today are or course dramatically different than they were the last time you went to Santa Clara, yet the domain business, despite taking some body blows of its own (especially in PPC) had held up much better than most other sectors including traditional real estate. I know you always tailor your shows to what is happening at the time they take place. What kind of theme are you developing for this conference that will take place in the most financially treacherous times that most people alive today have ever seen?

Rick Schwartz
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder

Rick Schwartz: We are going to Silicon to talk to the people with the dollars. We start with Google and Yahoo and work all the way down to new alternatives in monetization. I don’t think folks realize just how many companies are out there working to knock PPC out of the box. PPC is fighting for their survival. 

Any domainer that thought he was immune from what we are going through now knows better. Even if your own financial position is good, your other family members, friends and others may not be in such good shape. Our favorite restaurants are closing. One after another. These are serious times and in serious times you have three camps. One camp just takes cover and hopes to wait it out. The duck and cover group. 50% of them will be wiped out. The other group is out there knowing there is opportunity and seizing it for pennies on the dollar. They become tomorrow’s geniuses and visionaries for having acted against all odds while the masses were running in the opposite direction. The third group is the one in defensive mode as dollars are running low and time is not their ally. 

Some companies we may have thought of as being strong may be weaker than we know. Some will just quietly disappear with no fanfare. Others may cause an earthquake. Let’s face it, we were all in acceleration mode and then it all went off a cliff. Bottom line, we will focus on the bottom line and making more money and new ways to make that money. The numbers have changed and so now too must the solutions. Plus we will discuss what the industry will look like in the months ahead and a year from now. I don’t think anyone ever discussed the energy you get from spending a few days with like minded people compared to what we do solo behind the computer screen. 6 billion folks with a fairly equal opportunity and less than 500 answered the call and found the prize. It is one of the most exclusive groups in all the world.

Attendees will be part of a “Think Tank” on the future of the Domain Industry and will be not just one step ahead of everyone else, but a mile ahead of everyone else in continuing to be successful in this down economy by working smarter.  

DNJournal:  In addition to having to choose the right content for the times we are in, the large number of shows that have followed T.R.A.F.F.I.C. into the conference space has added another challenge – coming up with a fresh approach for the overall presentation and scheduling each day in a way that will  give attendees the most bang for their buck. How are you tackling that issue for Silicon Valley ?

Rick Schwartz: Nobody can deny that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has been an easy target to copy over the years. But if you peel that marketing ploy back, it is our model that has been copied over and over again. Whether it be the speakers of which more than 90% spoke at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. before they spoke anywhere else. Whether it be our auctions in which they all copy our ideas and implementation but since the audience has a different make up, the results are dismally inadequate. All the other show auctions added together don’t equal most of our single auctions. So sellers get less at the other venues and since domainers know that we have a much more dynamic auction to begin with, we have access to a better crop of domains. 

We just need to do a better job picking the ones that actually make it to the stage.  Unfortunately, since the results the others have had have fallen short, and whether it reflects the market or not, people start questioning what they do and before you know it people are questioning their futures in the domain business, values etc. That’s a big mistake. The results could be predicted before the first auction started. We have improvements to do as well and that was why I spoke out about the auctions last month. 

Auctioneer Wayne Wheat directing 
Moniker's live domain auction at 
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York (Sept. 2008)

Domainers have a responsibility too. They should stop sending in hundreds of domains and shave them down to ones that can be picked. 100,000 submissions, 200 picks. That’s nuts. On the other side of the equation, the auction houses really need to pick solid domains. They also need to stop putting in domains with end user prices. This is a wholesale auction not a retail auction. So there is a lot of room for improvement here and the reason it is so important is how it has reflected on the industry when you have a lackluster showing. When you have a $12.5 million dollar auction in 3 hours that is a rising tide for everyone

This economy provides fuel for the auctions. Domains that would never be sold come to the Market because cash may be needed. On the other hand the cash sitting on the sidelines needs a reason to come out of the wallet. That reason is a great domain name and a one time chance to snag it. So auctions really will play a big role in the upcoming months and years.

The point is that we have set the standard each and every step of the way and when you copy something you are always at least one step behind and usually more. We may be accused of many things but we have never been a step behind. We always set the pace. Our only agenda is the raising of awareness, payouts and values of our assets. These are tough times and having been through many recessions and worse and surviving them becomes a great strength. Those who think that this is going to blow over quickly are going to be surprised. 

What we do at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is different than any other show. Even if they duplicate the agenda and if they duplicate the format and if they duplicate the physical seating, they can’t duplicate the formula and chemistry for creating a deal-making atmosphere. They can’t duplicate what I see. They can’t duplicate a vision that has proved to be “dead on” time and time again. That is why I love the net. It is all on record

What we do is create an atmosphere that creates opportunity out of thin air. We create a magic that changes lives. Our agenda dovetails with the dreams and aspirations of every domainer and businessman  

Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders 

the world over. We have changed lives at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and I have nearly 100 testimonials to that effect. What will we do in Silicon Valley ? We will move the ball forward. We will stop the bleeding. We will introduce new companies working on new ways to make us more money. We will do what we always do. We have overcome strong odds and show #15 will be the show that turned the corner. Period.  

DNJournal: You have taken T.R.A.F.F.I.C. to some great locations over the past five years; from your South Florida base to New York , Las Vegas , Australia and several points in between.  But as far as impact on the domain industry, you could certainly make an argument that Silicon Valley in 2006 was the most important location of all. With the world situation shifting attention to what is happening on Wall Street and in Washington , D.C. is being in Silicon Valley as important now as it was to be there three years ago?

Rick Schwartz: The show in 2006 was huge and we only had 10 weeks to find a venue and pull it off. But think back where the industry was and where domains were 3 years ago. As they say…we’ve come a long way baby!! That maturing process will work in our favor. It will work in everyone’s favor. Plus going to Silicon Valley at the very depth of this crisis will prove to be more than timely. Whoever comes will get rewarded many times over and just like we can remember Silicon Valley from 3 years ago like it was yesterday, this time the show will be etched in the fabric of our lives forever. 

Like I say, nobody ever “Paid” to come to T.R.A.F.F.I.C.. The folks we cater to at the level we are at can make water from sand in the desert. We posses a special talent that allows us to see opportunity while others see nothing. Silicon Valley will prove magical for anyone who comes. Silicon Valley will stop the payouts from hemorrhaging any further because new alternatives will change the way we all do business.  

DNJournal: You have a new overall show sponsor this year in Skenzo (a Directi company). Directi is a perfect example of the fact that smart entrepreneurs can find ways to thrive in even the worst of times. Their business, staffing and office space all continue 
to grow despite the recession. They would appear to be an ideal match for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley where people are going to be looking for the best way to keep moving forward.

Rick Schwartz: Skenzo has become a valuable partner as opposed to just being a sponsor and I think that is about to benefit all of us. I guess that is why they are doing so well and growing while others are showing signs of distress. The relationship with them as the show approaches is what I always envisioned. Our success is their success and their success is our success. So I think as 2009 evolves we will evolve with it and come out looking much better and stronger. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has been fortunate along the years to have great sponsors and I think each sponsor will agree that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has helped to grow their businesses.  Each of them has done so well that they have spun off their own shows. Maybe Skenzo will be next. It’s like giving birth each time. LOL! 

DNJournal: Is there anything else you would like to add before we close?  

Rick Schwartz: Just as a businessman who has been through some pretty tough times, this is not the time to go into the bunker. There is too much opportunity right now to turn your back on it. My only problem these days is deciding which opportunity to seize and which ones to let fly away. Folks know that we mean business once the show starts. The shows we have had have  
not been shows. They have been landmarks in time.  Memories etched in our minds. A place where great friendships began. It is the root of many deals that have been made and partnerships that have come together and we still had all that time for speakers and parties and life changing experiences.

“Timing is Everything” is the theme behind every word I have ever written. There is a time to relax and a time to put your nose to the grindstone and get to work. This is the time that the industry needs to be in Silicon Valley . This is the time. This is the best time. This may be the only time. Either way this is the moment and we are not there at this important moment for nothing. We knew where the train was going and we

Santa Clara Marriott Hotel
Site of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley 200
9

decided to go to the main station. Many of us are at a crossroads. The business model is changing because the numbers are changing. Recalibration is needed. New alternatives are required. The result is the most timely and important T.R.A.F.F.I.C. since we started. As always, results will speak for themselves.

We will of course be at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley to bring you all of the show highlights. We will also be in California the week before T.R.A.F.F.I.C. to cover the GeoDomain Expo in San Diego April 23-25. We will be publishing a preview of that event later this week and will drop a note to all of you who receive this newsletter by email as soon as that article has been posted.

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