image from Bigstock
thing happened on the way to the funeral - domain
parking got out of the coffin and jumped from the hearse! How
many times in recent years have you heard that domain
parking is dead? If that is the case, then you
have to ask why have so many new competitors
entered a supposedly dying space - and why are their
clients giving them such good reviews?
We've told you how Frank
Schilling upended the domain monetization business
Fellow newcomers include Donny Simonton, who has
quietly been making waves at Voodoo.com,
and two new powerhouses based in Europe, Rook
Media (who we will be doing a story about
next month) and ParkingCrew.com,
who I'm going to tell you about today.
Looking for some
answers to why domain monetization seems to be enjoying
a comeback, I connected with ParkingCrew's three
founders; CEO Nico Zeifang, COO Stefan Wiegard
and CTO Mario Witte. While their company is new,
these guys, like Schilling, Simonton and Rook Media team,
are no strangers to the domain
grew up in the medieval town of Ravensburg, Germany
where he spent the first 19 years of his life. By the
time he was 17 he had already registered his
first domain name. "I immediately caught the
domaining bug and shortly afterwards spent most of my
childhood savings when I acquired Hacking.net
for $1,000," Zeifang recalled. "I flipped the
domain to a security company for $4,500 a few
weeks later and have been part of the domain game ever
he graduated from high school, Zeifang moved to Munich
where he spent almost a year doing community service at
a school for the deaf. While there he also acquired the
domain Handys.at (an Austrian ccTLD that means
"cell phones" in English). Zeifang paid Ä1,500
for the domain but managed to resell it for a
whopping Ä35,000! That transaction really
opened Zeifang's eyes and prompted him to incorporate
his own domain related company.
also continued his education, earning a bachelors degree
in business administration from the University of St.
CEO Nico Zeifang at age 17 performing at a
Ravensburg town festival. He registered his first
domain that same year.
| Switzerland and a masters degree in
accounting and finance from the London School of
Economics. Now armed with a sound education in both
business and domains, Zeifang's company acquired and
sold domains such as NY.org, NYC.org, Opium.com
and thousands of others.
that process Zeifang learned something. "While
buying, parking and selling was a very profitable
business, it didnít scale too well. That is
part of the reason I became a partner in Team
Internet (the parent company of ParkingCrew),"
Nico said. "The other reasons are the fantastic
group of people I work with as well as the strong desire
to create a domain monetization company from
domainers for domainers."
COO Stefan Wiegard
Stefan Wiegard made it to Munich a good bit earlier than
Zeifang did. After being born in the small town of Kempten
his family moved to the German metropolis (about a
90-muinute drive from Kempten) when Stefan was just 3
years old. He went to both high school and college in
Munich where his introduction to domains came through a
desire to develop websites rather than buy and
sell names as Nico had started out doing.
all started when I was 17 and wanted to build a city
guide to bars, restaurants and clubs in Munich,"
Wiegard said. "I had to teach myself a bit of
programming but ultimately focused on the research
part of the job by going to various bars and clubs
to take pictures and put them on my home page,"
Wiegard smiled. (As you might expect with his
experience, Stefan is reportedly the guy to call on if
you need a local tour guide. Wiegard agreed, saying
any domainer is coming to Munich, just give me a call
and I will show you around and have a beer with you. Or
after, my site attracted thousands of visitors a
day and I asked myself: How do I best monetize this
traffic? This was my introduction to the affiliate
marketing industry. It was about the same time that
I realized there is value to generic domains and
I automatically built lists and operated my own drop
catcher for .de domains which worked quite well
for about 2-3 years and helped me build part of my
portfolio," Wiegard said.
I got my first Google Adsense account in 2003 I
was finally able to scale the build out of my
domains and sites since I no longer had to find the best
performing affiliate program for each niche but rather
simply put PPC ads on my pages. The majority of
the money I earned from Google Adsense was reinvested
into domains which was part of the reason why our
portfolio at times comprised about 100,000 domains,"
Technical Officer Mario Witte completes the ParkingCrew
triumvirate with the high tech skill set every
modern online company must have if they want to play in
the big leagues. Witte grew up in northern Germany where
his did was an engineer for the German Bundespost
(that later became Deutsche Telekom).
had access to a computer from the time I was around 10
years old and I spent my childhood surrounded by
electronics, phones, fax machines and computers,"
Witte recalled. "Back then software was still on
cassettes, the internet was basically unavailable and so
I learned to build my own stuff by programming BASIC.
Later I also learned perl programming and switched from
Windows to Linux."
first job in 2001 was at Geizkragen.de
(a word that roughly translates to
"tightwad"), a small startup mostly known for
a website and forum about saving money. Luckily for me
they had just started to built an affiliate network and
I ended up working on that team of three developers building
all of the platform. We
CTO Mario Witte
| were a lean operation and so
my work at that time included everything from
programming the platform, doing customer support to
building our server hardware. A funny side note - the
founder of Geizkragen.de was also was a domainer, but
frankly I didn't see the value in domain names at
that time and probably missed a big opportunity of
entering the game relatively early!" Witte ruefully
In 2004 Witte moved to Munich to work for one of
Germany's big affiliate agencies, nonstopConsulting.
"It was my job to build the adserver and tracking
software and scale it while the company was growing,"
Witte said. "Just one year later I
got to know Stefan while he was doing an internship
there. We immediately hit it off and stayed in contact
after he left the company.
Stefan kept trying to persuade me to quit my safe job
and start a company with him. In 2009 that lead to us
building our first zero click domain parking platform
that, though only available to a select group of mostly
German domainers, was so profitable that I saw the
potential. After one long night with way too much
red wine at Nicoís place, we wound up starting Team
that time Nico and Stefan had already known each other
for several years, having first connected online in
2001. Two years later they met in person for the first
time at at a Domainer Roundtable during Oktoberfest
in Munich. "We soon realized that we shared the
same mindset and a close friendship developed
(Stefan was one of my best men during my wedding),"
to R): ParkingCrew Co-Founders Mario Witte, Nico
Zeifang and Stefan Wiegard at Nico's
It wasnít until 2007 that Nico and Stefan
started doing business together, pooling most of
their domain related investments in a joint
holding company. "Mario clearly was the
missing piece of the puzzle," Zeifang said.
"Neither Stefan nor I are very technical people and
the fact that Mario is an all-around great guy made him
the perfect choice to be CTO for Team Internet.
Despite spending 60+ hours a week in one office (the
three of us have shared a room since the very early days
of Team Internet) we spend a lot of free time together
and often meet for dinner or cook at one of our
places at the weekend (luckily our girls get along very
well too)," Zeifang said with a smile.
CEO Zeifang said, "I try to focus on the big
picture. We have successfully launched two products
that achieve great synergies (our publisher product
ParkingCrew.com as well as our advertiser product DNTX.com)
and we have big plans ahead (watch out for more domain
related products being launched in the upcoming months).
At the same time, I am still actively involved (on a day
to day basis) in most of our bigger initiatives such as
the implementation of new upstream feed provider
technology and ad formats at ParkingCrew. Basically
any initiative that has to do with AB-testing and data
as I love to crunch numbers and fine tune the
system for those few extra percentage points of
performance. Our ParkingCrew team reports directly
to me while Stefan oversees DNTX and Mario has to juggle
both tech teams simultaneously."
his COO duties, Wiegard said, "Finance is
the biggest part of my day-to-day business: analyzing
revenue numbers, calculating cash flows, accounting,
payouts to ParkingCrew customers and invoices to DNTX
advertisers. We made sure that everybody had a clear
understanding of his responsibilities within the team:
Nico was responsible for biz dev and international
markets from day one. Mario focused on tech and
scalability. A lot of people warned us that friends
shouldn't get involved in a joint business as usually
this doesn't end well. I am very happy we didn't
listen and proved them wrong!," Wiegard smiled.
said his biggest challenge as CTO was getting
ParkingCrew's optimization algorithm right.
"While testing our feeds with our internal traffic
we quickly found that our job wouldn't be done with
building a few nice templates and throwing an ad feed on
them," Witte said. "This was when we started
to invest into a self-learning optimization
technology that to this day keeps us ahead of the
competition and allows us to operate with a very small
team consisting mostly of tech people."
spend a lot of time keeping in touch with our customers
on tech issues and also keeping the technical side of
our partnerships with other companies alive. And then
there is the internal foosball league that
requires quite a bit of attention!," Witte laughed.
that you know more about who Nico, Stefan and Mario are
- let's get to how they have found success in a business
that was supposedly dying. "I strongly
disagree with the notion that parking is a dying
business," Zeifang declared. "While we
certainly do not see the same sort of payout levels that
we saw in 2007, I havenít come across many businesses
that can provide such a stable level of passive
income as the asset class of domain names while
being highly scalable."
I can understand where the perception of parking being a
declining market came from and even though this might
sound crazy, thatís why we entered this market.
We owned a significant portfolio of domains ourselves
and experienced the rapidly declining revenues first
hand. At the same time, a lot of what we thought was
valuable customer feedback we had given to the
existing domain parking companies out there simply went ignored. Team Internetís motto is ďIdeas. Change.
MarketsĒ and with ParkingCrew we set out to change a
market," Zeifang said.
"The only thing we knew about parking came from a
customer perspective which in hindsight forced us to do
what makes us successful today: we had to learn
everything from scratch which quickly made us focus on
auto-optimization, continuous AB testing and crunching
millions after millions of datasets in order to improve
our learning-algorithms. This philosophy has allowed us
to scale very quickly without having to significantly
increase our headcount. Today we are still a very small
team which allows us to keep overheads low and rev
shares high which certainly contributed to our
success," Zeifang added.
said constant innovation is also critical to the
company's mission. "We have two major initiatives
taking place at ParkingCrew right now," He noted.
involves the User Interface and will make
navigation even more intuitive. The
other initiative is on the performance side (revenues)
and includes incorporating new upstream feed provider
technology, experimenting with new ad formats and
constant AB testing. First results from this
look great (overall up to 10% improvement with
individual domains and portfolios improving by up to
25%) and we will be rolling this out across the
platform in early Q2-2012."
we also we unveiled Sales Navigation (improved features to manage For
Sale settings), Seller Intelligence (it
allows the user to find out more about the person that
made the offer) and Compare Tool (an easy way to compare stats for
two different timeframes to find out why exactly
earnings went up or down)."
ParkingCrew team also thinks having their home base in
Europe works in their favor. Wiegard said, "I think the major advantage we have gotten from being
located outside of the US is the understanding that the
majority of internet users are located outside the
US and that the audience a domain parking platform like
ParkingCrew attracts is truly global. This has helped us to realize that
visitor that hits our platform contributes to the
bottom line and needs to be monetized to the max."
most domain parking platforms know how to monetize a US
visitor, the more exotic the location of the visitor
gets, the less companies understand how to make the most
of that single visitor. The same is true for device
targeting: mobile phones, tablets - they all require
special attention and are monetized
differently," Wiegard noted.
a closing note Wiegard said this about his ParkingCrew
teammates, "They are exactly the sort of people I
always dreamed of working with: innovative,
unbiased (they let the numbers speak and the users
decide), open-minded and just all-around great
personalities that I really enjoy spending time with at
and after work. I think it is this chemistry that
really makes this a great team."
a cool two-minute video summary of the ParkingCrew
story, check out this
clip at Vimeo.