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With, the Internet's latest free service, you can be,

Master of Your Domain

Interview With Bruce Keiser, President of


by Don Hamilton



Just in time for Christmas the Internet has produced another present for the world. It seems to happen every year: first free email, then free space on Web sites and free computers. The Web is always producing something new and exciting that a few years later seems as though it has always been there. This year's present is free domain names from

That would have been enough but there's more. The free domain name comes with the ability to point it to any file or directory you wish. If you have a free account on a server it takes 10 seconds to make that your home page and aim your domain at it. Once you have the domain name (firstnamelast, for example) you can pass out email addresses, as many as you like, to anyone you want with your domain name:

The process only takes a few seconds. You go to the administration page of your NAMEzero site and enter the address you want someone to have. You then enter their current email address and a few seconds later when you send email to the new address it arrives at the original address the person had. Say the Smith family was having a reunion. They could get the address and then assign an address such as for Uncle Bob. Email at that address would automatically be sent to his previous account

Bruce Keiser is the president of, the personal portal company that runs I talked to him on the phone and in the WWWiz office.


WWWiz: Where did you get the money to start


Bruce: We raised a combination of what we call smart angel money and venture capital, mainly angel money. We were able to do that because our technology was developed fairly far along. Our founders are very experienced people.


WWWiz: So the first money in was angel money?


Bruce: Yes.


WWWiz: How much money did it take to start this company?


Bruce: Our company again is a little different than a typical company would be. We raised about $600,000 in the first round, which was used to get the company from ground zero to where it is now.


WWWiz: Was ground zero about six months ago?


Bruce: Yes. Again because our technology was a little further evolved, we were clear in what we needed to do and we were able to do it very quickly. We were able to move a lot faster and create more value than most would be able to do in the same amount of time.


WWWiz: How many people were involved at the start?


Bruce : Three founders.


WWWiz: How many people do you have today?


Bruce: We have about six full time and two who are part time. About 12 people are actively helping the company. We are believers in outsourcing. It's a good thing to do for a young company because you get a lot of leverage and you don't have as many headaches. Things like accounting, software, Web development and more. It is our experience that when you hook up with companies that you can trust and do good work, it saves you a lot of money and time through the leverage. The cost-to-benefit ratio is in our favor and it allows us to do a lot more work. Our software outsource partner has 200 people. If I need 200 people, I can hire them instantly and have the capability of what 200 people can do. It's an important model to follow because you just can't move quick enough in this Internet economy and do it all yourself. We will never have a huge technical or legal staff.

WWWiz: How many people have signed up so far?

Bruce: We are approaching 55,000.


WWWiz: I have tested your product and can say it is great but when will others be registered and able to go live with a domain name?


Bruce: We have for the last month or so been registering people's domain names. Then we will be rolling out a preview version of the full service within the next two weeks [end of November, first week of December]. People have been getting their domain names and continue to do so. What we are working on is improving the interface. Functionally the service has been working great for six months but the template needs to be made pretty. Channels, email and all that stuff will be available right away.


WWWiz: How do you prevent people from cheating and getting more than one domain name?


Bruce : We have a way of verifying that a person is a person. When you currently sign up for a domain name today you have to enter a lot of information about yourself. I don't want to challenge hackers to get around that but it's fairly secure.


WWWiz: If I already own a domain name can I transfer it from my current register to you guys?


Bruce: Yes. If you want the portal service you can transfer your name to our service.

WWWiz : I didn't see that option on the site. How do I make a transfer?


Bruce: We will address that by the time we launch our preview service. You will definitely be able to do that.


WWWiz: What about the other side of the coin? What if my little site becomes very successful and I don't want the frame with channels and your advertisements on the personal portal anymore? Is it easy to change and can I do that with you and not move my registration?


Bruce: We will have a term of service contract that will allow you to do whatever you want with your domain name. It will not be a punishment. For example if you come to us a month after you register your name and you want to move it, you will be able to do that for a lot less money than you would have paid if you went out and bought it in the first place. Even people who leave us, and we hope no one does, but we want those people to be happy and think that they got value. For those people who just want to buy a domain, we will have a world-wide low-cost leader. If you want to buy multiple domains on a wholesale basis, we will have sort of a guaranteed low price. This will be particularly useful for businesses that find it more appropriate to just use a domain name.


WWWiz: What is the cost of a domain name for you guys? What does it really cost to do a registration?


Bruce: The cost is in the teens.


WWWiz: What is the actual cost to you to register a domain and how much do you have to pay to have the name listed?


Bruce: There is a component of both in that price. That is just sort of an estimate. We are an ICAN accredited registrar; consequently we can buy wholesale.


WWWiz: Who handles the database of names now?


Bruce: There is one registry for .com, .net, .edu and .org names and that is Network Solutions. They maintain the master root server database of all those names registered worldwide. The registrars register names and send them to the registry so you can get access when you do a whois. We will do that and we will actually host the domain names for the people who register a name. We will host your domain but where you put your information of course is up to you. Right now we are a registrar for .com, .net and .org names. We can offer UK country code names right off the bat. We will be able in the future to offer other top-level domain names whether they are country codes or other top-level domain names.


WWWiz : How long will Network Solutions keep the database of all the names?


Bruce: NSI just signed a deal with ICAN that gives NSI the exclusive right to operate and maintain the registry database for the next four years.


WWWiz: What prevents other registrars from providing the same service you do and giving away domain names for free?


Bruce: Our patented technology is really at the core of how our global personal portal network works. We believe no one can just go out and replicate the aggregation nature of the way we create channels and the centering of all this around your domain name. Other people can try to figure out how to give away a free domain name but there is a cost associated with that and if you think about it, it doesn't really make sense. From the consumer standpoint, unless you have our technology you're going to have to point that domain name to a single fixed Web site. Then you are kind of back to the way it is now. You have to call Network Solutions Inc. ( and register the name and say, "Great I've got my domain now for $70, what am I going to do with it?" They say, "OK, we will go ahead and point it to one Web site." That's kind of the traditional model and it's been around for the last five years. We are really stirring things up by letting people have their domain name for no cost and letting them build a portal that lets them build in all this content and services, which is what they want anyway.


WWWiz : What specific services are coming that you don't currently have?


Bruce: Small business multiple domain low cost offering. We will be adding broadband portals where you can participate in advance, community features as the global portal network grows. We will be constantly innovating and bringing the latest and greatest to our portal community.


WWWiz: Are you currently getting revenue from your channel sponsors?


Bruce : We just signed our first channel sponsor and we have a couple large sponsors that will sign in the next few days.


WWWiz: Are you currently looking for the next round of financing?


Bruce: Yes. We are currently raising our second round of funding. This involves a couple of venture capital lists and a couple of strategic partners.


WWWiz: How much money?


Bruce: $8-10 million.


WWWiz : When do you plan to go public?


Bruce: Next year. It's always a good plan.


WWWiz: Where do you see the company five years from now?


Bruce: We see ourselves as the worldwide leader in domain name registration. Also the largest network of personal portals. Five years from now that number could be 100 million people.

Because our service is really a platform for things people want to do around their domain name our company is in the fortunate position to just evolve with the Internet. Our service isn't browser dependent, it doesn't matter how you entered the Internet and it doesn't require any special software. We could all be getting on the Internet through a wristwatch and we would still be relevant. It's the same with high bandwidth and streaming media, video and all that. It's fortunate to have a business we know will be around in five years and isn't related to access or software or something that might change. Addressing methods won't change in the next five years. We plan to grow it as big and as fast as we can worldwide.


WWWiz: Are we going to run out of domain names?


Bruce: No. There are a lot of characters and punctuation marks: that means the 26 characters that can be used in each position and it is calculated as an exponential so there are a lot of choices. Then when you add the .org, .edu, .net and the country code, you essentially start over again. There is a big push and we are big proponents to have new top-level domain names like .per for individuals. If you run out, you can change the top level and start over.


WWWiz: How did you decide on


Bruce: Well the name is an identity and zero is a starting point so it's a ground zero connotation.


WWWiz: How much do you pay yourself?

Bruce: When you start a company like this in Silicon Valley, the founders generally take a pay cut, which we have. It's not the starving artist situation.

WWWiz: Are you in the five-figure or six-figure category?


Bruce: Six. It is definitely a cut from what we were making or what we could make at a big corporation. That's what we sacrifice and obviously our stock will cover that.


WWWiz : What percent do each of the three founders own?


Bruce: About 30%.


WWWiz: How much of the company did you have to give up to get $600,000?


Bruce: Because of the experience of our team and the evolution of our technology we were able to give up a lot less. Ten to 15% is the number you are looking for. That's the range that our deal fell into. That percentage is very good because of our situation. In another situation we might have had to give up 25-50% of the company.


WWWiz: What do you think about this Christmas?


Bruce: It's not going away. I think we will see a whole new record for sales on the Internet. A couple of years ago there were credit card worries and people worried about fraud and all that. That worry has gone away.


WWWiz: Where is it all going?


Bruce: The leading companies, and I put us in this category, are trying to create easier more permanent ways for people to use the Internet for things that make sense for them. I think in the last five years you had the first phase where people wondered how you get on the Internet. That's when all the ISPs went public and so on. Then we progressed to: "Now I'm on the Internet what do I do?" Now people have much more sophisticated needs being met on the Web. Now we have, "I want to communicate in better ways, I want to shop more conveniently," which is causing all these big portals over the years trying to add email messaging and I think this trend is going to continue going more to very focused vertical content.

The Web is becoming this free thing that it started out to be. I think now the free service model has really taken hold. You can get a free PC, free Internet access, a free Web page and now a free domain name. You put it all together and you have the new model in place and ready to grow.

We just had a baby and I'm 35 years old so I didn't grow up in the super-tech era. Computers were just getting into my high school as I left. I am not a techie and we use Webvan because you don't feel like schlepping around a one-month-old baby and there is this great Web-based shopping service. It has good food, it's reasonably priced when you compare it to our local market and they deliver it on time. I have a grocery store two blocks from my house and I still go to the store. I like going to the grocery store. If I'm in the right mood, I'll look for wine or sort around for something different. I hate reading on the computer. I would rather have a piece of paper in front of me. I can't read the computer by the pool you know. The balance is important! It's not that the Internet is a win and other things have to fail. Everything will be better because of the Internet and things that have been done traditionally will still be done the traditional way.


WWWiz: What about the business side of things?


Bruce: The business-solution business is another revolution that is happening behind the scenes. You can save so much money and become so much more efficient by use of the Internet. That's another sub-revolution that is taking hold just out of the average view. You have real money going into systems that are just designed to make sales automation systems better. They are designed to help businesses save a million dollars a year on some function. It's going to dwarf the consumer piece.


WWWiz : What did you spend on the Web this year?


Bruce: I buy my airline tickets, grocery shopping and subscription content like the WSJ. I spent several thousand dollars this year.


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