An Inside Look at the Fabulous/Directnic Offices in Florida and Alexander
Schubert’s Plan for .Tampa

An Inside Look at the Fabulous/Directnic Offices in Florida and Alexander Schubert’s Plan for .Tampa


I
had an opportunity
to
connect with two long-time
friends and industry veterans
this week and didn’t even have to
leave our home base in Tampa to
do it, even though both come from
different continents! It made for a
most interesting day
that gave
me some fresh insight into the world
of domain registrars, as well
as new approaches to running
future new gTLD registries.
Before I get to that, a little bit
of their back stories will explain
what led to the get together with
two guys who work in different
sectors of the industry, but whose
fields (registrars vs. registries)
rely greatly on each other for
success.

One, Mike
Robertson
, is from Australia
but has been living and working in
Tampa for almost six years now.
Mike, as most of our readers know,
is the Director of Business
Development for popular registrars Fabulous.com
and Directnic.com,
sister companies that share a suite
of spacious offices at the Tampa
International Airport
. The two
registrars have long been favorites
with domain investors. DirectNic,
founded in 2001, was known more for
its small to medium size business
clientele but the quality of their
platform also attracted high end
investors who held large portfolios,
like “Domain King” Rick
Schwartz.
Fabulous was launched
a year later, specifically for the
purpose of meeting the unique needs
of domain investors.

Directnic’s
home base is actually in New
Orleans
but they’ve long
maintained offices in 

 

Mike
Robertson
Director of Business Development
Fabulous.com & Directnic.com

Tampa
as well, with some of their top
managers and backend operations
staff working in Florida. Soon after
Directnic
acquired Fabulous
in
2017, they put the two registrars
together in ultra-convenient new
digs at the airport where their
offices in the Marriott Hotel connect
directly to the main terminal. 

I had
visited Mike (whom I’ve know for
over 15 years) in the old offices
when he first moved to Tampa in 2014
to work for Directnic’s parent
company, DNC Holdings (and
wrote a Cover
Story
about how and why
that union came about). However,
since I see Mike at every
conference,  including the most
recent NamesCon
Global held in Austin, Texas

just last month, I still had not
visited the new airport offices. It
suddenly became a priority when Mike
told me that he will be moving
back to Australia in August
(his
job with Fabulous/Directnic will not
change, he’ll just be doing it from
his homeland, closer to family and
friends he has missed seeing as much
in recent years). 

Alexander
Schubert
Project Lead, dotTAMPA

Coincidentally,
at the same time I got that
news from Mike, I had been
planning to get together
with another old friend
(also dating back over 15
years) who had recently
moved to Tampa to lay the
groundwork for a .Tampa
new gTLD he plans to apply
for when ICANN opens
a second round of new gTLD
applications (when that will
happen is currently
unknown). Alexander
Schubert
, a native of Germany,
who has been living in Riga,
Latvia
much of the last decade
(and previously lived in the
Tampa Bay area for nearly
two years), has already
proven his ability to get a
major city domain into the
root. Along with Dirk
Krischenowski
, Alexander
co-founded the first one
ever delegated, .berlin.
He and Dirk launched the
effort in 2005 and never
gave up the dream. The TLD
was finally approved by
ICANN and went live in March
2014.

With
registrars Fabulous and
Directnic offering dozens of
new gTLDs, I felt Mike
Robertson and his company’s
razor sharp COO, Rob
Alfonso
, would
be as interested in what
Schubert was doing with .tampa
as I was, so getting together
with everyone at once
was a no brainer and it
proved to be every bit as enlightening
and enjoyable as I thought
it would.

Above:
My wife Diana has known
Alexander and Mike as long as I have
and they are her friends too, so she
was looking forward to the visit as
much as I was. Here, shortly after
we arrived, she and Alexander
started catching up in the lounge
area at the Fabulous/Directnic
offices
at the Tampa
International Airport
Thursday,
February 27, 2020. 

Above
(left to right): Ron Jackson
and Alexander Schubert kick
off a visit to Director of Business Development
Mike Robertson in the
conference room at the Fabulous/Directnic
offices
in Tampa.

Below:
Mike Robertson reviewing the Fabulous.com
website on his office computer as
monorail trams at the Tampa
International Airport
zoom by
his window.

Above:
Fabulous.com/Directnic Chief
Operating Officer Rob Alfonso

(left) and Director of Business
Development Mike Robertson
in
front of one of the large hallway
murals in their offices that feature
the dozens of TLDs the domain
registrars offer their clients
around the world.

When
Mike, Alexander and I popped into
Rob’s office
I wasn’t expecting
to take too much time away from his
busy schedule, but the four of us
wound up talking off the cuff for a
full hour
about the symbiotic
but sometimes rocky relationship
between domain registrars and domain
registries. The registries own and
operate the various TLDs (top level
domains like .com, .net, .org and
.xyz, for example) and wholesale
them to registrars that make up the
global retail channel . Having
Alexander, a TLD registry founder
and expert on that part of the
industry in the room, gave registrar
operators Rob and Mike a chance to
discuss a lot of mutual issues in a
forthright way that helped all of us
come away better informed and in
general agreement about why many new
TLDs have had trouble gaining
traction.

A
lot of new TLD operators expected
new extensions to essentially sell
themselves
(after all, new
domain possibilities, like
home.loans and vacation.rentals look
great on paper and could reasonably
be expected to draw a lot of
attention). However, the general
public isn’t nearly as familiar with
even the simplest domain concepts
that those of us in the industry
take for granted. The “build
it and they will come
” approach
has largely fallen far short of
expectations. Many registries hoped
registrars would take on the
expensive marketing burden for the
new names, while registrars, already
operating on thin margins, saw that
as one of several unrealistic
expectations the new TLD operators
came to the table with. That doesn’t
mean the tide won’t be turned over
time, especially now that it has
become obvious that it will take
more marketing muscle and innovative
ideas
from everyone with skin in
the game to break through the
clutter of hundreds of new gTLDS so
the rest of the world will recognize
and want them.

Alexander
Schubert certainly seems to
have learned from
experience. His strategy for
both .tampa and his
other major project, a
future .airport (an
interesting coincidence
since we were all meeting in
an airport!) are the exact
opposite
of those most
registries have used. For .tampa
he set up a non-profit
organization and has spent
months getting community
leaders (including Tampa Mayor
Jane Castor
) interested
in backing the idea, showing
them how the new TLD would
simplify online branding of everything
related to Tampa, from
tourism to basic city
services. For example, the
Tampa Police
Department’s 

current
website is at the highly
forgettable www.tampagov.net/police.
Ms. Castor, a former Tampa
Police Chief herself,
quickly recognized that www.police.tampa
would be a vast
improvement. 

At
one meeting Schubert found himself
between Mayor Castor and St.
Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
If you know anything about the Tampa
Bay area, you know there has long
been a friendly rivalry
between the two cities. When
Alexander showed Mayor Kriseman his
.tampa business card, the Mayor
himself inquired about the possibility
of getting a .stpete domain
and put Schubert in contact with a
city communications official to get
more information. With formal
backing from cities, local Chambers
of Commerce, etc., Schubert believes
a new extension can be organically
grown
and firmly established as
a highly desirable, universal
online community identity and
resource. He is leaving nothing to
chance, tirelessly attending every
conceivable local public meeting and
pounding the pavement to make
contacts and find funding so he can
once again turn one of his “TLD
dreams” into a reality.

Above:
Back on the office tour, we noticed
that Fabulous/Directnic firmly
believes in the “all work
and no play makes Jack a dull
boy”
proverb. When
Alexander spotted the original Pac-Man
console in the office, he promptly
accepted Mike’s challenge to do
battle. Spoiler alert – someone
gotten eaten alive!

Above:
They say “an Army marches on
its stomach
“. Well, so do
the troops at Internet companies! Mike
Robertson
proudly showed us the Fabulous/Directnic
kitchen and its wide variety of healthy
fruits and vegetables (this was
right after he hid the bowl of candy
bars on top of the compact ovens at
the right)! 

Above:
Speaking of food, after two hours in
the office talking about domains
(and playing video games) we took
the short walk into the Tampa
International Airport
terminal
to wrap up the visit with lunch at
the Hard Rock Cafe. It was
great way to end a memorable get
together good people. 

One
of the most attractive things about
our business is that you could go to
virtually any big city in the
world and enjoy a similar outing
with industry friends. We just
happened to be able to do it in our
own town this week, but as always, it
was the company that mattered
,
not the location!



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