Quick Chat with Robbie Birkner (Founder, Chief Strategy Officer) Hexonet
Q1) Robbie can you tell us your background in the domaining
Thank you very much for this interview and for allowing us to provide you some background on HEXONET.
I have been working in the Domain industry for over 12 years specializing mainly in registrar operations. My career started back in 2000 with a small registrar that no body knew about. With a good friend of mine, Jens Wagner, we took this small registrar and grew its reseller division into a multimillion dollar operation. Today that small registrar is now one of Europe's largest and is a major player worldwide.
In 2006, I left Germany to pursue an opportunity with DomainPeople Inc., a pioneer and one of the industry's first ever registrars. I was to head up DomainPeople in Vancouver, Canada and be an executive in its parent company Hostway. Within a year, I was promoted to General Manager of Canadian Operations of Hostway. And though Hostway was a great experience, in May of 2008, I decided to consult for the .ME registry as the Director of Sales. Hosting was an experience, but I really wanted to get back to my roots and passion which was always domains. So at .ME, the fantastic team and I went through a number of highly successful launch phases, built out an amazing registrar distribution channel, and even executed a premium domain strategy that produced multiple high value domain auctions for the registry.
In 2009, Jens Wagner and I decided to get back together and open the Canadian division of HEXONET. Jens, had also moved on and was building another great registrar and reseller business - HEXONET. And though he had an amazing technical team of engineers and support personnel, we knew that by combining forces once again, we could take HEXONET into overdrive. The growth, success and fun we have had with HEXONET has since been amazing. Most of this is however due to the amazing employees we have who are all truly HEXONERDS.
That is an excellent question. There are multiple reasons for
1. Though it is a cliche, we actually care about our partners and customers. Our clients will tell you that HEXONET goes above and beyond. Our clients let us know what they need and if it is possible we try to make it happen. This is our passion and drive.
2. HEXONET makes domains super easy. The idea is to offer a wide (one of the widest anywhere) selections of TLDs with some of the most competitive prices connected through a single interface. Companies, resellers, and clients come to HEXONET to consolidate and simplify their domains under a single roof.
3. HEXONET also offers multiple ways to connect with us, whatever way is most simple for the client. Clients connect with us through our 6 different APIs, two different plugin modules (WHMCS/AWBS) or our comprehensive and free web control panel.
4. Large resellers or domainers with big portfolios come to us to become an ICANN accredited registrar. We provide an efficient solution for them via our registrarOC (registrar Operations Center) product, that basically takes care of everything technical (operational testing, WHOIS Services, Registrar Data Escrow, and more) so they can easily become their own registrar.
At the end of the day, business is always personal. Our clients appreciate the fact that we are approachable and that we are willing to listen to their needs. Customer service and personal relations always trumps technology.
Q3) Can you explain the process for placing back orders and how things work at PremiumSale.com ?
HEXONET accepts backordering directly through an individual's own account or through a reseller for the following TLDs:
- gTLDs: .ASIA, .BIZ, .COM, .INFO, .MOBI, .NET and .ORG
- ccTLDs: .CA, .CC, .CH, .CO, .DE, .LI, .ME, .NU, .SE, .TV and .US
Step 1: Search for a domain by looking through our various DELETE LISTS. The lists provide deletion dates and also rank values (based on a HEXONET algorithm). Simply choose from the list or enter any domain (even if the domain is not expiring).
Step 2: 24-hours prior to the drop date of a domain, a deposit is withdrawn from a user's account to cover a successful backorder registration. If the backorder is unsuccessful, the deposit is automatically returned. If the backorder is the only one on system (single backorder) and is successfully registered, the deposit is used for registration and the domain is automatically assigned to the user's account.
Step 3: When multiple backorders are received for the same expiring domain and HEXONET is successful in registering the desired domain, then the following steps are taken:
- All deposits are immediately returned to their respective accounts at HEXONET
- Only those individuals who placed a backorder for the domain receive a PRIVATE AUCTION invitation (via email) to be conducted at PremiumSale.com
- At the conclusion of a private auction and payment is secured at PremiumSale.com, the domain is automatically allocated to the HEXONET account of the winning bidder.
A significant feature of Backordering at HEXONET is our reseller backorder commissions. Resellers like promoting backordering to their customers since they could possibly earn fairly large commissions without doing anything. And larger portfolio clients happily use the commission as a direct rebate savings on their auction cost.
As a side note to our backorder system, though obtaining .COM and .NET domains is more a pure numbers (threads) game, many of our customers are reporting that our system seems to be better at obtaining domains from other TLD registries. HEXONET does use a propitiatory algorithm for these other TLDs and has historically seen many good results.
Q4) What are the challenges you see in the registrar business ?
I foresee multiple challenges for registrars:
a. Renegotiation of Registrar Accreditation Agreement with ICANN.
Registrars are likely to have increasingly more difficult obligations surrounding WHOIS Verification. The additional verification burden on the registrars will raise operating costs and will likely result in higher prices.
b. NewTLDs - Preparation and Customer Education
The first few hundred newTLDs are just around the corner. Registrars need to figure out which newTLDs to offer. Depending on their operational platform, this may be a simple endeavor or something more difficult (technology barriers, engineering resources, etc.). Additionally, registrars need to find ways to present the newTLDs that make sense. Ideally, asking 3-5 questions in the domain search could produce more meaningful options for the customer, but unfortunately this takes way too long. As you see, at HEXONET we are already experimenting with solutions to this problem.
c. Shrinking Margins - Outsourcing
Margins are shrinking and as a result the challenge is how to lower your costs. This exact problem is why many of HEXONET clients are registrars themselves. Outsourcing is a path that makes a lot of economical sense since at least with HEXONET there is zero upfront capital cost and registrars pay on a per domain basis. A challenge for each registrar is to identify which operations to keep in-house and which to outsource.
Some TLDs will be very successful, others will not. However, we believe that some newTLDs will actually drive innovation on the Internet and will make substantial impacts on our industry. HEXONET's role as a registrar remains the same, to enable individuals/corporations worldwide to register and manage their domains, quickly, securely, and reliably.
Ray, once again thank you so much for this opportunity. I greatly appreciated it. If anyone has any additional questions they should feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.