An Exclusive Interview With Michael Halvorsen, CEO Of iQ GlobalInterviews November 13th 2021
Michael Halvorsen is a domain name and hosting industry veteran. Having been involved in multiple businesses in the sector. He has launched, grown, and exited web hosting companies and TLDs. He is currently the CEO and co-founder of iQ Global. The company behind abusestats, iQ Domain Analytics, and abusemanager.com, the threat analysis and monitoring tool for Registries, Registrars, and SaaS platforms.
HostingSeekers: What does iQ Global offer? What is your role in the organization?
Michael: To answer the second part first, I am CEO and co-founder. We empower our clients in the domain and hosting industry with meaningful insight to shape their strategy and deliver innovative platforms and websites for their own namespace. We do this via our software products, DevOps, and consulting service – designed to provide both data-driven and experience-based business intelligence.
HostingSeekers: What’s the story behind iQ Global? How was the idea conceptualized?
Michael: iQ grew out of a previous business. The launch and management of a new gTLD, .global. During that time, we used tools and solutions that didn’t quite fulfill our business requirements, or indeed, didn’t even exist. So we decided to develop these tools ourselves, based on our day-to-day requirements, pain points, and customer requests.
We soon realized that some of our industry colleagues were in a similar position to us, so we began offering the products to them. After our exit from .global, we redoubled our efforts and focused on Abuse Manager and Domain Analytics. We also started offering our business, policy, and DevOps expertise full-time. iQ was born.
HostingSeekers: What is your best-selling package or offering? What do your customers value the most about iQ Global?
The former is a domain name threat analysis and monitoring tool. It’s used by +150TLDs, Leading Registrars, Hosters, and Saas Providers. We currently perform over +60 million scans and resolve +20k abuse cases daily. With the proposed NIS2.0 cybersecurity directive being discussed at the EU level, it’s become a very important tool to anyone in the domain name ecosystem. If I may add, your readers are more than welcome to sign up for a free trial here.
Domain Analytics is a BI platform, used primarily by a wide range of Registries and TLDs. It helps them gain an overview of Key Registry Metrics, current and potential business growth of the TLDs, and to manage and measure ROI on their promotions and premium domain name pricing strategy.
HostingSeekers: What growth strategies are you currently implementing to expand your reach?
Michael: For us, our primary driver is our network. Everyone at iQ Global has been in the industry for decades, so we primarily rely on connections and trust we’ve built up over the years. Having said that, of course, we leverage other ways of attracting attention. We recently launched a free anti-abuse reporting tool at abusetsats.com, where hosting companies, or anyone with a domain portfolio, can set up a free abuse monitoring report. The report can be set up to monitor a domain list, name servers, IP address, or even a TLD
We also provide a lot of value and information via our video interviews and blog posts. And, like this great opportunity with Hostingseekers.com, we spread the message via industry publications and events. While the latter has not been possible due to Covid, we hope to meet up in person with people again in 2022, starting with Cloudfest and Nordic Domain Days.
HostingSeekers: If you could give some advice to a new business owner looking to grow their revenue through sales and marketing, what would it be?
Michael: Know your customer! And understand that you cannot be all things to all people. Identify the areas you are “winning” on. Whether it’s a specific niche, service, or product. Review that area, understand it intimately and WHY it’s resonating so well with customers. Maybe it’s a pain point you are fixing or a list of features. Then double down on the communication around the product/service and the messages you have identified as the biggest drivers of new customers.
HostingSeekers: How do you differentiate yourself from your biggest competitors?
Michael: Our biggest competitor is a potential customer who uses home-grown spreadsheets, databases, and scarce internal resources to try to solve their BI and abuse management matters.
While there are competitive data analytics software solutions out there, none are solely focused on the domain name industry and built from scratch to address domain name industry needs specifically. On the abuse side, we offer a solution that none of our competitors can match in terms of scalability, flexibility to customize, and the total number of customers and domains under management scanned for abuse on a global basis each and every day.
I would also add that our customer care and response to requests and features are second to none. There are cases where something is noticed during a demo and updates are done by the time the demo is completed.
HostingSeekers: Reports show that the domain and hosting industries have benefited from the pandemic. How do you think the COVID-19 situation has affected the industry in Norway?
Michael: As in many other countries around the world, Norway has seen an increase in online activity as a consequence of the pandemic. It’s yet to be confirmed how many of the new registrations of domains and online businesses will continue, but I think we will be surprised by the high number.
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HostingSeekers: The global domain industry is expected to grow with a CAGR between 3.5-8%. What do you think will be the future of the domain industry? What are some of your concerns?
Michael: Like many industries, we see a consolidation due to M&A activity and I think we will continue to do so. While smaller hosting companies might be concerned, from our point of view this is not a “problem” per se. And in some ways, it makes our life easier, as we can reach a bigger pool of domains.
A small concern would be what some people call the decreased relevance of domains. In some regions, platforms and aggregators are the first port of call to find services such as taxis, the closest restaurant, etc. This of course means that businesses don’t need a website and therefore a domain name. On the flip side, people are realizing that platforms “own them” and can change the rules at any time. So, many are setting up websites and driving traffic from the platforms to their sites.
HostingSeekers: Where do you see iQ Global 5 years from now?
Michael: On the purely business side, our focus is of course growth. Not only in terms of revenue but also in our offering to our customers. DNS abuse and other online security threats will only increase and evolve. So, we will need to evolve as well to help our customers counter these threats.
iQ Global is not just a business. On a more personal level, our mission is to help to make and keep the internet a safer place. Everyone at iQ is deeply vested in the domain and hosting industry. We’ve all seen or experienced scary moments and we want to be part of the solution that makes it a little less threatening for the everyday user.
HostingSeekers: Reflecting on your experience as a serial entrepreneur, do you have any advice for the budding entrepreneurs exploring business opportunities in the cybersecurity and hosting industry?
Michael: Firstly, the number of opportunities is expanding all the time, especially in cybersecurity. The key is to focus on something you enjoy doing. Learn all you can about it and somewhere along the way, you’ll see which road you want to take. Meet people in those sectors. Contribute! Whether it’s via blog posts, research or just helping someone else.
In short, there is no silver bullet. No magic. It takes hard work, diligence, a strong network, and of course just a little bit of luck!
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