Before you can start up a business - any business - customers
need to be able to find you. On the Internet, your address is your
domain name; the part of an Internet address that comes after the
www. With the unparalleled growth of the Internet, dot com domain
names continue to sell like hotcakes. Currently, there are more than
20 million dot com domains, and over 34 million total domains
registered worldwide. Industry experts forecast that more than 500
million domains will be registered in the next ten years. In fact,
reliable sources from companies like Intel are predicting that every
personal computer in the future will have its own domain name.
1998, the dot com craze was beginning to ramp up to unbelievable
proportions. So many Internet companies sprouted up in Silicon
Valley, and elsewhere, that companies not swept up in the hysteria
were thought to be missing out. But, while most people were focused
on things like Content, Banner Ads and Bandwidth, Michael Starr and
Alan Ezeir, the CEO and President respectively of Global Domains
International, Inc. (GDI), recognized another opportunity that was
largely ignored; they wondered, "Besides dot com, are there other
extensions that businesses could use as a domain name?"
Alan were aware that in the mid 1990's, the Internet
Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned each nation a country
code. These codes were designed to give each country an address to
use for their own Internet needs. For instance, the United States
was assigned .us, Australia .au, Ireland .ie. "We knew that a good,
easy-to-remember country code could be marketable globally as a
viable alternative to .com," said Alan. "And so," Mike added, "we
ordered some pizza, locked ourselves in a room, and went through the
entire list of countries to pinpoint the best possible code."
They ultimately focused on the domain extension .WS -- which
belongs to the tiny island nation of Samoa, deep in the South
Pacific. "We thought that the abbreviation .WS could be successfully
marketed worldwide as the 'WebSite' top-level domain," said Mike.
"There were a small handful of other viable options, but through
resolve and perseverance, we found that some countries were already
using their domain locally, and not interested in becoming an 'open'
or 'global' registry. With a population of less than 200,000 people,
Samoa had yet to utilize their domain on a massive scale. And, none
of the other countries' domains compared to the potential branding
power of .WS to signify 'WebSite'. After all," Mike happily
exclaimed, "everyone in the free world knows what a web site is!"
Audio: 23 Minute Interview with the Founders
The island nation of Samoa is part of a group
of islands and islets in the south-central Pacific Ocean about 1,600
miles (2,600 km) northeast of New Zealand. It is completely separate
and independent of its U.S. cousin, American Samoa. Its form of
government consists of a Prime Minister, Parliament and, as
head-of-state, a King. The country's primary exports range from
coconut cream and beer, to automotive wiring-harnesses and
All business professionals know that having an idea is one
thing, but executing the idea is quite another. Mike and Alan knew
that the idea of marketing an alternative to dot com had tremendous
Yet, they both recognized that they'd need more perseverance
and a little luck to pull it off. "Remember, we were paddling
against the current," Mike said. "Back then, most people were still
branding businesses with dot com. Quite frankly, nearly
everyone thought we were wasting our time."
After a series of overseas phone calls and e-mails to Samoan
officials, a date was set for Mike and Alan to meet with the leading
figures of Samoa, including the King and his Prime Minister. In less
than a week, Mike and Alan put together a presentation detailing
their plans for their appropriation of the technical and marketing
operations of Samoa's top-level domain extension, ".WS."
as not to take any chances, Mike and Alan devoured reams of
information about the nation of Samoa, familiarizing themselves with
as many of its customs and traditions as possible. While Alan busily
acquainted himself with appropriate etiquette when meeting with
Samoan government officials, Mike worked on ensuring that the
proposal they would present to the Samoans was as interesting and
worthwhile as possible. "I had to make certain the Samoans
understood that we looked at the opportunity as a joint relationship
that would ultimately benefit their entire nation," said Mike.
One major risk gnawed at Alan and Mike: they really didn't
have anything significant to immediately offer the country, except
for their business ingenuity and know-how. Although Mike and Alan
were successful marketing experts in the U.S., convincing an entire
nation to trust them on what appeared to be a hunch would be
difficult, at best.
"There was mounting pressure by some of our consultants to
offer the Samoan government cash up-front. Otherwise, they felt we'd
lose the deal and someone else could come in and take over," Alan
said. "However, we knew the culture of Samoa was much different than
here in the States, and that 'buying off' anyone is not the way we
do business! As a result," Alan continued, "we came up with an
alternative proposal we thought better accommodated the cultural
demands of the country."
The day finally arrived to travel directly to Samoa . . .
well, almost directly! To get to Samoa via the U.S., one has to
first fly from the mainland to Honolulu. Easy enough. "We hopped on
the flight to Honolulu, still pinching ourselves to make sure this
was really happening," Mike said. "It all happened so fast; one
moment we were selling long distance air time, the next minute our
idea of 'air-time' was how long it would take to fly to Samoa."
The plane landed in Honolulu without any
problems. They boarded their connecting flight to Samoa, finally
beginning to relax. Three hours into the flight the pilot announced
the plane had encountered some mechanical problems. The plane's
landing lights were inoperable, and there were no repair facilities
open in Samoa. As a result, the pilot turned the flight around and
headed back to Hawaii. "We were completely dejected," Mike said.
"All of our preparation came to a screeching halt . . . all because
some light bulbs weren't working!" After the plane landed safely in
Honolulu, the glum business partners entered a deserted Hawaiian
But, as had happened all along, luck was once more on their
side. An Air New Zealand flight that travels to Samoa only once a
week "just so happened" to be at the terminal, scheduled to leave in
less than 45 minutes. "We were shocked and thrilled. I've never run
so fast in my life!" Alan said. They both hopped onto the flight
hoping this plane's landing lights worked!
After landing in Samoa with a whopping two hours to spare,
"Mike was looking a bit ragged but I looked good," Alan laughed. "We
went over our presentation one last time, trying to get into the
mind-set as to how a true Samoan would give the presentation."
The meeting started with all the appropriate government
members present. Mike and Alan pitched the Prime Minister on the
fact that the domain extension they presently owned, .WS, would be
perfectly suited to market worldwide. With the correct marketing
idea behind it, there was no reason why the .WS extension could not
be recognized as the major alternative to dot com.
Everyone at the meeting studied the 20-page proposal that
Mike and Alan finalized on their midnight flight from Honolulu. "The
Samoans do things with a great deal of trust and understanding of
the people involved," Mike stated. "Because of our due diligence, we
knew that providing a detailed legal agreement might have actually
worked against us. So, the clincher was more about the fact that we
came across as sincere and honest."
"We needed to give them reasons to trust us," Mike continued.
"I believe we did just that." A visit to the King's home helped
cement a relationship they hoped would become long-term. "He was a
kind, gentle person, concerned that what we wanted to do was in the
best interest of his people," Alan said.
The meetings ended on a congenial note with Mike and Alan
satisfied that they had successfully completed the task they had set
out to accomplish. Since their flight was not leaving the island for
a few days, they went into vacation mode, spending time exploring
Samoa's beautiful, pristine beaches and lush tropical
negotiations had been concluded, Mike and Alan flew back to the
States confident that the deal was completed. Unfortunately, they
waited another few months to discover that their proposal had, in
fact, been rejected. It seems that after making their presentation,
no less than a half dozen companies from the United States and other
countries were also granted an opportunity to offer presentations to
the Samoan government. So much time had passed since Mike and Alan's
initial visit, that it seemed inevitable the Samoans might have been
deluged with other information, including various claims of
potential profits by other groups wanting to do a similar deal. "I
wanted to give up," Alan said. "I felt we had given it our best
shot, but it just wasn't meant to be."
Mike, however, had another idea. He tracked down the local
Samoan government's majority-owned technology company that was
ultimately granted the domain contract, and placed a call to its
General Manager. "The company was local on the island, so I had a
hunch that their ability to market the domains globally would be
limited," said Mike. "I had to change my way of thinking. So, I
pitched him on the idea that we should partner together, and he
November 2000, less than nine months after launching .WS to the
global Internet community, GDI announced it had sold over 100,000
.WS registrations to customers such as Yahoo!, Intel, Cisco, Dell
Computers, and other companies and individuals in more than 180
And the Samoans?
"They originally wanted to wait to
see just how well we performed," Mike said. "They proposed that, as
a test, our Company had to produce 15,000 registrations in just
three years. We did that in the first month," Alan proudly stated.
"The Nation of Samoa now receives a percentage of all .WS domain
sales that GDI generates, and is delighted with our success.
Our company is proud of our exclusive agreement to distribute .WS worldwide."
proud and exciting as the beginning of .WS was for Mike and Alan,
the future is what excites them most. Just before .WS recorded its
first registration, Mike and Alan knew the time had arrived to begin
building their business to reflect its quickly changing personality
-- from a forty-person shop to that of a multi-national corporate
conglomerate. To accomplish this, Mike and Alan focused on
surrounding themselves with intelligent people who were filled with
enthusiasm, and had the capacity to help launch their business on an
international scale. In addition, the .WS founders beefed up their
marketing outreach with ad placements in Fortune Magazine,
The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Additional ads
appeared in Major League Baseball's 2000 World Series program, and
thousands of radio spots aired in large urban markets. Mike and Alan
also invested heavily in the company's infrastructure, ensuring that
the anticipated volume of registrations would be handled with
relative ease and no downtime.
now, what do Mike and Alan have to say about their "idea," a little
more than a year after their harried plane-trip across the Pacific?
Mike said, "It's all about taking a risk and believing in a concept
enough to drop everything and make it a reality." Alan concurs. "We
are extremely excited about what the next few years have in store
for everyone who joins us as we make .WS the global standard for
||"This is just the beginning..."
the 2002 Special issue of Inc. magazine, GDI placed
#37 on the Inc. 500 "List" of the USA's 500 fastest growing
private companies and #5 in the state of California.
"The truly exciting thing about GDI making the Inc. 500 List
is the fact that we've barely even begun!" says Mike. "We've gotten
to this level by serving only that tiny minority of Internet users
who even know what a 'domain name' is and why they need one. We've
actually begun to create a market by introducing .ws domains to the
masses, with our turnkey, extremely affordable and easy to use
packages of domain names, self-service instant websites, and
personal email services. We're actually 'targeting' the other 99+%
of the Internet community - families, single people, children,
seniors, and small businesses - the vast majority of whom are new to domain names and just
need something simple and affordable to get them excited. That is
literally hundreds of millions of people globally who are prospects
for our service."
Michael Starr oversees,
directs, and integrates the creative and marketing departments, as
well as the technical division of Global Domains International, Inc.
(GDI), which maintains the Registry for all ".WS" domain names
worldwide (http://WebSite.WS). His management
responsibilities include a broad range of data management and
security for GDI and all its services, including online order
processing for all domain names worldwide, local and web database
management for Domain Name Services (DNS), and all additional
features in domain name management for GDI. Starr's focus for
managing the Registry from its inception has been focused on
redundancy in all systems and personnel, high system performance,
and transparent expandability (scalability). No expense has been
spared to meet these three core objectives.
Michael also manages a large staff of technical professionals
that maintain the Registry around the clock. Additionally, he works
with GDI's creative and marketing departments, continually
introducing new programs that promote .WS to the international
Michael co-founded FreedomStarr Communications, Inc., d.b.a.
Planet Earth Communications (PEC) in October 1995, which currently
maintains licenses in most of the United States for certified
telecommunications services, and supports thousands of users in each
Michael has been involved in entrepreneurial activities for
more than 20 years and has extensive knowledge in direct marketing
and affiliate marketing distribution, as well as in software systems
necessary to track agent sales and activities. Michael majored in
Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Alan Ezeir has established a track
record of success in e-commerce, telecommunications, and in several
other fast-paced entrepreneurial/start-up environments. Before
founding GDI with Michael, Alan was head of USVT, a switchless
telecommunications reseller in Northern California. Under his
leadership, USVT developed a broad distribution base throughout
California, and increased monthly revenues by a record six fold.
1991, Alan founded Intelligent Communications Management; a business
instrumental in helping small to large companies determine the most
proficient telecommunications carriers to suit their requirements.
Alan is responsible for multiple strategic projects at GDI;
setting guidelines for meeting revenue goals, providing crucial
leadership in generating new revenues, projecting sales forecasts,
and monitoring the company's cash expenditures. Ezeir is also
co-founder of FreedomStarr Communications, Inc., and manages the
accounting, finance, contractual, and operations of GDI.
Alan is an active member of Young Presidents Organization
(YPO) and the current and founding alumni president of the Southern
California Entrepreneurial Academy Alumni Association (SCEAA); an
organization that works closely with the development of
entrepreneurs in Southern California. The organization pairs
emerging entrepreneurs with successful entrepreneurs.
With a vision to navigate the course of the company as it
enters the new millennium, Alan is vigilant in his continued search
to develop successful new business horizons. He earned his
Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from UCLA.
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