2015 was a big year for Enom and the domain industry as a whole. Between the rapidly growing domain name space, the launch of huge new domain extensions, new friends and partners, updated tools andservices, and big improvements to our infrastructure, we’ve hardly had the chance to catch our breath and take in everything that’s happened. As the year closes, we wanted to reflect on 2015 and look forward to what the new year has in store. To get a better handle on all this year’s developments, we sat down with Jason Silverstein, VP, Product & Engineering, himself a new addition to the company in 2015. What we found is that for all the progress we’ve made in products, tech, and services, some of the most exciting things at Enom were, and continue to be, the people that work so hard to support our partners and resellers.
When you first came to the company [in July], what was your vision for the direction that we’d be taking? And do you think we’re on track to meet it?
Well, when I got here, the first step was just to assess what was happening in both the domain name space and the company. We wanted to figure out where the industry was, where Enom was, and find a beneficial intersection of the two. To that point, what we found is that we’re doing a great job in some areas and we can do a better job in other areas. As an example of that, we’ve continued to have great relationships with many of our partners and our resellers by ensuring that our services are stable, by being available for support, and offering valuable products and domain extensions. On these fronts we’ve been very successful. Where we’d like to improve even more is helping new customers or those with less experience in the industry to learn the business and learn how to better service their own customers. So we’ve spent the better half of the year engaging our customer support team and developing the front-end of our website to put people in the right place to get the help they need. A lot of 2016 is going to be focused on making it simpler to interact with us, and making it easier to understand what it is we can provide. We want to be in a position where we aren’t necessarily solving every problem up front, but instead understanding the problem and empowering customers to help themselves.
Tech companies are always innovating and changing the way they approach their business, but what changes has Enom made in 2015 that you’re most proud of?
We’ve done significant backend work that customers won’t necessarily see, but they’ll feel it. There are services that are getting faster, there are user interfaces that are cleaner, and we’ve removed many of the obstacles to using it all. We don’t always talk about them in the same way we do a brand new product, but these things behind the scenes are important technologically, and set us up for big things in 2016.
You’re referring to the recent DNS improvements?
Yes, definitely. DNS is part of it, but also, architecturally, how we think about our work with the registries, and how we think about our own products is very important going forward. So in 2016, for instance, we’re going to put a lot of focus on our API. It’s kind of a generic statement, as there are multiple APIs that developers work with, but one interface to call in to. In any case, we’re improving the speed, certainly, but there are also some pretty cool things coming out of our engineering group that will vastly improve the experience. Resellers using our API to do more bulk checks of domains will be getting a lot more to work with.
Enom has a really diverse mix of partners, resellers, and customers, each with different needs. How are we positioning ourselves to better support them?
The answer here is really twofold. First is allowing those with more expertise to be more self-sufficient. We want to provide them the right tools, commands, and reporting in our APIs so that they can do what they need to do, how and when they want to do it. On the opposite end, for our newer partners, we want to guide them more carefully along the process. The easiest analogy is the setup wizard mentality of software. In the same way that TurboTax asks you a couple of questions up front, then customizes and details each step of the process, that’s the level of service we want to offer. We believe that there are huge opportunities not just for Enom, but for the entire industry to simplify what it is that we do. We hope to offer ways to get consumers and businesses not only more excited about purchasing domains, but also to use domains more effectively.
What are some of the resources that you’re most excited about leveraging going into the new year?
You know, in my entire career, I have not been more excited about hiring talented people and putting them in the right place with other talented people to do incredible work. With the technology itself changing so fast, bringing new perspectives in and merging them with our existing teams is really important. Those are the things that I’m actually most excited about in 2016. I think the people we have and are bringing in may be more exciting than any product release coming out.
Can you tell us about some of these hires?
I’ve got to give Taryn [Naidu, CEO] a lot of credit for this, but he asked me, “How does your team need to be structured to accomplish the goals that you set forth?” And I said that I’d like to bring in a director of engineering, a director of product, a director of tech operations, and a true technical product manager on our API. He agreed to all of it.
And it meant that we were able to go out and find a new Director of Engineering, Charlie Cheng, from Google, who has a lot of experience in cloud computing and can also help us understand how people use various remote procedure calls into complex infrastructures. He brings a perspective we have not had recently, specific to a business-to-consumer type of environment but in an enterprise environment. We already have the business-to-business side expertise, we understand that, but marrying the two mindsets is a very exciting prospect.
We’re also bringing in Director of Product, Ray Winninger, who’s coming to us from HTC, but has also coached startup companies and ran Product Management in the Internet Explorer group at Microsoft for a while. He has this very diverse experience to add to a company like Enom which has multiple constituents. He understands that what may be the most vocal customer isn’t the only customer you need to pay attention to. He gets the idea of consumers, businesses, and governing bodies all wanting to use a product for very different reasons.
Our new Director of Technical Operations, Glen Mills, is coming to us by way of Expedia and Amazon, and has expertise in continuous integration and deployment, and the test and deployment of large-scale implementations. He’s bringing in a discipline that will really allow us take it to the next level working directly with our data centers and cloud instances.
And finally we have a new Principal Product Manager, Michael Fountain, recently from Odin. He was an early API integrator and reseller, so he’s going to be able to focus on what customers and integrators really need from our API team. We want to be better about anticipating what improvements our partners want, and his experiences will really help us prioritize those changes.
These hires are really a credit to our recruiting team, internal product and engineering teams, HR department, and Taryn. Stability has been our main selling point for certain resellers. To others, it’s our ability to integrate with registries. And to others, it’s that we’re responsive and supportive. So this new team, with its diverse background, is really going to help us stay on top of all of these facets. Some of us have been around for awhile, and others are bringing new perspectives. We’ve got these two A-teams coming together to form a major league team.
Looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, what trends do you foresee having a big impact on the industry and how does Enom fit into that?
There’s a huge opportunity out there for branded engagement and branded navigation within the web. What we understand is that it’s very difficult to navigate to very specific destinations online without having some tool to make getting there easier. People aren’t memorizing long domains; they’re either tapping on a button, using link shorteners, or, internationally, using QR codes more often. What’s so exciting for our industry is that new domain extensions can act as link shorteners in a lot of ways. You can use a .SOCIAL to go to your Twitter page, and a .VIDEO to go to your Youtube account, and .NEWS to share your recent updates. For a media company, that’s a phenomenal opportunity to brand, just like the Los Angeles Times did with LATimes.social, and LATimes.news, and LATimes.video. Each goes to a unique destination, but does so with consistent marketing and branding. Companies that are trying to reach different audiences, for different uses, at different times, no longer have to use long URL strings and hope to be effective.
I think we are uniquely positioned on the reseller side to make this case for branded navigation. As Enom, we have an opportunity to make small changes for those customers that have a big impact down the line. It’s absolutely important for us to help individuals, but by working with resellers to offer these solutions to their own diverse mix of customers, we can produce a network effect that many other organizations just can’t.
Is there anything else you’d like to communicate to our partners and resellers?
If there’s something that we’re doing that’s helpful, let us know. If there’s something we’re doing that’s not as helpful, let us know. We are listening. We have a fantastic account management team, customer support team, and product team. Every email is read, every tweet is read. We enjoy helping you help your customers. It’s what we love doing.
I can feel momentum in the industry. I can feel it preparing for a lot of positive movement and a lot of positive attention around the adoption of new domain extensions. And I feel the momentum within Enom. This past year, we have set ourselves up to take advantage of the technical changes that are coming. But trying to predict what happens technologically more than a year out is often an exercise in futility. That’s why I’m so pumped to have hired the right people and partnered them with those we already have on board. It means we’ll be able to move and adapt quickly in 2016, which is why I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.
If you’d like to take Jason up on his offer and leave us some feedback, or have any questions about Enom’s direction going into the new year, contact our sales team today.