TL; DR: Hover team members Michael Keshen and Anton Mamine discuss how the domain registration company is empowering startups through sponsorships and monetary support. Laying the foundations of a thriving web presence for individuals and organizations is the core of Hover’s business model. From professional developers needing to quickly set up multiple sites to novices working on passion projects — thousands of site owners have been turning to Hover for their no-nonsense, simple approach to domain name registration for nearly 10 years.
A few years back, Michael Keshen, Content Manager at Hover, was walking the hall at XOXO, an experimental festival for artists who work on the web, when he ran into Hrishikesh Hirway. The festival proved to be an ideal place for someone like Hrishikesh to network and broadcast the news of his unique podcast Song Exploder.
Michael had heard of Hrishikesh’s podcast, which dissects songs into their raw components and has the writers tell their creation story, and knew there was something special there.
“I approached him and asked if he took sponsors, saying we’d love to help him out,” Michael said. “He’d never had that kind of assistance before, so we began sponsoring him regularly.”
The first few years in business are critical for startups, and Hover’s sponsorship helped Hrishikesh get his podcast off the ground. Eventually, Song Exploder was picked up by Radiotopia, the large network of cutting-edge podcasts, and it took off in popularity. Hrishikesh has since booked and interviewed big names like U2, Metallica, Weezer, and Bjork, among others.
“He’s one of the top music podcasts out there now, and it was great to spot him early on and give him the support to help his ideas succeed,” Michael said. “He would have made it without us, but it was nice to help him on his journey.”
Anton Mamine, Hover’s Acquisitions Specialist, noted how proud he is of their initiative to support causes important to them in the tech space. Helping people, like Hrishikesh, is a cornerstone of Hover’s philosophy.
“We don’t take credit for Hrishikesh’s success. That was all him,” Anton said. “He’s an example of what we look for in a startup, and we try to jumpstart their success.”
Hover’s core business model is based around building the foundations of people’s presence online. The company makes domain registry simple and doesn’t lock customers into a web builder or tack on fees for features, like whois privacy, after they purchase their domain name. This gives professional developers and novices alike the freedom to get their domains and move on to create the projects they’re passionate about.
Straightforward Domain Name Registry Builds Your Site’s Foundation
Michael and Anton both stressed how valuable it is to be in the business of only providing domain names and email management services — and that’s it. Hover doesn’t create roadblocks that hinder portability.
“We have a no-nonsense attitude where you truly own your domain,” Michael said. “We’re platform agnostic. If you’re at, say, Squarespace today and tomorrow, for whatever reason, you want to go to WordPress, we don’t present any obstacles to that process.”
Michael told us Hover’s Connect feature allows customers to select a service from a control panel and enter a few bits of information such as username and password. Hover then does all the setup work in the background.
“There’s no need to enter any DNS records,” Michael said. “We make it really easy to do whatever you want with your domain.”
According to Michael, one of the biggest challenges Hover faces is getting this message out to people new to the web building game. It’s easy for seasoned developers or people who have used Hover before to see the value in their straightforward option. But, for novices who’ve never made a website or registered a domain, it’s not always apparent.
“They just have a passion project of their own, or they have a mom-and-pop shop they’re finally getting online,” Michael said. “They see domains offered for $1, but don’t realize they have to pay extra for whois privacy or how complicated it is to make any changes. It’s our aim to communicate that value upfront to those new to the domain space.”
For Pros or Passion Projects: Get Sites Up Quickly With Easy Registration
To address the challenge of getting this message out, Hover’s UX specialists rolled up their sleeves and began research on the company’s users. What they found were two distinct groups.
“We identified two types of personas,” Michael said. “The first we call Digital Drew, which is who our customer has been up to this point.”
Michael told us Digital Drew is the professional developer or the person who comes to mind when someone needs a website built. This user type is usually someone who is registering multiple domain names on a regular basis for themselves or others.
“They need to get in and get out,” Michael said. “They just need to buy the domain and that’s it.”
The second user type is the one Hover is actively trying to communicate their straightforward approach to. Anton noted these are people who want to get their messages online but don’t have much web experience.
“They’re passionate about something, but they have regular 9-to-5 jobs,” Anton said. “It might be in the early stage of development and grow into something else. We call this user Creative Cathy.”
Michael considers himself a Creative Cathy-type. Outside of Hover, his band is his passion, and he told us how he, just like all other Hover customers, was able to easily register a domain and move on to build a site showcasing his interest.
Creative Cathy and Digital Drew have something in common. Neither necessarily wants to make a huge time commitment to get a site online or, if they’re collecting domain names, get all of them registered. Hover makes this simple so people can focus on their 9-to-5 or passions.
Simple is Better: TLD Mechanics That Speak to Your Branding
Whether you’re a Creative Cathy or Digital Drew, one thing is certain — constructing a good domain name is imperative. Michael noted perception of your site starts with its domain name.
“It’s really all about getting a good brand name for yourself,” he said. “The days of registering top-photography-sales-and-photographers-online.com are over. A name like that doesn’t have much SEO value and doesn’t seem very trustworthy.”
Michael pointed to hover.com as a better example. The name, he said, doesn’t really say anything about Hover being a domain registry company. But it is memorable, easy to type, and sounds good in conversation.
Finding such a name can be difficult since the major top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com, .org, and .net, have so many site names registered. The solution to this problem comes with more specific TLDs. These new TLDs speak to what the site or passion project is about. Anton said it may sound funny now, but if you’re registering, say, a horseback riding site, you can use an extension like .horse.
“It takes a while for change to sink in,” Anton said. “But, in five to 10 years, no one will think a .horse or .design TLD is strange. Rather, people will be surprised if there is no extension for what they’re looking for.”
These new TLDs are widely recognized in the tech community. However, if, say, a local bakery is advertising its website in the window, how the site name is presented can make all the difference. Cupcakes.bakery might confuse some, so Michael emphasized the importance of putting a qualifier, such as HTTP or “Visit us on the web,” before the site name.
Grabbing a .com or .org may be ideal, but, as Michael noted, the new TLDs can be effective to broadcast a brand.
“A good analogy is looking at a .com as Fifth Avenue,” he said. “It’s one the busiest streets in the city. If you can get it, by all means, go register it. If you get another TLD, it can be like one of the other niche neighborhoods like SoHo. It’s not the most popular spot in the city, but it has its own community that you can become a part of. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t register one.”
A Mission to Help Jump-Start Ideas in the Tech Community
At Hover’s core is a mission to help people get their ideas online. This is evident in the company’s straightforward approach to providing simple domain registry and underscores Hover’s altruistic efforts to help startups, like Song Exploder, build a presence.
Recently, Hover was approached by the online magazine, The Modern Blog, inquiring about possible website sponsorship. Anton saw the magazine had what looked to be a great business model, conducting interviews with successful entrepreneurs and posting them in blog format for readers, so he had Hover sponsor the site. Four months later, Anton was happy to see the site was running and looked beautiful.
“It might amount to something. It might not,” Anton said. “But, if it does, it will be nice to know we were able to help someone with his passion project. We hope to be able to tell a similar story as Song Exploder’s.”
Since their initiative to give back to the tech community began, Hover has empowered numerous organizations to broadcast their content. From mission-specific nonprofits, such as She++, which teaches women coding, to new conferences for creative techies, like XOXO, Hover is giving new and important ideas an opportunity to blossom through sponsorships and monetary assistance. The company is realizing their aim to help people embody what they love about the web.