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.WS story

Michael Starr and Alan Ezeir Before you can start up a business - any business - customers need to be able to find you. On the Internet, your address is your domain name; the part of an Internet address that comes after the www. With the unparalleled growth of the Internet, dot com domain names continue to sell like hotcakes. Currently, there are more than 20 million dot com domains, and over 34 million total domains registered worldwide. Industry experts forecast that more than 500 million domains will be registered in the next ten years. In fact, reliable sources from companies like Intel are predicting that every personal computer in the future will have its own domain name.

In 1998, the dot com craze was beginning to ramp up to unbelievable proportions. So many Internet companies sprouted up in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, that companies not swept up in the hysteria were thought to be missing out. But, while most people were focused on things like Content, Banner Ads and Bandwidth, Michael Starr and Alan Ezeir, the CEO and President respectively of Global Domains International, Inc. (GDI), recognized another opportunity that was largely ignored; they wondered, "Besides dot com, are there other extensions that businesses could use as a domain name?"

Mike and Alan were aware that in the mid 1990's, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned each nation a country code. These codes were designed to give each country an address to use for their own Internet needs. For instance, the United States was assigned .us, Australia .au, Ireland .ie. "We knew that a good, easy-to-remember country code could be marketable globally as a viable alternative to .com," said Alan. "And so," Mike added, "we ordered some pizza, locked ourselves in a room, and went through the entire list of countries to pinpoint the best possible code."

They ultimately focused on the domain extension .WS -- which belongs to the tiny island nation of Samoa, deep in the South Pacific. "We thought that the abbreviation .WS could be successfully marketed worldwide as the 'WebSite' top-level domain," said Mike. "There were a small handful of other viable options, but through resolve and perseverance, we found that some countries were already using their domain locally, and not interested in becoming an 'open' or 'global' registry. With a population of less than 200,000 people, Samoa had yet to utilize their domain on a massive scale. And, none of the other countries' domains compared to the potential branding power of .WS to signify 'WebSite'. After all," Mike happily exclaimed, "everyone in the free world knows what a web site is!"

Audio: 23 Minute Interview with the Founders


The island nation of Samoa is part of a group of islands and islets in the south-central Pacific Ocean about 1,600 miles (2,600 km) northeast of New Zealand. It is completely separate and independent of its U.S. cousin, American Samoa. Its form of government consists of a Prime Minister, Parliament and, as head-of-state, a King. The country's primary exports range from coconut cream and beer, to automotive wiring-harnesses and cigarettes.

All business professionals know that having an idea is one thing, but executing the idea is quite another. Mike and Alan knew that the idea of marketing an alternative to dot com had tremendous promise.

Yet, they both recognized that they'd need more perseverance and a little luck to pull it off. "Remember, we were paddling against the current," Mike said. "Back then, most people were still branding businesses with dot com. Quite frankly, nearly everyone thought we were wasting our time."

After a series of overseas phone calls and e-mails to Samoan officials, a date was set for Mike and Alan to meet with the leading figures of Samoa, including the King and his Prime Minister. In less than a week, Mike and Alan put together a presentation detailing their plans for their appropriation of the technical and marketing operations of Samoa's top-level domain extension, ".WS."

So as not to take any chances, Mike and Alan devoured reams of information about the nation of Samoa, familiarizing themselves with as many of its customs and traditions as possible. While Alan busily acquainted himself with appropriate etiquette when meeting with Samoan government officials, Mike worked on ensuring that the proposal they would present to the Samoans was as interesting and worthwhile as possible. "I had to make certain the Samoans understood that we looked at the opportunity as a joint relationship that would ultimately benefit their entire nation," said Mike.

One major risk gnawed at Alan and Mike: they really didn't have anything significant to immediately offer the country, except for their business ingenuity and know-how. Although Mike and Alan were successful marketing experts in the U.S., convincing an entire nation to trust them on what appeared to be a hunch would be difficult, at best.

"There was mounting pressure by some of our consultants to offer the Samoan government cash up-front. Otherwise, they felt we'd lose the deal and someone else could come in and take over," Alan said. "However, we knew the culture of Samoa was much different than here in the States, and that 'buying off' anyone is not the way we do business! As a result," Alan continued, "we came up with an alternative proposal we thought better accommodated the cultural demands of the country."

Big Trip

The day finally arrived to travel directly to Samoa . . . well, almost directly! To get to Samoa via the U.S., one has to first fly from the mainland to Honolulu. Easy enough. "We hopped on the flight to Honolulu, still pinching ourselves to make sure this was really happening," Mike said. "It all happened so fast; one moment we were selling long distance air time, the next minute our idea of 'air-time' was how long it would take to fly to Samoa."

Mike and Alan and King of SamoaThe plane landed in Honolulu without any problems. They boarded their connecting flight to Samoa, finally beginning to relax. Three hours into the flight the pilot announced the plane had encountered some mechanical problems. The plane's landing lights were inoperable, and there were no repair facilities open in Samoa. As a result, the pilot turned the flight around and headed back to Hawaii. "We were completely dejected," Mike said. "All of our preparation came to a screeching halt . . . all because some light bulbs weren't working!" After the plane landed safely in Honolulu, the glum business partners entered a deserted Hawaiian terminal.

But, as had happened all along, luck was once more on their side. An Air New Zealand flight that travels to Samoa only once a week "just so happened" to be at the terminal, scheduled to leave in less than 45 minutes. "We were shocked and thrilled. I've never run so fast in my life!" Alan said. They both hopped onto the flight hoping this plane's landing lights worked!

After landing in Samoa with a whopping two hours to spare, "Mike was looking a bit ragged but I looked good," Alan laughed. "We went over our presentation one last time, trying to get into the mind-set as to how a true Samoan would give the presentation."

The meeting started with all the appropriate government members present. Mike and Alan pitched the Prime Minister on the fact that the domain extension they presently owned, .WS, would be perfectly suited to market worldwide. With the correct marketing idea behind it, there was no reason why the .WS extension could not be recognized as the major alternative to dot com.

Everyone at the meeting studied the 20-page proposal that Mike and Alan finalized on their midnight flight from Honolulu. "The Samoans do things with a great deal of trust and understanding of the people involved," Mike stated. "Because of our due diligence, we knew that providing a detailed legal agreement might have actually worked against us. So, the clincher was more about the fact that we came across as sincere and honest."

"We needed to give them reasons to trust us," Mike continued. "I believe we did just that." A visit to the King's home helped cement a relationship they hoped would become long-term. "He was a kind, gentle person, concerned that what we wanted to do was in the best interest of his people," Alan said.

The meetings ended on a congenial note with Mike and Alan satisfied that they had successfully completed the task they had set out to accomplish. Since their flight was not leaving the island for a few days, they went into vacation mode, spending time exploring Samoa's beautiful, pristine beaches and lush tropical forests.

Alan and Mike on a Samoa beach Convinced that negotiations had been concluded, Mike and Alan flew back to the States confident that the deal was completed. Unfortunately, they waited another few months to discover that their proposal had, in fact, been rejected. It seems that after making their presentation, no less than a half dozen companies from the United States and other countries were also granted an opportunity to offer presentations to the Samoan government. So much time had passed since Mike and Alan's initial visit, that it seemed inevitable the Samoans might have been deluged with other information, including various claims of potential profits by other groups wanting to do a similar deal. "I wanted to give up," Alan said. "I felt we had given it our best shot, but it just wasn't meant to be."

Mike, however, had another idea. He tracked down the local Samoan government's majority-owned technology company that was ultimately granted the domain contract, and placed a call to its General Manager. "The company was local on the island, so I had a hunch that their ability to market the domains globally would be limited," said Mike. "I had to change my way of thinking. So, I pitched him on the idea that we should partner together, and he accepted."


In November 2000, less than nine months after launching .WS to the global Internet community, GDI announced it had sold over 100,000 .WS registrations to customers such as Yahoo!, Intel, Cisco, Dell Computers, and other companies and individuals in more than 180 countries.

And the Samoans?

"They originally wanted to wait to see just how well we performed," Mike said. "They proposed that, as a test, our Company had to produce 15,000 registrations in just three years. We did that in the first month," Alan proudly stated. "The Nation of Samoa now receives a percentage of all .WS domain sales that GDI generates, and is delighted with our success. Our company is proud of our exclusive agreement to distribute .WS worldwide."

As proud and exciting as the beginning of .WS was for Mike and Alan, the future is what excites them most. Just before .WS recorded its first registration, Mike and Alan knew the time had arrived to begin building their business to reflect its quickly changing personality -- from a forty-person shop to that of a multi-national corporate conglomerate. To accomplish this, Mike and Alan focused on surrounding themselves with intelligent people who were filled with enthusiasm, and had the capacity to help launch their business on an international scale. In addition, the .WS founders beefed up their marketing outreach with ad placements in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Additional ads appeared in Major League Baseball's 2000 World Series program, and thousands of radio spots aired in large urban markets. Mike and Alan also invested heavily in the company's infrastructure, ensuring that the anticipated volume of registrations would be handled with relative ease and no downtime.

And now, what do Mike and Alan have to say about their "idea," a little more than a year after their harried plane-trip across the Pacific? Mike said, "It's all about taking a risk and believing in a concept enough to drop everything and make it a reality." Alan concurs. "We are extremely excited about what the next few years have in store for everyone who joins us as we make .WS the global standard for Internet addresses."

"This is just the beginning..."

Inc 500

In the 2002 Special issue of Inc. magazine, GDI placed #37 on the Inc. 500 "List" of the USA's 500 fastest growing private companies and #5 in the state of California.

"The truly exciting thing about GDI making the Inc. 500 List is the fact that we've barely even begun!" says Mike. "We've gotten to this level by serving only that tiny minority of Internet users who even know what a 'domain name' is and why they need one. We've actually begun to create a market by introducing .ws domains to the masses, with our turnkey, extremely affordable and easy to use packages of domain names, self-service instant websites, and personal email services. We're actually 'targeting' the other 99+% of the Internet community - families, single people, children, seniors, and small businesses - the vast majority of whom are new to domain names and just need something simple and affordable to get them excited. That is literally hundreds of millions of people globally who are prospects for our service."



MikeMichael Starr oversees, directs, and integrates the creative and marketing departments, as well as the technical division of Global Domains International, Inc. (GDI), which maintains the Registry for all ".WS" domain names worldwide (http://WebSite.WS). His management responsibilities include a broad range of data management and security for GDI and all its services, including online order processing for all domain names worldwide, local and web database management for Domain Name Services (DNS), and all additional features in domain name management for GDI. Starr's focus for managing the Registry from its inception has been focused on redundancy in all systems and personnel, high system performance, and transparent expandability (scalability). No expense has been spared to meet these three core objectives.

Michael also manages a large staff of technical professionals that maintain the Registry around the clock. Additionally, he works with GDI's creative and marketing departments, continually introducing new programs that promote .WS to the international Internet community.

Michael co-founded FreedomStarr Communications, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Earth Communications (PEC) in October 1995, which currently maintains licenses in most of the United States for certified telecommunications services, and supports thousands of users in each state.

Michael has been involved in entrepreneurial activities for more than 20 years and has extensive knowledge in direct marketing and affiliate marketing distribution, as well as in software systems necessary to track agent sales and activities. Michael majored in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


AlanAlan Ezeir has established a track record of success in e-commerce, telecommunications, and in several other fast-paced entrepreneurial/start-up environments. Before founding GDI with Michael, Alan was head of USVT, a switchless telecommunications reseller in Northern California. Under his leadership, USVT developed a broad distribution base throughout California, and increased monthly revenues by a record six fold.

In 1991, Alan founded Intelligent Communications Management; a business instrumental in helping small to large companies determine the most proficient telecommunications carriers to suit their requirements.

Alan is responsible for multiple strategic projects at GDI; setting guidelines for meeting revenue goals, providing crucial leadership in generating new revenues, projecting sales forecasts, and monitoring the company's cash expenditures. Ezeir is also co-founder of FreedomStarr Communications, Inc., and manages the accounting, finance, contractual, and operations of GDI.

Alan is an active member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and the current and founding alumni president of the Southern California Entrepreneurial Academy Alumni Association (SCEAA); an organization that works closely with the development of entrepreneurs in Southern California. The organization pairs emerging entrepreneurs with successful entrepreneurs.

With a vision to navigate the course of the company as it enters the new millennium, Alan is vigilant in his continued search to develop successful new business horizons. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from UCLA.

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