DigitalTown acquires JustLegal.com, hires Frank Robles, Braden Pollock joins as an investor/advisor

DigitalTown, Inc. and Congo, Ltd., have entered into an agreement for DigitalTown to acquire technology, expertise, and other assets of Congo. Congo’s flagship product is JustLegal.com, an online service for legal service provider discovery.

“The combined capability powers a global platform for connecting people with service providers online, such as lawyers, accountants, and doctors, through geo-targeted web and mobile portals for transacting in real-time.” (A PDF about JustLegal.com can be downloaded here.)

“DigitalTown is transforming how the citizens of the world discover and consume local goods and services. From restaurants in Miami to hotels in London, DigitalTown’s platform connects buyers and sellers seamlessly online via web and mobile devices. The Congo acquisition expands DigitalTown’s footprint in the legal industry, making it easy for citizens to find the right attorney, schedule a free initial consultation, and choose to connect in person or online through secure video chat. The same technology is designed to work across other service categories where one to one live consults are desirable, including the ability to do on-demand video consults and the ability to pay by the minute through the DigitalTown SmartWallet or other payment methods.”

Rob Monster, CEO of DigitalTown, explained the logic of the deal: “The Congo team has built a robust platform for managing online services procurement.  Service platforms like Angie’s List, Houzz, Porch, ServiceMaster and Thumbtack attempt to lump all service provider discovery in one bucket.  Niche platforms like Avvo and ZocDoc cater to specific niches. DigitalTown is using the new web extensions such as .LAW, .SHOP,.CITY and more to put the consumer at the center of the experience in a way that is intuitive, personalized, real-time and secure through an integrated network of digital portals that cater to specific geo-targeted verticals and which can be operated in cooperation with local partners.”

Concurrent with the acquisition, DigitalTown, a provider of smart city portal solutions, announced the hiring of Congo’s CTO, Frank R. Robles. Mr. Robles, a technology executive joins as President of the newly-established Service Provider Business Division and VP of Global Operations for DigitalTown.

The hiring of Mr. Robles and the acquisition of certain assets from Congo Ltd. will be leveraged to help accelerate DigitalTown’s online service provider business. Initially with the legal vertical leveraging DigitalTown’s 1,668 City.LAW domain names and then moving on to other verticals such as accounting, medical and other professional services as well as other service categories where live consults are standard practice.

Most of the 1,668 City.Law domain such as newyork.law, losangeles.law and boston.law were bought in May 2017 while a few others were acquired in September 2017. Most of the city.law domains were reserved domains. DigitalTown’s goal is to either (1) sell the city.law platform to the local Bar Associations where they exist, and/or (2) operate and then sell the entire network.  The outreach to local law firms has started, e.g. see Austin.Law. DigitalTown exhibited and sponsored at the National Association of Bar Executives Conference in New York back in August, in cooperation with JustLegal.

DigitalTown worked out a special deal with MMX, the .law registry, but still many of these domains have premium renewals. DigitalTown will be working with MMX actively promoting .law domain names. DigitalTown is working closely with Lou Andreozzi and Carl Jaeckel who manage that registry.

DigitalTown also owns more than 30,000 .CITY domains. .City is a Donuts domain name extension.

“I am excited to join the DigitalTown team and to build upon the work we have done to date, using technology to reinvent how consumers procure services in the Digital Age,” said Frank R. Robles. “Given the great foundation DigitalTown has created, the opportunity looks enormous.”

“With their robust platform and global domain network, DigitalTown is leading the proliferation of smart cities around the world,” said Congo’s Founder and CEO, Willy Ogorzaly. “Our team believes strongly in the DigitalTown vision, and we see this opportunity as furthering the mission of increasing direct access to reputable service providers.”

The asset purchase transaction is expected to close on or before December 5, 2017 with integration of operations already in progress.

Also, in related news, Braden Pollock has just joined DigitalTown as an investor and advisor. He was already a shareholder and Director of Epik, an ICANN accredited registrar.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

23 comments

  1. Nice acquisition! Sky’s the limits now Rob 😉 – Congrats!

    • Thanks Eric. One of the great upsides of running a public company is the ability to use public equity to align incentives among entrepreneurial leaders who have shared vision. This deal checks all the boxes:

      1. An established business unit that is capable of being self-sustaining.

      2. A proven manager in Frank Robles accountable for leading the outcome while creating synergies with the parent company as VP Operations.

      3. A set of technology that are additive to the larger agenda, e.g. appointment booking, video conferencing, and scalable monetization of service-sector leads.

      And it was perfect timing for Braden to join in with a planned cooperation with Braden’s Legal Brand Marketing. Ironically, Braden was talking to JustLegal long before I did. Small world.

  2. I don’t get this business model, reminds me of Naveen Jain sub 2000 and his local play… 50% of your last fiscal reported revenue was domain renewal fees, how do you cover the monster of operating, and development charges.

    All great to have public equity, but unless you are self funding you are burning lots of cash.

    • @Trent

      DigitalTown’s Smart City platform development began in January 2016 with the first of now 6 acquisitions as well as organic software development. Along the way, we made some strategic deals with registries like .LAW, .SHOP, .FIT, .BIBLE, .MENU, as well with geo TLDs like .LONDON, .SYDNEY, .MELBOURNE, .NRW and .WIEN. This is all part of the SmartWeb, and more is on the way.

      More here on SmartWeb from an ICANN briefing we did at ICANN GDD in May:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59-j0dxPzkU&w=640&h=390]

      As for market acceptance, llthough it is still early days for DigitalTown, I suggest you take a look at what Shopify has done for eCommerce. The company made it easy for merchants of all sizes to get into eCommerce. The market rewarded them with a massive valuation of $9.2 billion, a multiple of about 27X of SALES.

      In the case of Lawyers and Bar Associations, these are niche markets that are relatively late to the party when it comes to internet reinventing the business process. However, it is happening. Bar associations are losing out to the likes of Avvo as a preferred destination for legal service provided discovery. It used to be that when you wanted a lawyer, you would go to a Bar Association site. That rarely happens now. People increasingly use Google and Avvo. Lawyers who need business pay Google nosebleed CPC fees to the point that there is material marketing investment that often does not pay out. The working hypothesis, is that a Bar Association like the Austin Bar will ultimately want a platform like Austin.Law to help connect consumers and businesses to legitimate providers of legal services.

      Moreover, we believe that many individuals lawyers will prefer a turn-key move-in ready legal portal that they can edit and customize without technical skills, including integrated payment processing. The DigitalTown SmartWallet help solve this. One of JustLegal’s pain backers is the Founder of Affinipay, parent company of LawPay — a very successful business which serves 47 of the 50 State Bar Associations and is the leading payment processor for lawyers in the US.

      Beyond Lawyers, the same pattern can be found in other verticals, e.g. Personal Trainers may benefit from a cloud-hosted solution in combination with the .FIT extension. That is another vertical that needs simpler transaction-based solutions. For calibration, MindBodyOnline.com has a $1.3 billion Market Cap selling cloud software.

      The Broader construct of DigitalTown is to make it easy to find and engage with service providers through local search and then book/transact with them directly through the DigitalTown SmartWallet.

      More here:

      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-local-search-may-answer-winner-take-all-online-robert-monster/

      Hope that helps.

    • Financial statements are a wreck. High exec salary. Paltry revenue. Good luck to all.

      • @RP – Just following up here with a few clarifying remarks:

        1. I came on board in May 2015 to run what was a pre-existing public company with a relatively underwhelming operating history. Although I was not looking for another project, I had never run a public company, and I liked the Board. My precondition for taking the job was that I would have autonomy to set the strategy. In September 2015 I presented a plan to the DigitalTown Board that would enable DigitalTown to become a global Smart City platform. By January 2016, the company was sufficiently funded to execute the first phase of that strategy.

        2. In the meantime, DigitalTown has completed a total of 6 acquisitions, in addition to an accelerating pace of internal development and marketing. This was not free but in terms of actual cash cost we are talking in the range of $3 million, which is peanuts for an opportunity of this size, operating as a SEC-compliant public company. The dilution from the acquisitions has been fairly modest:

        Cloud.Market, in March 2016, for $67,500.
        Software Masters for a nominal sum, in July 2016.
        Rezserve Technologies, in September 2016, for $1.5 million.
        Appointment.com, in December 2016, for $854,000.
        Comencia, in June 2017, for $1.1 million.
        Congo / JustLegal in October 2017 for $1.2 million

        In the case of Rezserve, Appointment.com, Comencia and JustLegal, these were all established operating businesses that were either cash flowing or were within striking range of becoming such when we acquired them. We have a 7th acquisition pending. For calibration, Comencia alone books more than $2 million per year in lodging bookings and is just getting warmed up.

        3. As for management compensation, the vast majority is in the form of restricted stock. None of the current management team has petitioned the Board to have their restrictions removed, nor am I aware of any plans to do so. We are swinging for fences and along for the ride. Many of the execs log 100 hour work weeks. I don’t ask them to do that, but these are entrepreneurs who chose to trade one dream for another and see DigitalTown as a mission that can change the world for the better before it is too late to do so.

        At the end of the day, I think the DigitalTown valuation is amply supported by some very simple logic. If you apply a valuation of just $1,000 per city, the 22,000 cities in the DigitalTown network is already $22 million. Cities will either license the DigitalTown platform, or ownership will be publicly syndicated via Blockchain which creates a material revenue opportunity for DigitalTown. See here:

        http://www.govtech.com/biz/DigitalTown-to-Offer-Stock-Market-Style-Shares-in-Web-Portals-to-City-Residents.html

        So, sure, this is not a mature blue chip. However, there is a tipping point when it comes to new economic models. For example, if you asked the typical person 5 years ago if they would use a mobile phone to arrange to get into a car with a total stranger, they would likely have said no way. However, today we all do it, through the likes of Uber and Lyft. The same logic applies to cities. Right now, a typical city runs Parks and Recreation, Farmers Markets, and a variety of other citizen-facing services. However, they don’t run a website or mobile app that powers local commerce 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From an Economic Development perspective, it is a no-brainer for them to do so. So, now it becomes a question of liability and political risk. I submit to you that there is far less risk in running a digital commerce platform than being responsible for kids sports, public swimming pools, or turning a blind-eye as AirBnB provides registered sex offenders with the ability to rent housing in residential communities. At some point, the switch is going to flip for cities. Just watch.

        Hope that helps.

  3. “Cities will either license the DigitalTown platform, or ownership will be publicly syndicated via Blockchain which creates a material revenue opportunity for DigitalTown”, are you currently doing either? If anyone wanted to own this whatever this platform does they don’t need blockchain to do it, they can just buy shares of the public company could they not?

    This reminds me of when speculators piled into online gaming and they’d buy anythinggames.com, socialitegames.com, anywordgame.com ect… adding the word blockchain to a sentence doesn’t make it a coherent idea.

    We plan to use blockchain ownership with an ICO to raise money. Skittles! huhhh?

    Whats up with EPIK?

    • Bill,

      I am always amazed when seemingly intelligent and apparently successful people engage in unprovoked ad hominem. As far as I know, I owe you nothing. Nevertheless, I have prayed this morning for your onward journey and I do wish you all the best.

      As for Epik, the company is doing well. We became an ICANN accredited registrar in 2011 and have since grown steadily into a global top 50 registrar. We believe we are also the leading provider of domain lease management services and have been particularly active of late with the new domain registries. Registrants have noticed that we have a solid software platform, competitive full-service all-inclusive pricing, and a professional 24-7 customer service operation. Domain investors are voting with their domains. For example, if you look, you will find that Epik is consistently in the monthly top 10 for net gaining registrars for .COM.

      As for DigitalTown, you are not alone among the domainer community in terms of not grasping what we are doing. So, for the benefit of anyone who gets to this page, I will provde an abridged summary of what we are doing and how we are doing it.

      DigitalTown is executing a radical idea that every city can be its own Google, Expedia, Open Table, AirBnB, Amazon and PayPal, all in one. We are doing this from the perspective of making the experience user-centric so that interactions with consumers, merchants and the public sector are intuitive, personalized and secure.

      To the casual observer, DigitalTown is about transactional local search: Search local. Buy local. Sell global. Branded in the identity of the city, e.g. Nashville.city, Sydney.city, etc., we keep more money in local economies while improving quality of life for residents and visitors. We enable citizens to “See the World through Local Eyes”.

      To achieve this ambitious future state, we are working on 3 main themes:

      1. Smart Cities: In the global move to Smart Cities, DigitalTown provides an operating system that connects stakeholders using an open platform that can be extended through a flexible API. Smart Government, Economic Development, Civic Engagement, Digital Inclusion and Smart Tourism are all brought to the cloud.

      2. Smart Web: We envision an internet that is intuitive through descriptive domain extensions such as .CITY for cities, .SHOP for shopping, and .LAW for legal services. Austin.Law, Chicago.Menu, Nashville.Shop, Smart.London, Etc. This is described further via a presentation made at an ICANN meeting in May 2017:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59-j0dxPzkU&w=640&h=390]

      3. Smart Wallet: In a DigitalTown, every citizen gets a Smart Wallet. It is a true single-sign-on. It is also a cloud wallet for personal preferences, payment methods, transaction history, and identity verification. In short, it is “Single Sign on for the World”.

      We are fomenting a global movement that is designed to stem the tide against winner-take-all platform titans like Amazon that are drawing funds out of local economies. You can see how we have started to do this in London with Smart.London where the end-game is to license the platform to the Greater London Authority.

      We have assembled some amazing people at all levels: Board, Management, Advisors, and Partners. This has been through both organic hiring and through acquisitions.

      In terms of revenue, there are 3 main growth engines:

      1. Licensing and Blockchain ICOs: Our end-game is to license DigitalTown to each municipality. Our typical price point is $3-5 per capita for perpetual licensing. Over time, we expect this price point will go up. For cities that don’t license at the municipality level, our solution is to use Blockchain for syndication of each city across multiple stakeholders, i.e. typically NOT a single owner if it is not the municipality itself.

      2. Transactions: In a DigitalTown, every citizen gets a SmartWallet, and every Merchant gets a free digital storefront. We charge transaction fees of 8-12%. We also streamline the ability for consumers, merchants and public services to transact with each other, bypassing the traditional merchant processor where possible.

      3. Domain Name Sales: We have secured a large number of strategic partnerships for powering the SmartWeb. We get paid by the registries to distribute their domains. For example, GMO of Japan is paying us $560K to distribute their .SHOP extension in addition to providing favorable wholesale pricing.

      In terms of go-to-market, we are focused on 3 audiences:

      1. Trade Associations: We are working with trade associations to onboard merchants across retail, services, dining, lodging and professional services. These are influencer organizations that are redefining themselves in the Digital Age. A good example is the imminent license of Austin.Law to the Austin Bar Association.

      2. Chambers of Commerce: The World Chambers Federation met last month in Sydney where DigitalTown was a sponsor. We are providing the organizing framework for Chambers to become Digital and also for Chambers to become more interoperable
      between cities. In some cases, Chambers will also be licensees.

      3. Municipalities and Municipal Leagues: We market to municipalities both directly and also indirectly through Municipal Leagues, which are federations of municipalities that are working to deploy model best practices. They know DigitalTown as a “gov tech” supplier. We were named to the Gov Tech 100.

      DigitalTown is a highly ambitious project. It kicked off in January 2016 and it just might work.

      Regards,
      Rob Monster
      CEO Epik Holdings Inc
      CEO DigitalTown, Inc
      Cell: 425-765-0077
      Email: rob@digitaltown.com or rob@epik.com

  4. Amazing the head of a public company and another really busy company has the time to write novels on message forums. Thank you for your prayers, the sky fairies, I’m sure are pleased with your offering. You don’t owe me anything, but you’ve decided to reply on your own will so I guess that’s a null point.

    Im an not along in grasping what you are doing in the domaining community… That’s because what you are doing is picking random buzz words and combining them with random buzz words.

    For examples… Im going to be the next {insert big company} with some [insert vague concept] and make it works for “cities”.

    Are you nuts what does this even mean? The paypal for cities? What does that mean, describe what a single transaction would look and work like.

    Every city can be its own search engine? Amazon? What? What does this mean. Hello I am the City of LA and I need to ship things? I can’t use existing global solutions because of {insert unknown reason} so I need Digital Town?
    Then you go back to your buzz word BS… ‘flexible API. Smart Government, Economic Development, Civic Engagement, Digital Inclusion and Smart Tourism are all brought to the cloud.”

    Digital Inclusion… smart tourism? What in the fook are you talking about? Provide one example of what that looks like in a functional transaction as currently offered on your platform, please. Because you know what public companies can do really well. They can tell you very directly what they actually do without having the mention 10 other public companies.

    Smart web… what????? So you bought some gtlds and this matters because…? Currently, the dot com system in place for 25 years is not working? Somehow people using all these local services seem to find them just fine. Are you saying by adding a dotLAW that somehow is better than using Yelp, or Google, or Nextdoor, or asking someone?

    That’s your plan? Just build out some junky gtlds and cross link them?

    Smart Wallet?? You mean like your existing bank card, paypal, apple wallet, amazon… a single sign on for the world. Can I see an example of this sign in. I just want to sign in once. I don’t think it would be too much to ask to see a list of vendors that support this Smart Wallet. Can this be used any place? Im praying to the sky fairies you guys didn’t somehow find a way to link this to actual money for everyone sakes.

    You are taking about competing against Amazon… HOW REH? You don’t ship a single product as far as I can tell. What will you license to the Greater London Authority?

    As for your growth engines…

    Licensing and blockchain … makes zero sense. Its just buzzwords you are using. “Blockchain for syndication of each city across multiple stakeholders, i.e. typically NOT a single owner if it is not the municipality itself.” That makes no sense. ZERO.

    “A smart wallet that charges vendors 8-12% bypassing the traditional merchant processor where possible”

    VISA/MC and others charge under 3% in most cases. Nevermind Square and other solutions and they have a massive range of services that consumers want to protect them. Vendors already complain about VISA fees and you want to triple them???

    I want to sign up with Smart Wallet and use it someplace. ANYPLACE. Tell me how I can do this without having to speak to sky fairies for guidance, please.

    Domain Name Sales … is this Digital Town or EPIK? So you sell gtlds is that the model because so far that’s the only thing that makes any sense. Although 560K doesn’t pay for your operations for a 2 months and it’s a 1 time deal so … OK.

    Go to market….

    Trade associations… so you are going to attend a bunch of expensive conferences… Umm ok that’s not great. You are going to sponsor a bunch of conferences … umm ok. A digital solutions that gets traction with the oldest of all offline advertising methods. What about bus benches and windshield stickers maybe dress up in a blow up outfit on the side of the road dressed up as “the blockchain”?

    ‘They know DigitalTown as a “gov tech” supplier. We were named to the Gov Tech 100.”

    Who does? What government have you provided a service for? To get on Gov Tech 100 you just fill out a form here: https://gov.typeform.com/to/LLPyJt There is no formal vetting process that would pass government transparency standards there. That’s nothing but an online directory.

    Folks read what I wrote above and demand real legitimate answers because I believe I just raised a red army of red flags.

    There is one line in this clip that sums up my thoughts on this entire thing Rob, enjoy.

  5. Hi Bill,

    Still praying for you here. I might not be the only one. 🙂

    Greetings from San Antonio where DigitalTown is exhibiting at the International City Managers Association that kicks off tonight.

    As for comments, it is easy to throw rocks. I am looking at TeachMe’s Alexa rank of more than 2 million and no news since 2016, it seems you might have layed an egg on that one:

    https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/teachme.com

    Duds happens. The duds make the wins all the more sweet. More importantly, it is a humbling offset against the wealth that can distract us from learning eternal truths. More on that later.

    As for how long it takes for me to compose coherent prose, I likely spent no more time responding to you than you spent waxing about “Skittles. There was some copy-paste involved but generally, I can write.

    As for what DigitalTown is doing, it is really not that complicated. Imagine if a city was its own Google, Amazon, Expedia, AirBnB, OpenTable and PayPal, all in one, branded in the name of the city and owned by the city. That’s it.

    The implementation is easiest with lodging and dining as the main transactions are digital, i.e. reservations and orders. For cases where local delivery is required, we have 3rd party logistics solutions that we are onboarding for markets that need it.

    As for commissions, they are actually very competitive. Every merchant gets a free storefront, i.e. no setup fee or service fee. The commissions are much lower than for example Expedia at up to 40% for lodging.

    Timing-wise, we kicked this off in January 2016. Even with 6 acquisitions done, the work is in progress. That being said, I know of no other company that is further along in executing anything remotely similar as a partner of municipalities. It certainly helps to have integrated operating businesses with existing customers and revenue but in particularly these deals gave us mature technologies and talent.

    For calibration, Appointment.com has processed about 1 million appointment bookings. Comencia did more than $2 million in bookings over the last year. Rezserve powers the likes of whistlerreservations.com which does about $12 millions in annual retail bookings. DigitalTown seeks to replicate these models as merchant of record, across thousands of cities, and working with the city, as opposed to working against it.

    As for the SmartWallet, you can go to any city site, e.g. Lax.city, create an account and then in the upper right hand corner you will see your Profile and Smart Wallet. It works like PayPal, and is multi-currency. You can send and receive money instantly. For local tax compliance on SmartWallet merchant transactions, we integrated a commercial platform called Tipalti which manages end of year local tax compliance.

    As for when cities will broadly license, I expect there will be a tipping point. A year ago at our first ICMA exhibition, the idea was radical. This year the idea is less radical thanks to efforts from PR, lobbying and work with early adopter cities. GovTech.com is a legitimate publication, and they do ample vetting, including for the GovTech 100.

    As for Blockchain, it is not just a sexy buzzword. When it comes time to making each city portal locally owned, for cities where the municipality does not license, we needed a cost-effective, self-auditing way to let people own their city. Blockchain distributed ledger is a solution.

    As for the DGTW stock price, I don’t believe the market is valuing what DigitalTown is capable of delivering at scale. As there are few sellers at $0.30/share, if you want to take a short position, you can. I would not recommend it. You can also attend our shareholder meeting, which was just announced for December 2 in Savage, MN.

    As for the topic of “sky fairies”, I can certainly sympathize with your position. That said, I probably have spent a lot more time than you researching these matters over the last 10 years with eyes wide open. I submit to you that the meaning of life is simply this: to learn the identity of the Creator, and to figure out what He wants. Most of us get nominally 70 to 80 years on this earth with a sufficiently clear mind with which to make up our mind about how we got here.

    If you can reconcile the precision of the universe – constellations, eclipses, procession of planets, tides and life itself – as being the product of randomness that is your sovereign choice. As for me, I came to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is true and that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sent his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life as atonement for the sins of fallen man who accept this free gift.

    And Lord-willing, we’ll host another Christian Domainers Breakfast at NamesCon in January. Last year we had a capacity crowd of 50. The year before we had 24 folks, and the year before that we had 12. The American Bible Society, operator of .BIBLE, has agreed to co-sponsor the event for the second year in a row. All are welcome. If you do come, you will run into some familiar faces, and I promise, you would be welcome!

    Regards,
    Rob

    • Akexa… I haven’t heard of anyone using that to sort traffic in over 10 years at least. Maybe you can icq me your geocities page also?

      Anyhow teachme.com is the landing page for the free stuff we do with Facebook FreeBasics. We provide a math textbook online to millions of kids via smart phone. Did you even read the website???

      As for Alexa this is the link you so poorly searched for… guess we are ranked 15,000~ in the USA. 🙂

      https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/mathgames.com

      More importantly this is not about me this is about your poor attempt to sell off this bullshit. If this company has no proven revenue model why take on 30m in debt? Why not launch a new company that has no bagged?

      Also why is nearly every Digital Town employee also an Epik employee? Just check linkedin they all match up.

      Is the paltry gltd sales revenue Epiks or DigitalTown???

      “At November 30, 2016 the Company had an accumulated deficit of $34,080,329. The Company anticipates that expected future proceeds from additional financing through the sale of its common stock or other equity-based securities, and additional sales and/or leases of existing domain names will be sufficient to meet its working capital and capital expenditure needs through at least November 30, 2017. In the event that the Company is unable to obtain additional capital in the future, the Company would be forced to further reduce operating expenses and/or cease operations altogether.”

      http://quote.morningstar.com/stock-filing/Quarterly-Report/2016/11/30/t.aspx?t=:DGTW&ft=10-Q&d=1187a9c2f95a21dc0666160e7cf1cb17

      What happens to shareholders if that switch doesn’t flip within 40 days?

      I don’t want to buy the stock or short it. I want to report it.

  6. Rob Says “For calibration, Appointment.com has processed about 1 million appointment bookings. Comencia did more than $2 million in bookings over the last year. Rezserve powers the likes of whistlerreservations.com which does about $12 millions in annual retail bookings. DigitalTown seeks to replicate these models as merchant of record, across thousands of cities, and working with the city, as opposed to working against it.”..

    Firstly the succesful sites you name are .COM’s! but you want to use new GTLDS?!

    So How come you have a problem explaining what you do?

    Is this what you want to do?

    Use INFERIOR generic keyword domain names (Inferior cause you are talking about using newgtlds) and divide the domain names geographically and offer them for exclusive use use along with online ecommerce tools they can get elsewhere.

    In the end your biggest assets are the domain names and if they are newgs you are putting your clients at a great disadvantage.

  7. (seems there is some problem with comments)

    Comment by Robert Monster:
    Just getting back from the 4-day International City Managers Association conference in San Antonio where DigitalTown exhibited, starting on Sunday.

    As for the DigitalTown team, the Company has more than 30 full-time equivalent persons, about half of which are engineers.  There are some staff that are shared from Epik though. The overlap list is a tiny fraction of the total headcount. Epik cross-charges DigitalTown a very reasonable Board-authorized $12,500 per month for these management services.  There are indeed large synergies between Epik and DigitalTown but for the foreseeable future, the companies do operate at arms length.  Epik is the preferred registrar of DigitalTown.  Logically, it has been a growth engine for Epik.

    As for debt, there is relatively very little debt.  I think Bill means “deficits”. The vast majority of historical operating losses is not cash.  It is due to Black-Scholes option pricing required under GAAP accounting.  Since I came on board, I discontinued the use of incentive stock options, resorting instead to common equity subject to a vesting schedule.  This model for incentive compensation eliminates the artifact caused by Black-Scholes. Our outside auditor has tended to have us write down much of the asset value within 1 year of the acquisitions that have been almost entirely based on common stock.  This is the result of standard impairment analysis.  DigitalTown does have a material tax-loss carry forward which should enhance cash flow as the Company grows. 

    As for why not simply take DigitalTown private, from an ethics standpoint, when I signed on as CEO, I did so with a mandate to create value for the common shareholders.  In the meantime, I have met hundreds of DigitalTown shareholders in person at shareholder meetings.  However, already within 4 months of coming into the role, it was clear that the legacy business model of high school sports was a non-starter. To do that business model right would have required contracting with Boards of Education in thousands of jurisdictions as well as navigating some common law trademark issues.  The cost-benefit equation of maintaining ~20,000 school mascot domains was just not there which is why the Company made a pivot.

    Readers of this blog might recall that back in 2010, Epik had a similar pivot.  The legacy business model for Epik was to produce content sites that monetized very nicely until Google Panda came along and played havoc with that business model.  Although I could have shut down the business, in fairness to a couple of outside investors, including Braden Pollock, I opted to find a way to reinvent the business.  This was by no means a self-serving exercise and I believe was much appreciated by the stakeholders who have benefited from that decision.  Today, Epik is a robust full-service registrar. In other words, I do believe my skills as a turn-around manager are proven.

    As for the future cash needs of the company, at ~$0.30 per share, the Company has been selective about capital-raising, preferring to raise smart value-added money rather than random institutional capital.  There was little argument for raising a war chest at low valuations. That said, some wheels are in motion to significantly extend the runway now that the Company is shipping product as well as deriving some demonstrable benefit from the suite of acquired assets.  If the Company were private at this stage, an excellent case could be made to raise $30 million through preferred equity.  That is not the DigitalTown Board’s chosen path but of course it would have been way more pleasant for me. 

    All that said, the DigitaTown project is certainly not without risk and has plenty of operating challenges to overcome.  Some would say that I was crazy to sign up to work on such an ambitious project.  However, I have treated it as a calling, and believe that a certain modicum of Divine Providence has been at work up to this point – a view that is shared by a number of the folks who have seen the progress up close.  In other words, some risks are worth taking.  For me, this was one of those cases. I remain hopeful to deliver a meaningful outcome for all stakeholders, including the new registry partners who have bought into DigitalTown’s vision for a Smart Web.  

    Finally, the DigitalTown initiative does seem to draw fire from the “dot-com Forever” crowd that tends to dominate domaining blogs like this one. Gentle readers should take note of the agenda of those stakeholders when navigating ad hominem as it relates to DigitalTown which is now quite possibly the world’s single most scalable effort to make new TLDs useful to businesses and consumers. Frankly the bigger risk for domains is not the gTLDs, but rather mobile apps! Comscore’s August 2017 Mobile App Report shows that 50% of all digital media is now being consumed via mobile apps and an astounding 87% of mobile time is spent on mobile apps.  The average user spends 16 times more time on top mobile apps than on the top mobile web sites.  Don’t shoot the messenger. I expect that there will be some more news coming soon on DigitalTown’s comprehensive, and perhaps game-changing, mobile strategy for cities.

    I will close here with a secular quote that seems fitting:

    “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”—Aristotle

  8. I figured out a business model for you Rob…

    Wait for it…

    Blockchain Town

    Your new company name would be Blockchain Town and every 8 words maximize you’d use the word blockchain to describe something.

    BOOM

    • @Bill – Blockchain is a core theme, yes, but it is more about being the operating system of cities:

      1. Powering cities to become their own Google, Expedia, Amazon, AirBnB, OpenTable, and Venmo, all branded in the identity of the city across web and mobile.

      2. Connecting cities around the world, through a Single-Sign-on Smart Wallet for frictionless engagement and commerce across the public and private sector.

      3. Enabling sustainable shared ownership of a sharing economy through Blockchain Distributed Ledger where citizens themselves can buy and sell unit interests in the city platform to the extent that the municipality has not licensed for their city.

      You are catching on though but I think you are not grasping the substance that has been accomplished over the last 19 months from organic development and acquisitions. More news to come. Thanks for your interest, even if you are a “doubting Thomas” when it comes to ignoring the ample proof that the initiative is as much substance as it is form.

  9. You keep repeating the same nonsense Rob. Just stop, no one is buying the gibberish you’re selling. “Cities” don’t want to become search engines and people don’t want to blockchain(??) own your fictitious city amazon/google/whatever platform. Sadly you have no idea what most people want from their local municipality which is for the most part to provide a set of well define services at the lowest tax rate possible.

    I hope you disclose your funding notes you provided here with the SEC as they seem material to the companies ongoing ability to operate… Or is that why you had Kosta post them to add a layer between yourself and them? Comment systems working fine bud.

    Also tell your lacky JP to stop contacting me on LinkedIn…

    https://youtu.be/oc8twhFnvAQ

    • @Bill – Whatever you are on, I suggest you cut the dosage. I have no idea who “JP” is. For future reference, “lackey” has an “e” in it.

      I am pretty sure that I have spent more time meeting with city managers than you have. Regardless, this is not just about municipalities but also the other civic stakeholders who are defining the city brand: visitor bureau, chamber of commerce, destination marketing organization, civic leaders etc.

      Cities need and have city sites today. I believe most cities will eventually have official mobile apps even though most cities still lack them today. It is logical that they should want people to use these tools routinely. It is also logical that an investment in digital presence should have an economic return.

  10. Thanks Rob correcting grammar and spelling on the internet you are teh smart one…

    Instead of commenting on trivial spelling details, how about you comment on the SEC disclosure?

    “Cities need and have city sites today. I believe most cities will eventually have official mobile apps even though most cities still lack them today. It is logical that they should want people to use these tools routinely. It is also logical that an investment in digital presence should have an economic return.”

    Can you list some of your clients? At these tradeshows, you must have a, “hey checkout this big great city using our does something platform – right?” A live client???? A public company should be able to produce a SINGLE live city powered but this magical platform.

    You know what “cities” have websites for? To pay parking tickets, to file complaints of sidewalk repair, to pay local taxes… you know civic functions directly related to the operating of municipality duties. you know what cities don’t have, or need, or want… to become open table or deliver packages from Amazon, or search engines…

    You can claim to be a born again this that and take pictures holding 10 puppies saving the children and attend every tradeshow, sponsor every blog for silence but this junk you are spewing but it is not going to work.

    Use your own money to prove this garbage out and don’t live life your life off the backs of others.

    https://youtu.be/oc8twhFnvAQ

  11. Idea sounds good like many dead ones. But i agree with what Bill said.

    “to provide a set of well define services at the lowest tax rate possible.”

    Cities are not private companies and i see no reason for them to lock their services with digitaltown this way or that.

    That said, Rob might be hundred years in front of us i dont know. I just know this. My city istanbul operates the .ist and .istanbul gtlds. At the moment they have many apps like traffic but people prefer yandex or google navi instead. Also most of the users of the extension is goverment itself.

    Finally the best thing to silence all is to give one example that is working 🙂

    I wish everyone the best with their projects.

    Note. Robs writing style reminds me of that Jeff Sneider (Metal Group Tiger etc.) guy.:) i dont understnad anything. am i the only one or my english is not good maybe.

  12. @ Bill – A few comments for the record:

    – To the best of my knowledge, I don’t sponsor any blogs currently, directly or indirectly. I don’t think I am afforded any special treatment by any of the domain industry’s bloggers. These bloggers might cover our news more since it is interesting when proven entrepreneurs challenge the status quo and do novel things. These announcements also apparently generate lots of pages views and comments thanks to peanut gallery commentary from skeptics like yourself.

    – DigitalTown is a development-stage company with some notable operating milestones which you can read about online. We began work in January 2016 on a bold vision for cloud-based Smart Cities.

    – We don’t power parking tickets yet, but you are thinking correctly. That is all going digital, yes.

    – We have started to add community-drien civic engagement tools to the platform for all cities. See under the City Info tab of Nashville.city. It is actually slicker in the mobile app but you will get a sense.

    – Retailers, Restaurants, and Lodging providers can all sign up today and start selling across more than 10,000 cities that are live with the DigitalTown platform. Most don’t have local partners yet, but we are working on that. The local search still works like a champ in all of these cities. You should try it sometime.

    – Service providers are being integrated, including vertical-specific platforms. JustLegal is being rebranded as Got.Law: http://got.law/ . City.Law verticals are coming online followed by most other verticals, with priority for verticals where we have TLD partners.

    @ All

    As for cities, our largest city deal to date is for London which you can follow at Smart.London. However, the pipeline is filling quickly, notably in Europe, Latin America and Australia where we have sales people on the ground. We just signed a major city in Brazil last week called Olinda (population 370K). You can see that announcement here:

    http://www.olinda.pe.gov.br/turismo/ferramenta-criada-por-empresa-de-renome-internacional-vai-potencializar-o-turismo-de-olinda#.Wfi71ExFzZu

    This is actually the second Brazilian city to sign with DigitalTown in the last month. The other one is Cotia (population 170K). Rio de Janeiro is not a signed deal yet but close and involves cooperation between the municipality, chamber and tourism bureau. Rio will host the next World Chambers Federation Congress in 2019.

    You can look out for other announcements but the pipeline is full and product vision is rapidly converging with the product reality of a unified people-centric platform for cities across web and mobile. For example, see latest announcement about acquisition #7 which adds a breakthrough mobile app platform with 3.1 million downloads across 800 cities:

    https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/11/01/1172016/0/en/DigitalTown-Announces-Acquisition-of-City-Information-B-V.html

    In the near future, I expect a lot more cities will have their own mobile app — an app that you would actually find useful. The DigitalTown-integrated rewrite of the app should be in the App store in around a week, and then the rollout begins to cities concurrent with working with municipalities, chambers and visitor bureaus. City Information has 3.1 million downloads across more than 800 cities. The model of local apps is already proven. We are making it transactional.

    The other major theme that you will hear about is SmartWallet. The problem with many independent small business websites is that more and more people are not interested in creating yet another login for a website they will use once or rarely. DigitalTown’s goal is to make it convenient to register once across a network of sites, regardless of city or use-case (e.g. find a lawyer, book a restaurant table). This is also why we work with existing trust networks such as municipalities, chambers of commerce and trade associations.

    As for the commission rates, 8-12% is very competitive. Expedia charges up to 40% for lodging bookings. Seamless, GrubHub and Ubereats are ~30% for dining delivery. Uber was charging a 30% commission, but now is heading even higher by simply arbitraging a spread between driver and passenger. DigitalTown intends to focus on a sustainable commission structure that maximizes long term value of the local marketplace. Also, peer to peer digital payments from Smart Wallet to Smart Wallet are actually commission-free.

    As for Blockchain, if anyone missed the Bitcoin wave, so be it. This is still early days for Blockchain. Blockchain is very real and our planned use of Blockchain is very real. However rather than having a Blockchain backed by nothing and targeted at everyone, our approach is to have a Blockchain backed by the operating business of a city platform, and targeted at the people who live there. We have not issued any coins yet, but folks can pre-register to get their coin for free. When their city comes fully online, they will get notified that a coin was deposited in the wallet for the city where they are a verified resident.

    As for the domain industry, there is a big mispricing for the new TLDs. If you are strategic, you can get many of these TLDs for almost free. However, instead of buying these TLDs like a sniper or on the drop, I am more interested in buying in bulk with a strategic thesis on how those new domains can improve peoples lives. Some registries get this better than others, but there is a tipping point as registries come to terms with the reality that the registrar channel will not carry the water.

    As for .ISTANBUL, we are not working with them yet, but that is precisely why they need DigitalTown. Istanbul’s Chamber of Commerce has 400,000 member businesses. I have been to Istanbul twice this year and we are making progress there. Istanbul is a funny case, with only 2% eCommerce penetration. However, with Ali Baba coming from the East and Amazon coming from the West, the Digital Silk Road is certainly up for grabs, and the operators of the Bazaars and Souks fully know it. As such, I see an interesting opportunity for not just .ISTANBUL but also .SHOP with whom we are strategic partners.

    I realize that the concept of DigitalTown may sound odd to some. The simple explanation is that any city can be its own Google, Expedia, OpenTable, AirBnB and PayPal, all branded in the identity of the city on web and mobile. The idea is really not that crazy. This survey result just came out that shows the change in mindset among civic leaders about dealing with the sharing economy through strategic partnership with the private sector:

    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-report-finds-majority-of-cities-open-to-partnerships-with-sharing-economy-companies-300548707.html

    DigitalTown is certainly no more crazy of an idea than the likes of AirBnB, Uber and Bitcoin at the time when these ideas first surfaced. At some point there needs to be a competitive response to winner-take-all and I think this has as good a shot as any. The odds of building any significant business are plenty tough. The odds of building a business that changes the world, and leaves some significant mark on a lot of peoples lives is even tougher. We happened to set out to do this as a public company. In retrospect, I am not sure I prefer to be in the public eye during the development stage, but it is choice. Given the acquisition strategy, I think it was worth being public.

  13. Wow! I am sure everyone can agree this has been great discussion!….I am going to get a MathGames app and a DigitalTown app. Combining the two apps is the best way to mathematically understand how my city continues to waste all of it’s tax revenue…

  14. Hello Robert,
    Ahh! Here comes the next Big Non-Thing. Bit-Coin a non-soverign currency based on Sweat Shops with Server-Banks backed by the full faith and credit of Promotional Sweat Shops. Meanwhile, prime .COM Equimoddity Platform Assets are still available at 1 tenth of their future potential Valuations. Go Figure. JAS
    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider Former (Rockefeller I.B.E.C. Marketing Intelligence Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed C.B.O.E. Commodity Hedge Strategist.) (UseBiz.com)

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