This latest installment in the "Meet the Resellers" series features John McKown, president of Delaware.net, an innovative Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider located in the American state of Delaware. They recently moved their entire domain registration business to our hosted Storefront platform.
James McNally (JM): How long has Delaware.net been doing business and what are all the services you offer to your customers?
John McKown (JMcK): We've been in business since 1997. I would call us a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider. We have a development team here that builds websites, and we have our own software that we run both in our own data center and also on the Amazon cloud. It's a platform that consists of four main suites: a content management system (CMS), a customer relationship management system (CRM) for sales and project management online, an ecommerce system and an email newsletter system. We're especially seeing lots of growth with the CMS suite. In this economy, what we're seeing is that folks are losing their web designers and they want to be able to manage their own websites. They're moving their sites to us just so they can manage them better.
JM: Any interesting stories from your company's history?
JMcK: We started as an access provider, and I remember meeting Elliot (Noss) way back then, when Tucows started as a download site, even before it became a registrar. We had conversations about the future of services and where things were headed, and my take on things was that I did not want to be a commodity service. I didn't want to sell the wire, I wanted to sell what goes through the wire. It was only about a year and a half after being in that business that we decided that we had to get away as quickly as possible from that.Another lesson we learned is not to take on very large projects just out of ego. Today, every site we work on is making our products better. When folks would come to us with an application that someone else had built that was broken and ask us to fix it, we underestimated how much it would demoralize our programmers to ask them to fix someone else's bad code. By creating our own SaaS platform, and continually adding new features to it which we roll out to customers at no charge, we instill much more pride in our team because we're helping our clients make millions of dollars.v
JM: How did you personally get into the Internet business?v
JMcK: My family had a company and I build an ecommerce system for them, and then our ISP went out of business. We had 48 hours to find a new host, and I had made a spreadsheet of all the area hosting companies. We literally sat around a table and decided that we should just do it ourselves. And we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The company was first called EZ Online and our domain was ezol.com. We'd say to people, "We're like America Online but it's easier to do things." Dialup back then was something like $35 a month.v
As the price started to drop, it didn't take long for us to know that selling the wire wasn't adding value, that service was the value. I see the same thing happening to hosting as an industry. I think applications are the key. You're not just using the web. You're using a browser, you're using Facebook, you're using Twitter, you're using Gmail, these are all applications. So that's our focus now.v
The Old State House, Dover, Delaware
JM: Where are you located and what makes it such a great place to do business?
JMcK: We're in Dover, Delaware which is the capital of the state. The reason we're here is because we're close to state government, which was a huge part of our company when we started. The ironic thing today is that our clients come from all over the country. Municipalities are a huge vertical for us, we're building a lot of city websites right now. We've got one in Arizona, one in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut. We have struggled with our name, we had an identity crisis with our name for quite a long time and then we realized that it didn't matter. What matters to people is that we can solve their problem. We learned that if you're in the service business, you're in the problem-solving business. We also learned that your portfolio will do your marketing for you.
JM: How long have you been an OpenSRS Reseller and how has your partnership with OpenSRS helped your company succeed?
JMcK: Since the very beginning. In fact, we actually made up t-shirts when Tucows came into existence. When everyone was on Network Solutions and that was the only option, they became private and began to poach the database. They were marketing to our clients and that really concerned us. OpenSRS was a bright light in the registrar world to us because they respect the sales channel. The difference in cost is a non-issue for me. It's someone I can trust and can do business with. We made a t-shirt with the Network Solutions logo that said "Not Worth Delusions". The silver lining to that experience is that now we're looking at reselling some of our applications and OpenSRS has been an example to me that we need to nurture and protect our own sales channel. I think Tucows is a model for that.
JM: I understand that you recently migrated your domains into our hosted Storefront. Can you give me a bit of background on that?
JMcK: Firstly, we're programmers and we could code a lot of things ourselves, but there's a point when you have to ask yourselves, "Do we want to build or do we want to buy?" With that product, you could get us to market instantly with an interface that better serves our client.The second reason we moved to it is that we see domain registration as just a cost of doing business for our clients. It's not necessarily a primary revenue source for us. The most important thing is to get the domain registered, get the domain renewed quickly, and to give the clients self-service tools. The interface works perfectly for those purposes.
JM: How was the experience of migrating and how has using Storefront compared to your previous method of working with the RWI?
JMcK: It was very easy. We simply linked to it and pushed customers to it. They don't have a problem with that. We were concerend that giving them a self-service option might be construed as a hassle and that hasn't happened. It's been very painless, and one of the benefits that we've uncovered is that we're able to not incur interest fees on our credit cards by running the transactions ourselves. And to be honest with you, I think that a lot of service providers that do use credit cards are now finding that the credit card companies are jacking up the rates and so that eats into the domain profit and maybe they don't want to put all their domain stuff on the credit card in case it's ever in jeopardy. This solves that problem because the money is going right from the client right to you and we're not in the middle. There are fewer potential points of failure in the transaction, in my opinion.
JM: What can we do to make our relationship with your company stronger?
JMcK: Communicate more. Communication is what it's all about. Some people don't want to be bothered, but that's not us. We want to bothered, we want to know what's going on, we want to know what's available. It was us enquiring that got us to the (hosted Storefront) interface, I didn't even know that was an option. We were digging. We would have done it sooner had we known about it sooner.
JM: Any other suggestions or feedback for us?
JMcK: One thing you might do is to create some simple marketing or help materials to help end users understand how the domain name process works. You could even make this available through the Storefront interface. Something to explain the role of each link in the domain registration chain, from registries to registrars to resellers to end users. Or even the difference between domain hosting and registration. I don't think we realize how little the general public knows about how DNS works or how registrars work or how we fit into all that.