GenGroucho Marx famously said he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. I beg to differ.
As 2021 has winded to a close, so has my tenure with .CLUB Domains, the registry operator for the .CLUB top-level domain extension which we sold to GoDaddy Registry earlier in the year. As 2022 begins, I find myself without a direct connection to the industry I have been so deeply a part of for nearly ten years.
Finding My Colin in Life…
It was early 2012 when I was introduced to Colin Campbell. A mutual friend mentioned that Colin had gotten involved in applying for a new "top-level domain" and could use some marketing help. As an early internet adopter, I was familiar with domain names, but not at the level to fully understand what a "top-level" domain or "TLD" really was. Sure, I had registered domain names, including some "non .com's" such as .TV and .FM along with the more familiar .Net and .org. I was active with blogs, websites, and even the early days of Social Media, but I was a complete novice when it came to "the DNS" and how domain names operated. As far as I was aware at the time, ICANN was simply what you said when someone asked if you can do something. "Yes, I can!"
Before meeting Colin for a fateful lunch in March of 2012, I did some research and learned about the new gTLD application window that had closed that January. I familiarized myself with the TLD launch process and terms such as "Sunrise," "Landrush," and "General Availability." I must have absorbed enough knowledge to convince Colin I could be useful as he offered me the opportunity to "join the .CLUB!" (It was years later that Colin admitted he was zonked on pain killers at that lunch meeting following a harrowing ski accident and subsequent surgeries. So maybe I wasn't as impressively prepared as I thought I was.) In any event, I was in, and quickly immersed myself in the process of becoming a domain name Registry.
Fake It ‘Till You Make It…
Reveal day came and we found out that we were one of three applicants for .CLUB, and unlike the other two in our "contention set" we had only applied for a single extension. For us, it was .CLUB or bust! We were all in on .CLUB while the other parties, DONUTS and MERCHANT LAW GROUP, were "portfolio plays," applying for 307 and 8 extensions respectively. Colin was determined to become a Domain Registry, so we had to win it to be in it! All or nothing.
My first domain industry road trip was to the Czech Republic for the ICANN meeting in Prague in June 2012. I knew no one except Colin, and I arrived a day or two before him, alone, wearing an embroidered .CLUB shirt, much to the bewilderment of the other contenders for .CLUB. I knew that we had appointed Neustar as our back-end service provider should we be successful in our bid for .CLUB, so my first night in Prague, at my first ICANN meeting, I found my way to a party hosted by Neustar. Everyone I met was welcoming and sincere, and I realized very quickly what a warm, friendly, and helpful Industry the Domain world is. Many of the folks I met that night remain trusted friends to this day and were welcome partners and even sometimes frenemies throughout the years. For an industry built on technology, the domain world is one filled with and buoyed by truly great people. It was a welcome change from my prior experiences in other less friendly and cooperative verticals.
By the time Colin joined me in Prague, I felt I was already a part of the community and ready to take on the challenge of becoming the .CLUB Registry. Colin and I set up our custom .CLUB branded booth and wore our .CLUB branded shirts with the pride of ownership we had not yet really earned, but very clearly yearned for. Again, we were all in, all the time (one of the .CLUB core values.) To put it in today's parlance, ".CLUB to the moon!"
Fast forward a year to June of 2013 and the very first private auction for the new TLD's. We're camped out in our small office, still wearing our shirts emblazoned with the .CLUB logo. I have a little Flip Cam pointed at Colin, who's been staring at the computer screen for hours, actually days, as we pass from auction round to auction round, watching the price increase and our two contenders holding firm. Until one drops out. And then there were two. Another price increase but we're ready with a freshly filled war chest thanks to Colin's intense 30-day fundraising via LinkedIn. And then, just like that, Colin logs in for another round and finds himself as the sole bidder. Contender two has dropped out. Flip Cam still recording, I capture Colin as he's filled with the realization and states what now is obvious, "We won!"
Game on! In just a few weeks after the auction concludes is the next ICANN meeting in Durban, South Africa. We scramble to sign up as a sponsor and make last-minute travel arrangements to have our "coming out" in Durban as the official Registry Operator for .CLUB! We've finally earned the right to proudly stand in our .CLUB booth wearing our .CLUB shirts!
Around the World in More Than 80 Days
And so, it began. A global adventure in a truly global industry. From the time we won the auction to the time we officially launched in May of 2014, and for many years thereafter we lived and breathed our hashtag #ClubIsEverywhere and built the .CLUB brand on the backs of great team members, great registrar partners, and hundreds of thousands of airline miles attending countless meetings and events here and abroad.
As mentioned above, Neustar was selected as our technical partner even before we were selected as the Registry Operator for .CLUB. As we planned our formal launch in 2014 we decided to go "live" from one of GoDaddy's customer care centers, as part of a month-long road trip visiting four GoDaddy campuses, attending an industry event in Hong Kong, and culminating in New York City for our arguably over-the-top launch party in da .club with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and a fantastic turnout of Domain Industry luminaries.
As I reminisce about those early days, it seems almost pre-destined, and certainly poignantly fitting that we have sold .CLUB to GoDaddy Registry. We leave the bright .CLUB future in the hands of our very first partner, Neustar (acquired by GoDaddy to become GoDaddy Registry), and returning .CLUB to the place (GoDaddy) where Colin rang the bell as the first .CLUB domains became available for general availability registration.
Under Colin's leadership, we built a world-class team, including CTO Dirk Bhagat, President Michele Van Tilborg, CFO Thomas Campbell, General Counsel Jonathan Frost, Marketing Director Nivu Hussein (who was there from the very beginning as an intern), and many other dedicated .Clubbers along the way. Together and with a fantastic network of registrar partners, we took a common word, club, and turned it into a widely recognized brand supporting the online passions and dreams of individuals, communities, and businesses around the world.
Sorry, Groucho. It has been an amazing journey in an industry and a .Club that was willing to have me as a member! I'll be forever grateful for it.
I travel a lot for business. Well, I used to travel a lot for business. 2020 was a definite exception. Each year-end I usually post a video recap of all the interesting places I traveled to during that year. So, in attempting to keep with that tradition, instead, I've chronicled some of this unusual year of non-travel. I am grateful that I survived 2020 relatively unscathed, and I am grateful for the health and support of my family, my loving partner, my friends, clients, and co-workers, and of course, YOU! I know I am fortunate and my heart goes out to all who were far more adversely affected by this crazy year. Let's toss out the bad, but remember and retain the good that also came from a slower, more thoughtful year of non-travel. Happy New Year.
To put 2020 in perspective, here are my "Year in Travel" videos from previous years... A lot more miles, to say the least...
I am home. You are home too. Here are some simple tips that I hope you'll find useful. Please bookmark this page and check back, as new video tips will be added to this post.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home!
When I was in High School, over 40 years ago, one of my best friends and I were intrigued by the "TM Center" that had opened above the Hollywood Lanes bowling alley on Queens Boulevard. My friend lived in the apartment building behind the lanes, and I walked by them every day on my way to Forest Hills High School. The bowling alley was also a regular place to visit, to bowl with friends, and when I was younger, to hang out while my parents bowled with their friends in the Tuesday night league. Are bowling leagues still a thing? I wonder.
What was this TM Center, I also wondered? We had sort of heard of TM because the Beatles had talked about their experiences meeting the TM founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, on a journey of theirs to India. Richard (my friend) and I did some digging around (and back then that meant actually asking people questions. We did not have smartphones or Google.) Eventually, we just trudged up the wide staircase next to the bowling alley entrance that led to the TM Center on the second floor to see firsthand what it was all about. We picked up some brochures with a picture of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the cover, and that is how I first encountered Transcendental Meditation. A trip to the library for some more research (yes, the library, in a building - remember, no smartphones or Google...) piqued my interest enough for me to sign up for instruction.
If memory serves me, as a student, it only cost $25 or $50 for the instruction (today it is hundreds). I was willing to forgo a few weeks of record buying to give it a shot. Back then we had a weekly ritual to go to the department store, Alexander's, also on Queens Boulevard, on Saturday mornings, where, for several hours each week they had their record albums on sale. Week by week I built my long-lost vinyl collection spending a few bucks on whatever new releases were on sale. So, instead of a few more LP's, I decided to spend my hard earned allowance on TM.
In retrospect, it was perhaps an odd choice for a reasonably straight-laced and traditional 15-year-old kid, but something about the prospect of meditation and seeking inner peace spoke to me, and I was all in. I went through my instruction, received my mantra, and began my journey with meditation. Rather than "journey," meditation is often referred to as a "practice" and practice I did. Ever since those few days of instruction on the second floor above the Hollywood Lanes bowling alley, I have made meditation an essential part of my daily routine. I have practiced in my childhood bedroom, in my college dorms and fraternity house, on the NYC subway on the way work, on buses and trains and planes, park benches, and countless quiet (and not so quiet) corners, as I've navigated through my life.
I've been pretty good about daily meditation once a day, and through various spurts and starts, have been much better at more regularly meditating a second time in the afternoon or evening, as is prescribed by the official TM training. Of course, any meditation is better than no meditation, and I feel I have reaped many benefits, even during times when I only fit one session in a day. I am generally a happy, positive thinking person, and I think meditation has helped support that mindset. I think it has kept me calm and creative, and perhaps helped to amplify that which was already within. I am sure that at times in my life when things were rocky and tough and extraordinarily stressful, I managed with meditation far better than I would have without meditation.
But you don't need to listen to me to learn about the many benefits of meditation in general and TM in particular. There's lots of great information at www.TM.org and groups like the David Lynch Foundation. I also recently listened to a great interview with Bob Roth from the Lynch Foundation on the ID10T podcast with Chris Hardwick. Roth has a great way of explaining TM in simple terms, and with logical, accessible, analogies. I recommend listening to the interview if you'd like a better understanding of meditation and TM.
What prompted me to chime in with this little article is not to tout the benefits of mediation, but rather, as a marketer and consumer, to tout the incredible organization behind Transcendental Meditation and the fact that they offer a true "lifetime guarantee" on your TM instruction. How many times have you bought a product with a "lifetime guarantee"? How many times have you been in a position to test that guarantee? Probably not too many. I put TM to the test and was blown away by the result.
A couple of years ago, as I sensed a growing interest in TM, I thought that perhaps I should consider taking a refresher course after all these years. I fully expected that I would pay for it, and went to TM.org to see what was offered in my area. Filling in a short form, I was immediately put in touch with the TM instructor nearest me, who emailed me with a few questions about where and when I had my initial training. I responded, and in less than 5 minutes I received a return email that I had been verified.
"Yes, Jeff learned TM Oct. 11, 1975 in NY at age 15" and they even told me the name of my teacher. Better yet, I was surprised to learn that because I had been verified, my three-day refresher course would be free! I was amazed that they had such good records, after more than 40 years, and long before computers were readily available and in use. Now that's customer service!
So, I took my free refresher course and continue to feel refreshed every day, thanks to my long-standing practice of Transcendental Meditation. After nearly 45 years I've learned that this is one case where practice doesn't make perfect, but rather, daily meditation helps you perfect the practice!
Do you practice meditation? Interested in learning more? You can listen to Bob Roth talk with Chris Hardwick below.
I've been a vegetarian for more than 27 years, and following a vegan diet for more than ten years. As such, I've heard, or been the brunt of, the many jokes carnivores like to tell about Vegans (and the fact I am pronouncing my veganism to you here is actually the punchline to one of those jokes - "How do you know if someone is a vegan? They will tell you!")
Despite the gentle teasing by meat eaters, the fact is that the number of people following a vegan diet or vegan lifestyle has been growing dramatically in recent years. According to Forbes, "The number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase, according to GlobalData." In addition to actual vegans, the popularity of plant-based foods, in general, is on the rise. According to the same Forbes article, "Sales of plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods including meat, cheese, milk, and eggs grew 17% over the past year, while overall U.S. food sales rose only 2%, according to data from Nielsen and the Good Food Institute. The market for such foods totaled more than $3.7 billion."
So, in today's world being a vegan is not only more common than it was when I began, it is a lot easier, with food choices far more varied and accessible. Advances in food science from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have proven that it is possible for good tasting vegan options to be successful and available at both the corner supermarket and neighborhood restaurant. Dare I say we're on the brink of a golden age for vegans?
I travel a lot for business and even as recently as three or four years ago, in many countries I visited it was not so easy to find vegan options at restaurants. Thus, before a trip to Germany a few years back, a German friend taught me to say "Ich bin ein Veganer" to my servers at restaurants in Germany, where at the time there was rarely a vegan option on the menu. Being able to declare my veganism in the local language certainly helped, but I still found myself often negotiating with servers and chefs to get an off-menu vegan meal, as I wrote about in this article for Entrepreneur.com.
Now things are a lot easier, even in Germany. As I travel the world, I can count on the app Happy Cow to recommend great vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in just about every city I've visited. On a trip to Germany last year Happy Cow led me to Vevay, in Frankfurt, a fun and trendy 100% vegan restaurant. I posted a picture of my delicious meal there (as I am often wont to do) and it has been viewed over 40,000 times, much to my surprise.
So, if you are considering a plant-based diet, there's never been a better time to give it a shot. Being vegan is a personal choice, and of course, it is not for everyone, but it works for me. I appreciate that it is a choice that has health benefits, shows compassion for animals, and is better for our environment - all issues that are important to me. Even if you have no inclination to change your overall diet, thanks to the growing popularity of veganism there are now some fantastic new restaurants and no shortage of plant-based options for you to try.
Every year I create a short video compilation of the many colorful and tasty vegan meals I've enjoyed throughout the year. Below is my 2018 "Year in Vegan Food" video, and you can see previous year's videos here. Maybe it will inspire you to eat a few more plant-based meals this year. Enjoy! (I did!)
Folks smarter than me, like my friend Chris Brogan, have been dedicating themselves to three words each year instead of creating more traditional "resolutions" that almost always fall short. "Three words" represent your focus for the year, words you can think about every day, to serve as navigational stars to guide your journey through the year. If you choose your words well and let them help inform your choices and actions, it should be far easier for you to achieve personal and professional goals in 2019. I've done my own three words on and off over the years and have decided to get back in the game this year. So, with that in mind, here are my three words for 2019:
I am as guilty as anyone of painting a picture through Social Media that I live a wonderful life. We are far more apt to share the good stuff and especially the stuff that makes us look good. It is human nature, I suppose. But the reality of the human experience is far from perfect. Like you, I have fears, anxiety, worries, stress, and a variety of problems and concerns I rarely speak about publicly, if at all. But... and it is a big but... when I balance the scale I realize that I have far more on the plus side to be grateful for, including the loved ones and others in my life. So, as one of my 2019 words, I choose to go through each day with an attitude of gratitude and approach life recognizing the things to appreciate and be grateful for in every moment.
Speaking of every moment, we live in a world of seemingly infinite distraction. Attention deficit is no longer a disorder, it is the norm, as we (and when I say "we" I really mean "me" or "I") can't go but a few minutes without seeking the next dash of dopamine delivered by the beeps and buzzes of our devices (emphasis on vices...). They say we now crave experiences more than things, yet we miss the immediacy of most "experiences" while we scramble to snap, video, and post our proof of life. It is not good. I do it constantly. I am consciously trying to do it less, and be in the moment more. Now is the most important time, the moment that matters most. We are living our lives now, not later, not tomorrow, not yesterday. Now. I am here, now.
My third word for 2019 is movement. In many respects, movement is the secret of life (and not just for sharks...). Movement keeps us healthy (note to self: don't sit all day!!!). Movement also means progress. Are we moving forward toward our goals? Moving forward in our relationships? Moving forward in our business and careers? Moving forward by learning and trying new things? Movement encompasses it all, and thus I want to focus on keeping moving in 2019.
So there you have it, my three words for the year. My resolution, therefore, is to try and keep these three words in the forefront of my thinking and let them guide and inspire me every day.
Gratitude. Now. Movement.
Do you have three words for the year?