Interview with Frank from Root Orange
A few days ago I wrote about Root Orange, a brand new company which provides domain leasing services using revolutionary domain-splitting technology… So I hooked up with Frank Langston, co-president of Root Orange for an in-depth Q&A which you can find below.
First thing’s first though, and I’d like to say once again that these guys are onto something huge one you get your mind around automated domain leasing… This domain splitting by geo area’s concept can turn out to be just as big as PPC domain parking was when it was introduced a little over 10 years ago. It’s absolutely brilliant and I am behind it 110% and so should you be.
It presents huge monetization opportunities for domain owners and allows smaller businesses access to generic keyword domains for a fraction of the cost VS. straight buying it out. When it comes to domains, valuations, etc… It is always a supply and demand type of deal. Unfortunately the business is misunderstood by mainstream and the market isn’t as big as we’d all like it to be… That can change though
Now with automated leasing options made available, that opens a whole new chapter for all… It can draw in small – medium businesses and giants as well. Nice to see a bunch of young guys think outside of the box and bring innovation to the domaining industry which has been using the same old monetization forever now… I am all for change and it’s about time. Enjoy the interview!
Can you tell us some of your personal background and any other relevant info? Any other companies / start-ups that you are currently involved with? Have been involved with?
Camilo, the rest of the team, and I are all 100% committed to Root Orange right now and have been for over a year. Prior to this we both worked in family businesses. I worked for a start-up in the logistics space before that. Camilo and I met in college and knew we wanted to start a business together. It just took us a few years to hit on the right idea.
I know that you and Camilo spent approximately two years brainstorming and developing the Root Orange domain leasing service… What was the whole inspiration behind the concept and why did you decide to focus on a domain industry and marketing related business.
The inspiration came from our looking at marketing products for the family businesses we were involved in, noticing there were geo-targeted search ads, and wondering why we couldn’t do the same thing with domain names. We started digging, and the more we learned, the more it made perfect sense and the timing seemed right. We didn’t start out looking at the domain industry and figuring out a business. We started out looking for a good business idea, and it happened to be in the domain industry. We like the domain industry because there’s still a lot of room for innovation. Despite being one of the oldest industries on the web, it’s still got a bit of a wild-west feel, which is exciting.
Lets say I have a keyword domain name such as Doctor.com and I want to monetize it with the Root Orange service… What are the first few steps and exact requirements? Who controls DNS? Can the unsold traffic / remaining geo area’s inventory be parked, setup with an existing affiliate website, etc. Most domainers like a ‚Äústeady paycheck‚ÄĚ and PPC / affiliate programs provide just that.
The first thing you do is email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll work with you to choose the right domains from your portfolio for our service and get you set up. We’ll be streamlining this process via our website later this year, but for now it’s over email. We’re focused on improving our site for our customers, which helps make domain owners more money. Once we get an agreement in place, the DNS switches over to us, and we begin marketing and making leases on your domains. We’re testing some backfill strategies right now to ensure a steadier income stream for owners but don’t have anything in place across the board yet. The owners we’re working with right now have been willing to trade a small short-term revenue gap for a big long-term return.
How much does Root Orange pocket from domains that get leased successfully? Is it a flat fee, or a percentage of each successful lease…? Any other important information that potential domainers need to know?
There is zero cost to domain owners to sign up for our service. We receive a piece of every localized lease based on a revenue share with the owner, which means our interests are perfectly aligned.
Lets say I am a small business owner and I want to lease the keyword domain name Attorney.com for 6 – 12 month’s, what guarantee does Root Orange provide that this domain won’t be sold or taken off of the Root Orange platform… In other words, do you guys actually make sure to lock in the domain name at the registry level, making the domain owner sign legal agreements, etc.
We do not make agreements with local businesses for longer than the agreement on that domain with the domain owner. We expect domain owners to honor those, and there are penalties for failing to do so. We want to build long-term relationships that are valuable to domain owners and small businesses.
How exactly are the lease prices calculated? Are the payments for domain leases due every month or for the entire lease term in full? Are there any security deposits? Screening process? Penalties for not completing a lease? Any other important information that potential clients need to know?
Our pricing is based on the quality of a domain name, the vertical it is in, and the size of the metro area where it is leased. Customers can pay up-front or on a monthly basis, and they may cancel at anytime. Our customer agreements stipulate customers cannot use a leased domain to deceive customers – i.e. leasing Attorney.com and sending it to a gambling site – and we enforce that. Overall we make it as easy as possible for businesses to sign up and take advantage of our premium domains to grow their business.
I know that you are going to soon make it possible to lease domains according to zip codes, which allows for better geo-targeting VS. metro areas… It’s all about localization nowadays. What other improvements to the service are you currently working on?
We’re definitely working on more localized leases. The value proposition for domain owners and small businesses goes way up when we can lease domains like DryCleaners.com by zip code or say a 3-mile radius of the business. We’re also working on innovative, search-friendly backfill options, and integrating our product with mobile devices in a way that brings even more value to our customers.
Nobody really has been able to successfully lease domains on a mass scale… There has been a few people and companies who tried but quietly disappeared.. What makes you so confident that the Root Orange service will stick around for good?? You have an automated system and proprietery technology it looks like which is extremely helpful and goes a long way, but there are always many challenges with domain related services.
We’re confident that good business models that are win-wins for both sides will stand the test of time. That’s what we’re building. The #1 challenge with domain-related services is building trust on both sides, and we’re committed to making that happen in everything we do.
What are your short term goals and ultimate long term goals as far as geo-targeted domain leasing services go…. If it works out well in the US, maybe take it worldwide and support generic keyword ccTLD domains in established markets where internet penetration is just as strong?
Our short-term goals are to expand our distribution in the U.S., improve our service for our customers, and grow our .com inventory. We will then be expanding internationally. We already offer leasing at the province level in Canada and at the country level outside the U.S. and Canada. We’ve received a lot of interest from English and non-English-speaking countries, so we plan to expand in that direction in the not-too-distant future – with ccTLDs, too.
And the final question… What do you like most about the domain industry and what do you dislike most about the domain industry and wish could be changed?
We like the fact there is still a lot of room for innovation in the industry, that there are a lot of industry veterans willing to share their experience, and that there are still a lot of new people getting into it. We also like that everyone in the business knows how to have a good time!
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More info about Root Orange and Frank from official RootOrange.com website:
Root Orange is the brainchild of Camilo Acosta and Frank Langston, who were roommates at Princeton University.¬† As the children of small business owners, they both felt the entrepreneurial spirit early on.¬† When they stumbled onto the idea for Root Orange, they immediately knew it would help small business owners like their parents who are constantly looking for better ways to market their products and services.¬† Camilo and Frank spent a year and a half researching the market, building the technology, and developing the domain supply before bringing Root Orange to the public.
Root Orange is dedicated to helping small business owners gain access to the domain names they have always wanted to use ‚Äď names that can transform their marketing efforts.
Before starting Root Orange, Frank oversaw Mr. Pride, a chain of four full-service car washes owned by his family.¬† He oversaw a team of nearly 100 employees, and handled the customer service, legal, and accounting duties.¬† Prior to that, Frank worked for technology start-up Vehicle IP, where he assisted the successful negotiation of contingency litigation agreements and a Fortune 100 company‚Äôs investment in Vehicle IP‚Äôs licensing efforts for over 70 wireless technology patents.¬† He has also worked for Pittco Management (a private family office), Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Frank received his B.A. in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University, where he was captain of the Sprint Football team, and received Academic All-Ivy honors.
Before starting Root Orange, Camilo worked for his family‚Äôs government communications company, The Media Network, where he built partnerships with large and small businesses, developed new revenue streams, oversaw a website re-design, and spearheaded the company‚Äôs new media service offerings.¬† Camilo‚Äôs previous experience includes roles at the Corporate Executive Board and New Vantage Group, a venture capital firm in Northern Virginia.
Camilo received his B.A. in Politics from Princeton University, where his thesis on microfinance in South Africa received the Picard Prize.