As 2010 winds down, I thought it would be helpful to look back at the past year and review what was accomplished. Without question, 2010 was a year of tremendous productivity. 2010 has set the stage for what I believe will be an even more exciting 2011. This post recaps highlights from 2010. The next post will look ahead to 2011.
Overall — it was a great year
2010 was the year that Epik made the transition from being an idea into what it is today — a thriving enterprise with an engaged customer base that is making use of a growing array of development capabilities. During 2010, Epik established a reputation as an innovator and thought leader in the area of scalable domain name development. Although mission of mass-scale development is not without its challenges, I know of no other company that is further along in commercializing scalable approaches to domain name development based on a unified ecosystem. Here are some of the notable highlights:
Product Portals and eCommerce
As of the end of 2010, Epik operates more than 11,000 custom product portals. These low-cost ($249 setup) portals have become a leading way for monetizing product category domain names. During late 2010 we also launched a higher price ($2500 to $25K setup) eCommerce platform that significantly increases the economic value-added by clearing actual transactions on either a hosted or managed basis. See IceCreamMaker.com for example.
The acquisition in 2010 of Octane 360 by Local.com did not come as a complete surprise to me. We think there is a great deal of untapped potential to developing a scalable approach to directory development. We call this “Federating Yellow Pages”. To this end, we have developed and launched a Directory platform that now powers nearly 1000 Directory sites. This is tied into our wholly-owned call center for outbound selling of paid listings.
It is not widely known in the domain world, but Epik is the back-end of a lucrative network of legal lead-generation websites. The principles that power a lead-gen site like DUILawyers.co is applicable to a much broader range of high CPC categories. In addition to having built a versatile lead-generation platform, we have methodically acquired domains with which to scale the model both as a lead-gen platform provider and as operator of sites.
Video Portals, Recipe Portals and Upstream
On the Epik blog, John Lawler, SVP Product Development, recently announced a series of new portal developments. These developments were first outlined by John at DevCon in September. Since DevCon we have sequentially moved the new initiatives from development to production. Two recent portal launches include Video Portals and Recipe Portals which generated immediate customer interest. Coming in early 2011 are Job Portals and Realty Portals.
Acquisition of DevRich
As a result of the May 2010 acquisition of DevRich.com, Epik secured a number of operating capabilities that have become the core of operations center in Sandpoint, Idaho led by DevRich co-Founder Luke Webster. Sandpoint is providing low-cost on-shore customer service, site production as well as managing supply chain logistics for eCommerce fulfillment. The DevRich platform continues to grow a customer base for low cost site production based on WordPress.
Epik is well known for the quality of our graphic design work. In addition to producing custom graphics for more than 500 sites per week, the Epik design team also leads the upstream design for all of our upstream development projects. The graphics team, led by Ala Dadan, is based in Amman, Jordan and is capable of scaling to meet our growth requirements.
Domain Name Portfolio
During 2010 Epik has been an aggressive acquirer of domain portfolios, particularly from distressed owners. We have been mainly purchasing domains for cash, but also sometimes in exchange for services or EpikBucks. A sampling of Epik’s holdings are visible at EpikDomains.com and Stores.Epik.com. Although we did secure a number of worthwhile exits, 2010 was a year where it was better to be a buyer than a seller.
In my opinion, the concept of a virtual currency for the domain industry was long overdue. Epik pioneered the solution via EpikBucks and created a liquid market for the buying and selling of EpikBucks as a currency redeemable for domains and services. During 2011, this currency will be rebranded as MasterBucks and will become the network-wide payment processor and stored-value currency for all Epik-powered sites.
The Epik Developer Conference (DevCon) attracts a special audience that is different from the crowd normally found at TRAFFIC or DomainFest. The DevCon audience is interested in the topic of hands-on domain development. The first DevCon attracted many first-time domain investors, some of whom have gone on to develop significant portfolios on the Epik platform and are now the core of a global community of Developers. Without question, a major 2010 highlight.
The first DevCon featured an award that we plan to confer annually — The Pioneer Award. The first recipient was of course Rick Schwartz who without question embodies the spirit of Pioneer in the purest sense of the word. The tribute video was a multimedia masterpiece and was developed in cooperation with Owen Frager and featured video clips from some of the industry’s other great Pioneers.
The SwapFest Dutch auction format has now been validated on 2 occasions. It is well-suited to clearing large amounts of domain inventory in a short period of time. The first 2 SwapFests were conducted in a live format. During Q1, we’ll launch an online version of the SwapFest Dutch auction which we believe will attract a larger pool of bidders who are otherwise precluded from participating due to the emphasis on live in-room bidding.
During 2010, Epik has been an increasingly active Dropcatcher through the growing number of registry connections operated in cooperation with Intrust Domains. Although Snapnames remains the most competitive dropcatcher, we know for a fact that Epik is routinely beating out NameJet and Godaddy for desirable names that drop. As a result, we have made many friends in 2010 by dropcatching for free. We call this “Democratizing Dropcatch”.
This development has not received a ton of media attention but is shaping up to be a hidden gem. Why? Well, for one thing, it is free. The Epik Wiki platform enables domain owners to instantly turn any domain into a website that can be edited by registered users with an Identity.net account. The Wiki platform has quietly continued to improve and is still free. Users can also add their own Adsense code and keep 100% of the revenue. As I say, Epik Wikis are a hidden gem.
Domains as Asset Class
A key theme for Epik in 2010 was educating a new generation of investors about the merits of domain as an asset class. The combination of (1) wealth preservation (2) recurring income, and (3) prospects for capital gain make domains and developed sites very attractive. During 2010, we have actively campaigned on why we believe “Domains are better than Dollars” as explained here and here.
So, thanks for a great 2010
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Epik Developer Community and Partners for a job well done in 2010. The Epik team is looking forward to raising the bar higher in 2011. In the meantime, we thank you for your support and partnership in 2010. As a thank you, and as announced last week via email newsletter to Epik Developers, we are pleased provide a 25% discount for orders placed through December 31.