Interview with Gary Millin CEO of WorldAccelerator.com
Todays interview is with Gary Millin CEO of WorldAccelerator.com, This is a great read for anyone who not only is a domainer but has a strong interest in building an actual business out of a premium generic domain name. I have known the World Media Group team for a few years now and both Gary and Gerry are two outstanding businessmen who I know shall succeed with World Accelerator as they have in their other business ventures and I wish them both the best of luck.
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Gary Millin is CEO of World Accelerator where he oversees the program matching World Media Group’s premium domain names with the best teams and ensures they have the tools to develop vibrant high value businesses. World acts as an incubator to accelerate and ensure the successful launch of each of the companies. Since joining World in 2007, Gary has worked closely with top management teams to bring to market leading businesses at Doctor.com, Lawyer.com, India.com, USA.com, Popstar.com, London.com, Paris.com, and Madrid.com. Together World affiliated companies under Gary’s guidance have seen an average of 45% per annum revenue expansion and today generate 20 million visitors a month.
Previously, Gary was President of MediaSentry Inc. where he built the company from 4 to 60 people in the digital media security space and orchestrated a sale to SafeNet (“NASDAQ:SFNT”) in 2005 . Before that he co-founded Mail.com in 1995 which he took public as President alongside Gerry Gorman in 1999 (“NASDAQ:MAIL”). Mail.com pioneered many consumer facing email features and grew to a $1 billion company with 20 million subscribers and 1400 employees at its peak. Before Mail.com, Millin worked for Consumer Venture Partners, a leading Connecticut based provider of capital to promising consumer brands such as Samuel Adams and Gymboree. Millin was a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School, where he received his MBA and holds a BS degree in Economics with honors from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania.
What is the World Accelerator program launched on WorldAccelerator.com
World Accelerator is the first ever Domain Accelerator and gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop a business based on prime Internet real estate. We offer capital and mentorship like a typical accelerator. In addition, with ownership of 1000 tier one domains, World Accelerator is in a unique position to go a step further by providing access to highly recognizable and brandable domains and an engaged audience. Over the last ten years, the cost and time needed to bring exciting and disruptive businesses to market has dramatically compressed. However, building credibility with customers, partners and your brand still takes time. World Accelerator changes this paradigm, turning it upside down as companies can now start with a powerful existing brand on day one.
Why has World Media Group Decided to launch this platform?
World Media Group is a pioneer in the domain industry and has strong roots in the formation of rapidly growing businesses. The World team owns a large portfolio of premium domain names. We understand the value of the brands and therefore our core business has been to develop these assets ourselves or with partners. Over the last 5 years we have successfully developed numerous domain names into businesses, proving the model which is the foundation of the new accelerator. With the launch of the accelerator we are looking to expand our reach to find more talented teams that can benefit from these brands and see more strong businesses come to market.
Would you say domain parking is dead? Is this not a business model for your company any further?
Domain parking is not dead and has its place in the market. While domain parking revenue is flat to down over the last several years it is still a low cost effective way to monetize a domain name that you are not developing. However, while parking is a nice high margin cash business it is not a growth business. With parking you are not building repeat users or long term customers. You are not building your presence on search engines. So for top domain names my strong opinion is that with the right team and plan the much bigger opportunity is development.
Rick Schwartz has launched a similar idea with his new company JointVenutures.com how does World Accelerator differ? i.e – Shall you only focus on partnerships for development or be open to Leases of domains.
I have known Rick for some time and he has had a huge and positive impact on the domain community over the years especially via TRAFFIC. I believe Rick is moving in the right direction with his JointVentures.com website. His platform offers creative financing options and revenue share deals to parties interested in his domains as an alternative to an upfront purchase. World Accelerator is quite a bit different. At our core we are an Accelerator. I have studied the leading accelerators in the market for over 18 months and have put together a platform that is closer to the best accelerators such as Y Combinator or Techstars. Like these accelerators we offer burgeoning startups access to capital and mentors. However we go a step further and offer our participants access to a leading brand and an engaged audience.
How are these partnership deals going to be structured? – I assume each shall differ but are you looking at straight 50/50 on revenue, 20% equity in a newly formed llc etc…
Robbie you are right that deals will differ depending on several factors. The good news is that we have done a dozen deals over the last 5 years on our domains and so we have good experience and metrics about what works and what does not work. They all take on some form of a very attractive license to allow the entrepreneur to have time to use and build into the brand. This is followed by the ability for the entrepreneur or team to acquire the asset at a capped price in the future as they prove successful. For the capital contribution and use of the brand, World Accelerator gets some ownership for upside. We often get very excited about the companies that we invest in and back and are usually willing to trade more upside for lower prices. That all said, I do business by one simple rule, both parties should feel that they got a winning deal and both parties must be well aligned to help drive success.
You have stated “the World Accelerator program will have access to capital and mentoring” Can you explain in more detail, Shall World Media Group be investing their own capital into these projects or shall you seek funding together?
The short answer is both. As an accelerator, like other accelerators, we provide initial seed capital that can be used for additional growth. We have also participated in follow-on investments in portfolio companies as parts of larger rounds. However that is just a small part of our funding contribution. Our team has over 50 years of combined experience raising capital from a range of sources. We are well acquainted with the community of angel investors and venture capitalists and know how to find financing through seed funding, strategic debt, M&A and IPO’s. World Accelerator works closely with our team to ensure they have the right story and a successful plan to access capital as needed.
Who are the mentors in the World Accelerator program?
Our team is made up of serial entrepreneurs and investors that love building and seeing innovative businesses built. The team has experience at every stage of the business cycle including starting, growing, building, and selling companies. We have worked both as entrepreneurs and as venture capitalists and understand what it takes to build a company and finance for success. We have started and run a public company and raised over $250 million of start-up and growth capital and over a $1 billion of later stage capital for our own and other companies.
In addition, we have a terrific team of mentors that get excited about helping up and coming teams. Our mentors are from all over the world and include VC’s, serial entrepreneurs and angel investors who are leaders in their field with a proven track record of success to provide valuable mentorship for participants. We work to ensure a good balance of skills with our group of mentors. We take a lot of criteria into consideration including leadership skills, prior experiences, vertical expertise and an interest in entrepreneurship and helping others. You can see some of the mentors listed at our site in the about us section. Since launching last week we have received a positive response from the community and are in the process of adding even more mentors.
You have seen impressive growth with your developed platforms such as Doctor.com, Lawyer.com, India.com, USA.com, Popstar.com, London.com, Paris.com, and Madrid.com – How has this been achieved? i.e. Unique Content, building a team to work 100% on these domains only etc?
Our recipe for success is simple. Great Idea + Great Team + Strong Plan + Right Brand. When all these come together we have seen the best returns. Of course each of these elements can be expanded on. Great Team means that you have good vertical expertise to go after your specific market. Also your team needs to be poised for agile development and rapid deployment to take advantage of the growth that comes from bringing the brand to market. A great idea should be disruptive or have strong user value in a big market. A strong plan must have the right get to market strategy. And all this should take advantage of the right brand. When these elements come together the brand can be exploited to open doors and provide credibility with customers and enhance conversions. That gives these companies and edge over their competitors.
What are your current thoughts on the domain industry? i.e GTLDS, Current Sales within the market place, Parking etc?
As mentioned our core focus at World has been on development over sales. So I have a sense of domain sales, but I do not follow it monthly. For development we have seen that the domain name is strong asset much like owning a beachfront location or Madison avenue store in the offline world. There is huge potential that can be exploited with the right developer.
gTLDs are interesting and will have some buzz, but there are only a handful that will make economic sense to run. .Com will retain its brand as it will still retain the super majority of marketing dollars on a global basis. I would make the point that there are already over 270 operating TLD’s and yet the .Com brand continues to grow in global power and brand awareness. Even my kids when referring to their favorite TV channel ask to watch NickJr.com instead of the channel number or Nick Jr and they are just watching the TV show. There are now over 105 million .Com’s registered which is amazingly 7x the next largest TLD (.Net).
Parking I mentioned above is a good cash business, but it is not a growth business. With the accelerator our objective is development and growth.