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How Dynadot's Todd Han Turned a One Man Show Into One of the World's Fastest Growing Domain Registrars

Todd Han's domain industry journey began over 20 years ago when his mother asked him to build a website for a vacation home she had in Mexico. She was able to keep the project "in house" because Todd was already a computer whiz who had  graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in computer science and had recently added a Master's degree in CS from Stanford as well. When Han started looking at the domain registrars from that era he couldn't find any that he liked, so he decided he would just set up one of his own - after all, how hard could it be? 

"The internet was just taking off and I thought I could build a better registrar," Han recalls. "I was young and naive and had no idea what running a business entailed. I just kind of jumped in!" Todd would spend the next three years as the only employee of his new company and even after he started adding help it took 15 years to hit the key landmark of 1 million registrations. However, all of that time spent building a solid base paid off in a big way over the past five years in which Dynadot has tripled in size, rocketing to 4.5 million domains under management as of this writing. 

Todd Han
Dynadot President and CEO

In a social media driven era when so many new enterprises seem to be built on non-stop hype of unproven products, it is encouraging to see that slow and steady can still win the race. Dynadot, a long time favorite with domain investors, is one of those companies that is not just still standing, it is explosively expanding. Meanwhile, most of those ephemeral enterprises that were built solely on style rather than substance, have faded away. 

When you want to understand how an entrepreneur built something that has stood the test of time, you have to know what makes him or her tick. The way they think about things and do things are usually ingrained long before they arrive in the business world - and that was certainly the case with Todd Han. 

"I was born in Taiwan but my family moved to the United States when I was 4 years old," Todd began. "Growing up, my mother was always telling me things like "Study hard in school or you won't be able to afford nice things in life" or "You better finish your meal, there are starving children in the world."  I rolled my eyes when I heard those things growing up, but now I am saying them to my own children!," Todd smiled. 

When his family settled into their new home in the San Francisco Bay area, Han immediately showed a knack for building things, spending hours at a time constructing spaceships and robots with his favorite toy, Legos. He also soaked up new technology like a sponge. "I 

Todd Han (left) with his brother in Taiwan

discovered computers in middle school and I have loved them ever since," Han said. "I especially loved programming computers.  My first computer was Radio Shack TRS-80 that I programmed in the Basic language."

College days at UC-Berkeley

When Todd reached high school he quickly stood out with his mastery of  math and science. "I was a obsessive about doing well in school," Han recalled. "I studied hours every day and graduated near the top of my class." His academic record got him into UC Berkeley, a school that, along with UCLA, is tied for the #1 ranking of America's public universities.

As Todd told Leona Chen in a 2021 article she wrote for the Dynadot Blog, "My parents had very high expectations for my brother and I.  So I worked very hard to graduate 3rd in my class at Palo Alto High School. Looking back, it was pretty difficult and required a lot of sacrifices but I would say my background gave me the grit and perseverance to succeed as an entrepreneur. There will always be mistakes and obstacles that come up when you’re running a business and my upbringing taught me how to recover and recuperate from setbacks. " 

After college, Todd's first job was with a startup called Wink Communications. "The company wrote embedded software for set top boxes for the cable industry. I worked there as a software engineer for four years.

We programmed in C and a little assembly. Then I went back to graduate school at Stanford and after getting the Masters degree I took a couple years off and learned web programming," Han said.

The next step in 2002 was the one that set the path he has been on for the past 21 years - launching his own domain registrar with Dynadot - a name he created by merging the words Dynamic and Dot. "I started the company out of my house to keep costs low," Han said. "For the first few years I did everything. I wrote the code, I did customer service. I did the bookkeeping. Even on vacation I would be checking customer service, which was very annoying to my wife!"

This is where is all started for Dynadot - a small office in founder Todd Han's home.

"I still remember getting our first order. I was so excited I was jumping up and down in my home office!," Han remembered fondly. At that time the registry charged $6 wholesale for a domain and there was no ICANN fee. Dynadot charged $7.99 retail.  However, before Han made that first sale he had already learned that there was going to be a lot more to make a domain registration business work than he originally thought. 

"When I first applied back in 2001, there was a $3,000 ICANN application fee to become a registrar. I remember asking Ellen Sondheim if I would get my money back if I wasn't approved. They also required a bank account with a $70,000 balance," Todd recalled. He made it over those hurdles but now had to contend with the kind of expenses business owners of all kinds have to deal with.

"Our largest expense by far is registry fees," Han said. "After that it is payroll for our team. We run a very lean operation to keep our prices as low as possible. I like to believe we treat our employees well. Many of our early employees are still with us to this day. They are all managers now and basically run the business. I am just the coordinator at this point." Even so, there is a lot to co-ordinate these days. Dynadot, who is based in San Mateo, California with additional offices in Toronto and Beijing, has over 100,000 customers representing 108 countries around the world and a staff that has grown to over 130 team members to take care of them.

Todd Han (at far right) with some of the Dynadot crew 
at the 2023 NamesCon Global conference in Austin, Texas.

Many of Dynadot's most loyal customers are domain investors. They first popped up on my radar over a decade ago when I saw members of the NamePros domain forum raving about the registrar (to this day Dynadot wins an annual Favorite Registrar poll at the forum year after year). Han has appreciated that support and the love is mutual.

"Due to our low prices and powerful control panel, we naturally started attracting domain investors," Han said. "We started receiving feature requests from them and really started tailoring our system for investors. Now we support almost anything an investor might want including an extensive API, a powerful control panel, low prices, and responsive customer service. Our aftermarket services are also substantial with full Afternic and SedoMLS integration, free for-sale landers, free domain watch list and tracker tools, an active marketplace and expired auctions."

This summer Dynadot users saw a major makeover of the brand's website. A lot more goes into a project like that than most people realize. "Although we have our own design team, we decided to hire an outside firm to work on our rebrand," Han said. "Fresh eyes can bring new inspiration, a new calculus. After interviewing five or six  different firms, we choose Flowstate Branding based out of Colorado. It was actually a difficult creative process. Countless meetings, discussions, revisions. Our designers are extremely exacting, and Flowstate had a new vision that took us a while to digest. We restarted from scratch a couple times. However the best art arises from constraint and conflict." 

A screenshot from our bookmarked domain search page on Dynadot's revamped website. 
The bottom row is a scrolling list of domains currently listed in Dynadot auctions. 

Looking back at how far Dynadot has come, Han has good reason to be happy. It has been a long journey and while he could have ramped up growth more quickly in the early years it would have come at a cost he wasn't willing to pay. "I decided from the beginning not to take investment from private equity or venture capital firms," Todd said. "I wanted to maintain control of the company, so we could make the best decisions for our customers and our team. Because of this we grew slowly at first. We took our time building an amazing team and technical foundation for the company and after we hit a million domains we reached critical mass. The growth the last few years has been particularly strong."

Dynadots's year-by-year growth chart shows the registrar's surge over the past 5 years. 

Looking ahead, Han said, "My hope is that Dynadot continues to build beautiful products and provide excellent customer service. A full 52% of our team is in engineering and design. Another 32% is in customer service. We are fully committed to the customer experience. Our current business goal is to reach 10 million domains. We will be a top 5 registrar worldwide at that time and we anticipate reaching that goal in the next few years."

As with any business, the health of the general economy will play a role in Dynadot's rate of future growth. Han noted, "I am cautious about the economy. Europe and China are in recession. The US Fed overnight rate has risen from 1% to 6% in less than a year. Rising interest rates are bad for all asset classes including domain names. The US commercial real estate market is in decline already. That said, Dynadot is still growing steadily. We are on track to have our best year ever in 2023. Though I think our growth is at the expense of other registrars, and not due to industry growth."

After reading about Han's obsession with academic achievement in his youth and business success over the past two decades, you might expect him to be a workaholic but he still has a firm grasp on what is most important in life. "I spend a lot of time with my family and we have twin daughters who are in high school now. My favorite hobbies are ultimate frisbee and Argentine tango dancing," Todd added. "I guess you can say I have been bitten by the ballroom dancing bug."

"At work I spend all my time in front of the computer thinking deeply about company strategy or writing Java code. Dancing allows me to decompress and live in the present. It allows me to express my non-logical artistic side and I get to meet all kinds of people and have made many new friends."

At right and at far left below: Todd Han unwinding on the ballroom dance floor.

Below: Todd Han mixing it up in a different arena during an Ultimate frisbee game.

Whether it is at work or at play, Todd Han will continue to rely on the values he learned in childhood - strive to be the best you can be in whatever you do!




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