On 22nd August, 2013, the ICANN board passed a resolution approving the renewal of .INFO, .ORG and .BIZ Registry agreements with the clause on cross — ownership (aka Vertical Integration) removed.
What this means is that these Registries will now be allowed to own, part or whole, of a Registrar business. This will enable them to sell their TLD directly to end customers and also establish a reseller chain thus allowing much greater control and flexibility over sales channels.
This resolution effectively brings these Registries on equal standing with New gTLD Registries who are, by default, allowed to Integrate Vertically by setting up their own Registrar.
As a new gTLD applicant, if you are considering, or have already decided to Integrate Vertically, you would have discovered the need to enlist the help of a technology and services partner. Keeping in mind that the partnership will be strategic in nature; you may want to look at it as you were choosing a co-founder for your venture, rather than just a vendor.
Here are a few things that you should definitely consider:
1. Begin with Introspection – You may want to consider your software requirements, service needs, your internal resources and business goals such as the precise target markets? How intuitive does the software need to be for you and for the end-users? Would you want to build the software or buy off the shelf?
2. Experience is Everything – Your partner’s experience matters. A lot. How long has your potential partner been in the industry? How has the company, its products and services evolved over the years? Those who have survived the ups and downs of the industry, adapted and evolved will most likely continue to do so. It is a good sign if they regularly extend support and actively participate at industry conferences and events.
3. Conduct an Interview – Arrange to meet with the people who you will be working with. It will help you identify their work principles, culture and philosophy. See if they are compatible with yours. Are they willing listen to you, and do they communicate well? Seem like trivial points but, these are what matter when your teams need to work as one.
4. Understand Their Industry Clout – Does your partner have strong working relationships in the industry and / or successful allied businesses? What do you stand to gain from the collective of their partnerships? You will need a helping hand right from the word go; from Sunrise, to landrush, to auctions, to more mundane tasks like data escrow and ICANN compliance.
5. Take a Demo, Identify Features Important for Your TLD – This goes without saying yet, important to mention here. Treat it as a dry run of your business operations. How customizable is the system? Can it scale with your business, globally if needed? Think private — labeled interfaces, localization features and the ability to grow the supply chain for your TLD.
6. Can They take you the Extra Mile to help grow Your TLD? – Ask how your partner can contribute to the growth of your TLD. Can they assist with distribution or, will they be able to expose your TLD to a larger audience? Leverage their channels to save on your marketing & distribution costs, and stay ahead of competition. Your partner’s business goals should be clearly defined and naturally align with yours. Their technology solutions and services should ultimately generate more revenue for you.
7. Identify Support Options and Knowledge Resources – Determine their team size (slightly overstaffed is good), learn if they have internal processes (winning teams have processed for everything), browse their self-help sections, and see how easily you can connect with them at different times of the day.
8. Ability to Outsource any Non-critical Functions – Being a Registrar means you will have several obligations and day-to-day responsibilities that you may or may not know about, to start with. These may prove time consuming, tedious and may have a learning curve. This will result in added costs for you. Can your partner take some non-critical tasks off your shoulders? Abuse-management assistance, ICANN compliance management, customer support and process management are some examples.
9. Ask for References and Case studies – Look for proof-of-concept; case studies, customer testimonials and numbers. Understand what they mean and what they translate to for you TLD. Your business will most likely be global. Better to partner with a provider who serves a globally distributed customer base, than one who is highly geo-concentrated.
There are several more considerations but these are amongst the most important. You will no doubt emerge a winner if you consider the decision to choose a partner a significant part of your strategy, with the goal in mind to stay ahead of competition and better serve your customers.
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