Give a short summary of Park. What does it do? When was it launched? How much monthly revenue is it currently generating?
My name is Mike Carson and I built Park.
Park.io is a service that provides domain name backorders for “hacker” TLDs (e.g. “.io”, “.ly”, etc..). We catch expired domains as they are deleted and made available again by the registry. It was launched in June 2014 and is doing a little over $150k monthly revenue on average so far this year.
How did you get the idea for Park? Did you do anything to validate the idea before building the product?
I am a hacker and like to launch projects and so I have been interested to get good domain names from this. After working a lot to try to get some good domains that had expired, I decided to launch the system I created as a service, I didn’t do any validation before building. It was mostly built from my own personal interest in expired domains.
Talk about the MVP for Park. What features did it have? How did you decide what to include and what to leave out? How long did it take to build it?
It was very simple and basically only allowed a person to order a domain, and then transfer the domain to another registrar once they bought the domain. I know that the main value of the service is getting the expired domains, and so I have always focused on this. My philosophy after this is just to do things manually, and when I find myself doing the same thing over and over, I try to automate it. I’ve automated a lot of the service in this way, but when it started out, a lot of things I had to do manually.
Talk about the tech stack for the MVP. What powered the back-end? Front-end? Any hacks to save time/money?
I use a LAMP stack on AWS. The hack to save time was to simply use something really easy and fast for me to build with. Using a php framework, it was fast and easy for me to build a user interface to the domain ordering system that I made for myself.
What were the total expenses for the MVP?
It was mostly just an expense of my time, but I didn’t mind spending this time on the project because I had fun doing it. The actual costs were around $100 or so - very low.
Talk about the founding team. How many founders? Who are they? What was the split (technical vs non-technical)? Who was responsible for what?
I am the only founder.
Talk about the MVP launch. What exactly did you do? How did it go?
I just put the website up and a few orders started to come in. The only advertising I did, and continue to do, is to put a parked page up on the domains we get which lets users know that park.io caught this domain. For an example, see http://tab.io
I had launched other projects before, but I was very happy to see orders come in so quickly and for the project to become profitable from the very beginning.
Since launch, how are you getting users for Park? What’s the breakdown of your growth strategy?
I don’t really have time for a growth strategy :) I just do what I have always been doing, which is to put a parked page up with a link to park.io on the domains that we catch. I also do some interviews, like this one.
How has the product evolved since launch? What features have you added? What features do you plan to add?
I haven’t added many features since I launched. I try to keep it as simple as possible. I also try not to make too many changes once I know that the system is working well. So it evolved a lot at first - I made changes to the way the bidding and auction system worked, etc.. - but then after I got it to a point that it seemed to work well, I haven’t made many changes. I focus on making the system that catches the domains work as well as possible, and occasionally I will add a new TLD to the system.
How has the team grown since launch?
It has always just been me. My wife deserves a lot of credit, though - I ask her opinion on things every day, so her input has shaped a lot of park.io.
How has the tech stack changed since launch?
The user interface hasn’t changed much, but the system we use to catch expired domains has and is always changing. We acquired a competitor early this year and we integrated their system into ours, which was a big change to everything. In this case, acquiring a competitor added a lot of value to our service because we were able to take the best parts of each system and integrate them into something that was better than either one on its own.
How have the expenses changed since launch? In addition to context, please provide a graph/chart of expenses to date.
The expenses have gone up as more orders have gone up - the expenses are mostly our expense for domain registrations and renewals.
Here is a chart of expense for every month since launch:
What’s your business model? How is revenue growing over time? In addition to context, please provide a graph/chart of revenue to date.
The business model is acquiring domain names for registration price and selling them for wholesale market price. The popularity of .io domains has helped the growth of our revenue.
This is a chart of revenue every month since we started:
Give a description of what your team does - day in, day out - to run Park.
I answer a lot of support requests and I check over everything to make sure things are working. I figure out why we didn’t get some domains we tried to, and I make updates to improve the system, if I am able to.
What are the things that most helped you build Park into a successful business?
I think running it by myself is a big reason for its success. By myself, I am able to understand every part of the business completely, and I am able to make decisions quickly. Most importantly, I care about the product and its users greatly because I built it and have worked on it for years by myself.
What were your biggest challenges to date? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenges have been the competition, or changes to the way the registry system works. The key to overcoming this is just to figure it out - to understand the system better than anyone else, even better than the people that run the system, if possible. Also, I think understanding that challenges always come up and having faith that there is a way around or through the challenge has been helpful. After years of doing this I now expect these things to come up and I no longer think of them as tragic or devastating. In a competitive market, there will always be other people and companies fighting you and working very hard to be better than you or take customers away.
Knowing what you know now, what would you change about Park’s journey to date?
There were two times that I spent a lot of time having calls and providing info for a possible sale of the company, which turned out to be a big waste of my time. If I could do it over, I would not waste time with this.
How has your life changed because of Park? Has it improved? Or gotten worse? Overall, are you happier?
I feel happy that I was able to build a service that people find valuable and are willing to pay for. I am happy that I have made enough money from this to provide for my family. I am also happy that I can work for myself and not have a boss or have to commute into an office every day.
How can one learn more about Park?
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