Nov.-December 2010         DNJournal.com     The Domain Industry News Magazine

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An Interview With Mike Fiol - The Domain Industry Veteran Behind Innovative Auction Platform Boxcar.com 

We saw a number of interesting new domain businesses make their debut in 2010. One of them was Boxcar.com, a platform that allows portfolio owners to run their own multi-name auctions, much like the big boys at venues like Sedo.com, the AfternicDLS and Aftermarket.com do. While Boxcar.com is a new offering, the man behind the company, Mike Fiol, is no stranger to the domain business. To the contrary Fiol is one of the industry's most seasoned and respected veterans, a person who is often called on for advice as one of the principals at DomainConsultant.com

In the event that you don't already know Mike we felt it is high time you did, so we decided to use this final newsletter of 2010 for an interview with him that will fill you in on both his history in the domain industry and what he is currently up to with Boxcar.com (and DomainConsultant.com).

DN Journal: Mike, most of those who have been in the industry for any length of time know you well, but for those who have not had the pleasure, give us a brief bio where you grew up, went to school and early business experience. 

Mike Fiol: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and grew up the son of a neurologist and a history teacher in Edina, Minnesota. We moved there because my mother had a skin condition aggravated 

 

Mike Fiol
Founder, Boxcar.com

by the sun. After high school, I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I graduated with three majors; history, film and English. It was at UW that I started my first company - a cake delivery business that I would sell when I graduated. After graduation I started a golf company which patented and manufactured golf accessories. That would also be sold and that is where I met the Internet, back in 1997.

I had started a product placement firm for television and movies and needed a 'brochure' for my services. The best option seemed like the Internet. So I went out and bought Front Page and taught myself to build websites. Since then I have done work for dozens of Fortune 500 companies including 3M, MLB, Motorola and more. Interestingly enough, one of my first clients was Don Ham (of Reinvent Technology whose brother Kevin was dubbed "The Man Who Owns the Internet" by Business 2.0 Magazine).

After working as a designer and developer for many years, I was finally able to stop in 2003 (when domain income surpassed design income) and focus entirely on the domain side of things.

At the very first T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference
in 2004 Mike Fiol (left) received a special
recognition award
from conference Co-Founder
Rick Schwartz for designing the show's website.

DN Journal: Tell us a little bit more about your initial experience with domain names and what you focused on in your early years in the business.

Mike Fiol: My first domain was for my placement service but I really got interested when a local video company hired me to do online marketing for them. One day the owner told me he had bought a domain for $60,000 and wanted me to market it. Once it was set up, I realized it got a bunch of visitors every day so I knew there was something there!

My early and late years are pretty much the same. At a certain point I had to decide whether to focus on quantity or quality but not both because I lacked the resources. I chose quality and have spent most of my career searching and buying single-word generic domain names like Fiesta.com or Acre.com

They do not make as much as 'keyword' domains using traditional sources but the resale normally pays for it ten times over and they make great brands if you do develop them. Boxcar.com is another good example of my type of domain.

DN Journal: Speaking of Boxcar.com, for your latest venture built on that domain, you have come up with a very interesting twist for the aftermarket, a venue that allows people to run their own auctions featuring as many 100 domains at a time. Tell us what motivated you to go in this direction?

Mike Fiol: Boxcar seemed like a natural evolution for DomainConsultant.com. We had run so many auctions on others' platforms and run into issues and bugs every time. So we finally ran our own auction on our own platform in March 2010 with Domain Madness 2. It went off better and smoother than any of the others - that's when we knew our best option was to build and manage and offer our own platform to owners and brokers (as well as for our own auctions).

DN Journal: Boxcar.com has just started but from the response youve gotten in the first few weeks the platform has been open, how would you say it is being received?

Mike Fiol: Of all the projects I've done in the past, this one has received the most "you're on to something" emails. On the other hand, domainers have been slow to use, even understand the site and concept. As you said, it is very new but at the same time domainers have been registering faster than anticipated - we have plenty of buyers. 

But people are still feeling their way around and getting used to the idea of a platform - not an auction service, but a forum for anyone to hold a lot auction they then promote and manage and facilitate. Boxcar lets you be Moniker or Sedo and run your own auctions as they do. Key is to promote as they do and as I said, I think it will take time to fully grasp all the opportunities Boxcar has opened - the different and alternate opportunities.

DN Journal: By the way, you mentioned liking domain names as brands and I have to tell you that I really like Boxcar.com as a brand perhaps because boxcars have a lot of sentimental value for me. The house I grew up in was near railroad tracks and a switching station where the empty boxcars were parked. We spent many days climbing in over and around them (until the rail workers chased us away)! I  dont know how familiar young people today are with the term but boxcars held massive quantities of goods and were instrumental in 

moving them around the country. They were (and Im sure still are) a critical link in commerce due to their ability to expedite the flow of goods in large quantities. How did you acquire the domain and what were your thoughts in selecting it as your brand?

Mike Fiol: You nailed it - moving domains to market! We bought the domain in a private sale for $7,500. The second I saw it, I knew it was the one because as you say, boxcars are used to speed product to market. It is also short, easy to say and spell and fit perfectly with the site concept as a boxcar holds MANY items (like domains) and not just one. So when you register, you get your own 'boxcar' and can fill it with names you're watching, bidding on or selling. 

Boxcar.com is a wholly new idea. It is not about selling an entire portfolio - it is about LISTING an entire portfolio and allowing people to buy the ones they like instead of the whole deal. For a domainer like myself, who really never knows what the market will and won't like, I have the option of putting up 100 names and letting the market choose the ones they like. It's meant to help owners turn over inventory and brokers sell inventory. Fortunately for members, we are buyers, sellers and brokers and built it with consideration to all of these angles.

DN Journal: earlier I mentioned that you have been involved in another venture DomainConsultant.com - for quite some time now. Tell us a bit about that business and the services you provide.

Mike Fiol at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down 
Under
in Australia (Nov. 2008)

Mike Fiol: DomainConsultant.com is a free-flowing concept I started many years ago with a few other domainers. It is designed to be whatever we need it to be at any given moment, as we don't need the money, so it is done to promote or educate or further the industry in some meaningful way that benefits all.  

We do offer appraisals and consulting on all manner of domaining plus for awhile ran auctions for third-parties. That evolved into Boxcar, so now we promote Boxcar and run the blog - with its current focus being on forces great and small that mold our business as well as a forum for development of our valuation and pricing system, DCV.  

We feel DCV finally offers justifiable means for domainers to price and value their domains, something we feel is necessary for the greater health of the industry going forward. If we can help eliminate arbitrary pricing, then this long journey through domaining will have been worthwhile. That is why we are not charging 

or running it through a cookie-cutter script, this is open-source for the sake of encouraging debate and hopefully adoption.  

So DC is hopefully also a reminder that great things await if we all work for the collective good instead of the almighty dollar every time.

*****

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