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Social Centric Agenda and Soaring 2024 Attendance Has Made the ICA Annual Meeting a Can't Miss Event

By Ron Jackson

Less than two-and-a-half years ago the Internet Commerce Association held their first stand alone meeting when a few dozen people gathered in Henderson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas (prior to that ICA meetings were held at the large domain conferences that attract many of their members). While that first event was a small one, the non-profit organization that fights to represent domain owner's rights, was heartened by the enthusiastic response they got from attendees. So one year ago, they took a much bigger step, moving to a top tier facility right on the Strip, the huge Resorts World complex built around the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel for their second event. That proved to be the right place at the right time and positive word of mouth went viral.

Fast forward to last week when the ICA returned to Resorts World for their 2024 Annual Meeting where they were welcomed by a crowd that grew another 50% over last year. From everything we heard there, expect to hear the 

praise continue to spread. With this meeting, the ICA has firmly established their event as one of the most important ones on the industry's global conference calendar, especially when you consider that attending the meeting and supporting the ICA is in your own best interests as it enables them to continue and expand the invaluable work they do on our behalf. 

If you didn't attend the 2023 or 2024 Annual Meetings you are no doubt wondering what makes this conference different from all of the rest? The secret sauce has been the ICA's decision to go all in on providing a casual social environment that allows members to spend their valuable time away from home getting to know each other better. The conference doesn't just add a few networking opportunities to the usual mix - they put them front and center. The entire first day and a half is comprised solely of social activities. As .ART Registry CMO Jeff Sass remarked to me, "I love that. It lets you meet new people and get comfortable with them before you even get to the business sessions!"

The business part of the show is different too. It is limited to one day and the sessions are not the usual file into an auditorium, sit down and watch a presentation or panel discussion format. In fact, there were zero panel discussions at the ICA event. It is much more interactive with Town Halls, individual experts sitting down for Ask Me Anything sessions and Guru Tables (where you can sit down with experts from sectors you are most interested in or representatives from your favorite companies and ones you want to learn more about). If it is a presentation, the presenters tend to stand  and walk around at the same level as the audience which adds to the easy, informal atmosphere that is proving to be so popular with attendees. 

To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, I took a lot of pictures! So, come along with me and I'll show you how the week went from my perspective (and that of some others who shared photos from the things I missed).

Above: I arrived at the Resorts World Hilton on Wednesday (Jan. 17, 2024) in time to catch a beautiful Las Vegas sunset through the window at the hotel. A couple of hours later some others who arrived in town on this optional day got together and went to see a film at the fabulous new Las Vegas Sphere. I had some work to catch up on so I stayed in but did see another Sphere when I went out for dinner in The District (the casino and commercial part of the Resorts complex). This one (at right) is not big enough to hold a U2 concert but as you can see from the people walking at left underneath it, it is not exactly tiny either!

Below: Domain industry pioneer Monte Cahn is a partner in a new restaurant, Crash N Burn, that is about to open on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. He invited friends to come over and see it after the film at the big Sphere, but by that time it was 1AM in the Eastern Time Zone that my body was still running on and I was already asleep! Everyone who did go had a great time and Monte sent me a picture the

next morning of himself with three mutual friends that - between the four of them - represented over 100 years of domain industry experience! That made me feel a lot younger so I liked that! Left to right are Ammar Kubba, Rick Latona, Fred Hsu and Monte Cahn.

Above & below: At 9am Thursday morning (January 18) the registration desk opened with ICA Executive Kamila Sekiwicz (center) on hand to greet attendees. There was a one-hour meet and greet session that continued in the hallways when the room was needed for a 10am Broker's Breakfast.

Above & below: The standing room only crowd for the Broker's Breakfast (and the wall to wall expanse of people in the hall outside) served immediate notice that attendance for the ICA 2024 Meeting was going to be way up from last year. 

Above: Two of the best brokers (and people) in the business, ICA Board Member Tessa Holcomb (DomainAdvisors.com) and Jeff Gabriel (Saw.com) at the ICA Broker's Breakfast that kicked off the 2024 Annual Meeting.

Below: Another all-star broker, Kate Buckley (far left) and partner Todd Henderson (to Kate's right) have just launched a new all encompassing branding agency at Defining.com that we will be telling you more about in the near future. Kate gave several fellow ICA members a peak at the new site at the breakfast.

Thursday afternoon was devoted to a variety of Las Vegas excursions with members able to select the one they wanted to go on. As has been the case in the past, the Red Rocks Canyon hike drew the biggest crowd.

Above & below: I've been to Red Rocks on past trips to Las Vegas (and love it) so went on a different excursion this time, but ICA Board Member Nat Cohen sent me some great photos from this year's hike. They had a perfect day for it too. In the top photo you can see the Las Vegas skyline in the distance beyond the rocks. In the shot below ICA members enjoy the spectacular terrain around them.

Above: Sedo on the Rocks! Premium Broker Mark Ghoriafi and CMO Christian Voss making on the trail at Red Rocks Canyon.

Below: Several of the hikers have made the trip to Red Rocks before but that scenery is something that never gets old.

Above: Before heading out to experience the extraordinary beauty of Red Rocks Canyon, ICA members gathered for a group photo amid some of the world's most spectacular scenery.

Above: Another group of ICA members opted for a trip to Top Golf where Tessa Holcomb was among first to step up to the tees.

Below: Just to be safe, Vern Jurovich (far right) staked out a prime spot at the 19th hole before the crowd arrived!

Above: Bill Sweetman (Name Ninja) worked on his sweet swing at Top Golf. A big thank you to Karen Bernstein for providing photos from this outing.

Below: Another hot sport attracted a different group of ICA members who signed up to compete in the Kubba Kup Pickleball Tournament. Winner Steven Kennedy (center) is flanked by the tournament's namesake and runner-up, Ammar Kubba (right) and third place finisher Andrew Allemann (DomainNameWire).

Above: As for me, I decided to go somewhere I had never been - the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas! That turned out to be a big mistake! The people I went with seemed nice enough and only a few of them had done time before so I figured what can go wrong? Fortunately a former mob attorney was with us and was able to get us out on bail in time to make the first business session Friday! The menaces to society (left to right) are Patrick Hughes, David Helgeson, Jason Seashore, Ron Jackson, Wei Wei, David Thorpe and Zak Muscovitch. I won't mention the companies they work for on the off chance that they still might be able to keep their jobs after all of this blows over! (All kidding aside - it's a great museum)!

Above: In keeping with the all social Thursday theme, the Opening Reception at Bar Zazu in The District,  sponsored by SquadHelp and Hilco Digital, was the perfect way to end the day. Thank you Darpan Munjal and Andrew Miller!

Below: The many familiar faces in the crowd included (left to right); Ammar Kubba, Michael Law, Dr. Gregg McNair and Joe Alagna.

Above: ICA Board members Daniel Law (left) and Nat Cohen (right) flank industry veteran Chad Folkening.

Below: Kate Buckley announced the arrival of Defining.com at the 2024 ICA Meeting. Kate and partner Todd Henderson also scored a management coup by adding Shane Cultra (right) to the Defining.com team.

Above: While circulating around the room we also bumped into Oren Arbit (CraftNames), angel investor and ICA Meeting moderator Braden Pollock and Minnesota-based domain pro Mark Levine.

Above: (Left to right): Stuart Maloff (Stupendous Domains), Ryan McKegney and ICA Executive Director Kamila Sekiewicz at the SquadHelp/Hilco Digital Opening Reception.

Above: Looks like I will need a box the next time I stand next to these two guys! I'm 6' tall but Sedo's Mark Ghoriafi (center) is 6'2" and London Domain Summit Founder Helmuts Meskonis (right) is 6'4"! Short, tall or in between, the Opening Reception was a hit with ICA members.

Above: DomainAgents.com founder Ryan McKegney organized a last minute Poker Tournament that was held after the Opening Night Reception. Steven Kennedy wound up winning it (yes, the same Steven Kennedy who won the Pickleball Tournament)! I understand there is a move afoot to bar Steven (or anyone named Steven) from all competitive events next year but I don't think that is in the cards!

Above & Below: Friday, January 19, the business day at the ICA Annual Meeting, began at 9:30am when the crowd was welcomed by Braden Pollock and Executive Director Kamila Sekiewicz

Above: ICA Board Members Jay Chapman and Nat Cohen (right) provided an update on what the ICA has accomplished over the past year and what they will be working on in 2024. The ICA is blessed to have an  exceptionally talented 8-member Board that has done a remarkable job alongside Kamila and General Council Zak Muscovitch in building the ICA into the highly effective organization that supporters always hoped it would be.

Below: ICA General Council Zak Muscovitch, who received kudos from ICA members throughout the week for the outstanding work he has done, followed Jay and Nat with a legal policy update, covering current and potential future threats to domain owner interests.

Above & Below: A little after10am Friday the ICA's popular Member Town Hall got underway, giving members a chance to ask any questions they had for ICA leadership, offer suggestions or comment on any topic of concern to them.  In the photo above Helmuts Meskonis invited members to join him at his London Domain Summit in August. Below, Saw.com Founder Jeff Gabriel offered some thoughts on how to manage the growth of the ICA that has gained so much momentum over the past couple of years.

Above: Dr. Gregg McNair also spoke from the audience during the Town Hall, emphasizing the need for the industry to provide the financial support the ICA needs to continue fulfilling its role in meeting and resolving continual threats to domain owner's rights.

Above & Below: At noon a full house welcomed SquadHelp Founder Darpan Munjal for his Ask My Anything session. The popular, innovative aftermarket sales platform has been growing like wildfire so members were very interested to get the latest info from Darpan on features being added to service and how any current issues are being addressed.

Above: Part of the attentive audience listening to SquadHelp Founder Darpan Munjal's comments.

Above & Below: After the lunch break (and an excellent meal sponsored by IT.com) It was time for another popular part of ICA Meetings - the Guru Tables. These were spread across multiple sessions Friday afternoon. They featured two kinds of tables - one set featured experts on specific topics like high end domain sales and the other set featured representatives from leading service providers who answered and all questions members had about their respective offerings (Sponsor Tables). The jam-packed expert's table above (actually two tables that had to be shoved together to accommodate the crowd) featured Andrew Miller (Hilco Digital) holding forth on Negotiating High-Dollar Sales. The Sponsor table below had Caleb Tweed on hand to field questions about popular registrar Dynadot.

Above: At another Sponsor Table, Wei Wei  and David Thorpe welcomed members to the ParkingCrew.com table.

Below: Jeff Gabriel (Seller Brokerage and Marketplace Strategies) and Jay Chapman (The “Simple Get Keep” Deal - A Unique and Profitable Domain JV) combined their tables into one big group of inquisitive members interested in those topics. All told there were 20 different tables to choose from that afternoon!

Above & Below: At 4pm it was time for pioneering domain attorney John Berryhill to begin a highly anticipated talk on The Lurking Threat You Thought Was Solved. Actually, John's talks are always highly anticipated because he is an extraordinary speaker who manages to combine humor (often centered on absurd legal claims he has dealt with) and useful information, all in one immensely entertaining ball of wax.

Above: NameBright's Jeff Reberry (center) intently listening to John Berryhill (below) read some of the grandiloquent emails and letters he has gotten from less skilled attorneys (especially in the domain arena) who thought setting a world record for the number of big words used in a single document would be enough to scare him off!

Above & Below: In a fitting grand finale to the business portion of the 2024 ICA Member Meeting, GoDaddy Domains President Paul Nicks stepped up to the plate for a lively Ask Me Anything session. As the 800-pound gorilla in the domain space, GoDaddy always generates questions about their current operations and future plans. With GoDaddy being a public company, Paul has to be careful about what he says publicly on some topics but despite those constraints there is always a lot to learn from what he can share. 

Above: Ryan Ewen (DomainManage.com), who came over from England, asks a question during the Paul Nicks AMA

Below: During his AMA, Paul occasionally called on GoDaddy's Senior Director - Domains (Sales & Products), Alan Shiflett, to fill in details when questions came up regarding areas that Alan is directly responsible for. Alan, who has been with GoDaddy for 15 years, has helped build GoDaddy into the aftermarket powerhouse they are today with their Afternic and DAN.com brands, along with GoDaddy Auctions.

Above: With the business day done and time to refresh during a 90-minute break, Members started returning to the Orchid Room for the Closing Reception, sponsored by GoDaddy.

Below: The evening began with presentation of the prestigious Lonnie Borck Memorial Award and the announcement from Nat Cohen and Kamila Sekiewicz that members voted to honor the late, great Jason Sheppard with the 7th annual award. The domain investor and DNAcademy (now GoDaddy Domain Academy) instructor was known for his willingness to help anyone who wanted guidance in this industry he loved so much. The award was started in memory of the late beloved domain investor, Lonnie Borck, and goes to a person who has made extraordinary contributions toward fostering a sense of community within the domain name industry.

Above: Jason's friends, Nat Cohen, Braden Pollock (left) and Michael Cyger (right) all offered moving tributes to Jason and told personal stories about their unforgettable experiences with him.

Below: Jason’s sister Kelly (below at right with Kamila Sekiewicz) attended to accept the award on Jason's behalf and shared her family's appreciation to Jason's friends and the domain community for honoring Jason in this way. 

Above & Below: After dinner, members were treated to an astounding show from acclaimed magician and mentalist David Stryker. David did a lot of uncanny things I've never seen anyone do before and I will never figure out how he did them!

Above: David Stryker confounds Ryan Ewen and Todd Ryan by currently guessing things they were thinking without them saying anything.

Below: My favorite moment came immediately after Stryker's show ended. He had given Hani Armstrong a book and asked her to pick a word out of it and remember it without telling him. He then turned his back and scribbled a word on a giant tablet. When he then asked Hani what the word was and she said "firecracker" Stryker held up the tablet with the word he had written on it, firecracker! As soon as the show ended Hani ran up to him and, though I couldn't hear what she said, her expression makes me think it was "How did you DO that!"

It was a great finish to an Annual Meeting that gave members a lot to love about it. ICA membership is a great value too - it allows you to learn from the best, build relationships, protect your investments and even be entertained! What more could you ask for? If domain investing, developing, sales or service provision is your profession I believe you should join this outstanding non-profit organization that has a proven track record of successfully fighting for your rights.



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