MERGE! Conference 2017

Thoughts and Interactions From the Inaugural MERGE! Conference 2017

What a fast-pace number of days it’s been attending the Inaugural MERGE! Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Welcome to Orlando

If you’re not familiar with MERGE!, it’s a conference that “merged” The Domain Conference and CMS Summit to bring a number of businesses and professionals together to interact, engage, and share a number of topics and thoughts.

Merge! Conference Registration Booth Marriott Orlando World Center

MERGE! Conference Star

MERGE! Conference Exhibition Hall

Although MERGE! kicked off Saturday October 14th, I didn’t make it into town until late Sunday night due to previous commitments.

So I missed Saturday (Day 1) sessions about Domain Investing Opportunities in Latin America, Geo Domains, Cool Blockchain Projects, and Cryptocurrency and ICO Roundtables.

And because my flight got in a bit late, I missed Sunday (Day 2) sessions about ccTLDs: Value, Benefit, and Market, Ownership Protection and Domain Name Security, and Business with Blockchain.

Keeping My Head on a Swivel My First Day

I hit the ground running Monday (Day 3) morning a bit late for my first day at MERGE!, but caught closing remarks of a very engaging fire side chat with David Sams.

Fireside Chat with David Sams

Merge! 2017 - David and Jothan Interview

Merge! 2017: David Sams and Jothan Frakes Interview

I then attended a Domain Aftermarket 101 session about discovering proven methods to successfully acquire valuable domain names for business or investment.

This session was lead by NameJet’s Jonathan Tenenbaum (GM), Scott Pruitt (Marketing Director), and Greg Davis (Sr. Director of Marketing).

NameJet Domain Aftermarket 101

L to R: Scott Pruitt, Jonathan Tenenbaum, and Greg Davis.

I personally don’t spend much time domain investing using NameJet, but found the session to be informative.  However, I noted a few items to research from this session.

In between sessions, it was always good to catch up with old faces and valued relationships, such as Mike Cyger. It was my first time meeting Matan Israeli, owner and operator of, although we’ve shared a number of interactions online.

Heading off to lunch, I also had the pleasure to meet and make new friends too, having met and chatted briefly with Joshua of and George Hong.

L to R: Matan, Josh, and Mike

Kicking off a jam packed afternoon was Bill Sweetman moderating a very insightful Appraisal and Valuation of Intangible Assets (Domains, IP, Brands) session with the following panel: Dmitriy Chemlin, Ryan Colby, Larry Fischer, and Tessa Holcomb.

Quantitative and Qualitative Domain Valuation

L to R: Bill, Tessa, Ryan, Dmitriy, Larry

One of the focal points of this session was identifying domain names and other intangible assets (i.e., social media handles, trademarks, intellectual property, etc.) and their respective value through qualitative and quantitative analysis.

The next stop made was at George Hong’s session about Engaging With The Chinese Buyer and Market.

Merge! 2017 George Hong Presentation One

Merge! 2017 George Hong Presentation Two

Merge! 2017 George Hong Presents

Merge! 2017 Alvin Brown & George Hong

George certainly gave the most expansive presentation in my opinion, seeing that he gave two different presentations. The first was in English and the second in Chinese. I knew I was going to get schooled in domains, but didn’t realize I would gain a few helpful tactics and phrases to engage Chinese domain buyers and investors.

Rounding out the afternoon was keynote speaker, serial entrepreneur, and CEO of .club, Colin Campbell. Colin took us all down memory lane as he shared a number of inspirational successes and failures in regards to starting and exiting companies.

Merge! Conference - Colin Campbell Presents

Colin graciously provided a considerations matrix as a guideline for what entrepreneurs should expect and anticipate through each phase of a startup business (sorry for the image shadow).

Merge! Conference - Colin Campbell Startup Matrix

Making the Most of My Last Day at MERGE!

Tuesday (Day 4) was my second and final day at MERGE!, and it started off quite entertaining as a game that debuted Sunday was brought back by popular demand: Domain or Not Domain Game with Larry Fischer.

Merge! Conference - Domain or Not Domain Game with Larry Fischer

L to R: George Hong, Dave Evanson, Bill Sweetman, Larry Fischer, Braden Pollock, and ?.

In short, a panel of professionals were brought on stage and had to guess whether or not a handful of domains were registered or available.

In the end, the witty Braden Pollock outsmarted the professional panel for the win while also providing a few jokes along the way.

Then  as a follow up, MERGE! attendees were given a shot to test their domain availability prowess with the last person standing winning a pass to the next MERGE! conference, which was no other than Brandon Abbey (Director, Strategic Accounts as Payoneer).

The next session I attended was a highly informative session with Rob Garner sharing real-life domain leasing stories: Marketing / SEO and Leasing Domains. This session ended with an impromptu bonus interview of Rob by Jothan Frakes (MERGE! Co-Founder).

Merge! Conference - Rob Garner Presents

Merge! Conference - Rob & Jothan Interview

L to R: Rob and Jothan

And although there wasn’t a formal session on emoji domains, Matan was the Emoji Domain Evangelist meeting and sharing his vision for why and how emoji domains are the future of marketing.

Merge! Conference - Matan Evangelizing Emoji Domains

In addition, I couldn’t forgo a lunch invite to break bread and chat about life, business, and emoji domains with and

Merge! Conference - Emoji Domain Strategy Lunch

L to R: Mike, Alvin, Tanner, Eric, and Matan

It was great meeting Mike, Tanner, Eric and Matan, and sharing different strategies around how businesses can profit from purchasing or leasing and using emoji domains.

I’m looking forward to seeing the sound execution of the various strategies we discussed as individuals and collectively coming to life by time we meet next, NamesCon 2018.

My last session of the day and of MERGE! was listening to Jeff Sass (.club Chief Marketing Officer) give a lively presentation about vowel movements: How to Avoid Crappy Domain Names (And Pay For Good Ones).

Merge! Conference - Jeff Sass

And finally, I briefly attended THE WHIR Networking Event and was able to catch with a few existing relationships as well as forge new relationships.

I finally met’s Andrew Alleman (flew to Orlando to meet, yet we live 15-20 away from one another in Austin) and my long lost chipmunk brother and infamous Theo, publisher of and

Merge! Conference - The WHIR Networking Event

Overall Thoughts About MERGE!

It was a FAST-MOVING TWO DAYS of thought-provoking engagement for me that I look forward to for years to come.  If you missed it, then don’t miss another!  I plan to make the event in its entirety next year. 😉

There is certainly an opportunity for MERGE! to become a colossal-size event and intersection for many great business minds and forward thinkers coming together to realize synergies across a wide range of industries and markets.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement as it pertains to overall event timing (i.e., starting on a weekend instead of weekday) and session logistics (i.e. addition of mics and lighting in smaller rooms) to name a few.

In addition, a few attendees mentioned in passing that they wish there was a domain auction worked into the event based on the business and marketing needs of non-domain investor attendees willing to purchase or in the buying process.

All in all, I thought co-founders Jothan Frakes and Ray Neu did quite well in their inaugural year of MERGE! Conference.

I’m looking forward to not only attending next year, but likely jumping in to speak or moderate a session should they have me (hint, hint).

What did you think of MERGE!?

Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.