We all predicted a gold rush in 2011 when ICANN’s board decided to end most restrictions on generic top level domains, and now we hear that a few Finnish serial entrepreneurs have gotten a taste of that ’49 fever with TLD Registry. Arto Isokoski, Jarno Marjamaki, and Taneli Tikka are prospecting two new swaths of Chinese online real estate: Dot Chinese Online (.在线) and Dot Chinese Website (.中文网).
The registrar is currently in a status called pre-sunrise, which basically just means they have rights to the TLD and can start marketing. Once ICANN allows them to procede to the next phase, brands and trademark holders will be able to apply for domains during the “sunrise period”. After that, their domains will be available to anyone to bid auction-style during the “land rush”, and then, the registrar goes into general availability.
Taneli Tikka says the way that they originally picked these domain names was sort of a luck and recognizing opportunity. They realized taking advantage of the new TLDs would be a scalable business, but they had english strings in mind – like .city and .home. Then they got the idea to drop those plans and bid on one English and two Chinese TLDs.
The decision of what Chinese TLD to apply for was another big question for a couple of Finns. They went with a market research company’s suggestion, but also explored their networks, and just asked open questions on Facebook about what would be a good string. They eventually selected a Chinese student’s suggestion because they thought the proposal and case was awesome.
They were lucky enough that the Chinese characters they bid for were uncontested, but their English TLD, .city, had two other bidders. Now for .city it’s a matter of going to an auction, buying them out, or agreeing on a joint venture – a process that might take some time.
Their financing was supported by some outside money, such at being the first investment by Helsinki based VC firm Vision+, as well as a few other business angels. Tikka tells us that the venture was polarizing to the investors they talked to – it came down to basically one phone call. Either investors immediately loved it or they couldn’t get their heads around it.
By now we’ve all heard rumors about China’s vast empty cities that were built for millions of people to come, but no one moved in. As someone who has close to zero insight on the Chinese internet culture, I have no idea how brands and businesses will flock to this new real estate, but Tikka tells us they’re good strings that people use daily, but are generic and distinctly different.
Now that everything is set in place, it’s just a matter of moving as fast as ICANN will allow them. The TLDs seem to be a pure marketing case – the infrastructure is out there and automated, the only thing they need now are brands, companies, and individuals to carve out their piece of land. If all goes well, they’ll be live October 2013. Perhaps then we’ll localize this website into mandarin at ArcticStartup.中文网