An Interview with .ME: Creating Value
This past fall, the registry team at .ME were happy to celebrate the TLD's ten-year anniversary. An impressive feat and well worth celebrating! I was lucky enough to join their celebrations in Montenegro in October and was impressed with the group's enthusiasm and obvious team and ethically focused approach to growing the domain. While the party the .ME team threw was fantastic (a stunning hike, a boat ride with swimming in the Adriatic sea, and plenty of regional wine), it was the insights they shared that truly impressed me.
Did you know that .ME received 100,000 domain registrations within 48 hours of opening for registrations? They are now at almost 1 million domains and they have a steady growth of 6% per year. What proves their success is the usage of the domains. They are mostly by individual users, but also some of the biggest companies in the world have built on .ME, like PayPal.me, Facebook - m.me, Whatsapp - wa.me, Line.me (the biggest messaging application in Japan and South Korea).
On top of this, they are a CSR strategy driven company. They invest heavily in STEM education in their country, Montenegro, and they organize one of the best South Eastern European conferences, Spark.ME. The conference gathers around 600 tech and marketing professionals from 28 countries of the region and we had the pleasure to sponsor and attend last year.
I've grown curious to know more about the direction the .ME leadership team took with the TLD, so I sat down with Natasa Djukanovic, .ME's CMO, to learn more and hear about what's next at .ME.
M: Knowing that Montenegro is the home country of .ME, I understand giving back to this community is an important aspect of the registry's focus. Could you tell me about how your team interprets that and what you are doing in the community?
N: From day one, we started encouraging young people to learn and educate themselves about their role in and influence on the digital society. We believe that almost every profession of the future will require a basic knowledge of Internet technologies. Not to mention that programming, web design and online marketing are the most sought after skills - today you are more likely to find a job if you can master these skills. As a company, and as individuals, we believe in giving back to the community. Whether it is about teaching middle-school children how to code, organizing pitching workshops for startups, or awarding scholarships to gifted students, we believe that sharing knowledge is the most efficient way to individual and collective progress. Of course, we are primarily focused on Montenegro, but we try to be as active as possible in all .ME communities around the world.
M: It's interesting to hear how you've stayed true to that day one commitment, and makes it obvious that there's more than straight profit as a goal for .ME. Values seem to play a huge role here and I understand defining core values and having the team embrace them is identified as a major key to the success of .ME. Could you please tell me more about those values and how the team works to make sure they stay committed to them?
N: Our CSR values are not much different from our business values. It all starts with our belief that everything is personal - from the relationship with our business partners and end-customers to the responsibility to our community.
An important factor of our success was the stability of our team and professional integrity that each of us developed while working in the domain industry. The Internet gives us freedom to express ourselves, embrace our individuality and be unique. However, these advantages of the online world do not come cheap as we need to take care of our privacy and control our online presence. We believe that sharing knowledge is the most efficient way to individual and collective progress.
M: I'm quite moved by your commitment to education. Could you please tell me more about the history of the programs and camps .ME has helped establish and contributed to?
N: We started with Summer School of Programming ten years ago, where we organize and sponsor a week-long school of programming in a resort-like surrounding for high-school teens and prepared them for the International Olympiad of Informatics. This program gradually grew to a two-semester long school of programming with more than 1,000 children participating. In the last five years, we have opened the school to elementary school age children.
For the past nine years, we have also been sponsoring knowledge Olympics for gifted children, where they compete in all STEM related subjects. More than 3,000 kids have gone through this competition. We also co-sponsor and mentor FIRST LEGO league, which means we buy the equipment for the kids to build LEGO robots and send the best teams to the international competition. Our teams have received three medals and we couldn't be more proud.
What is the most important part - we learn so much from these children, and it gives us hope that any effort and investment in children's education is the most productive and the best thing you can do for your community.
A special thanks to Natasa for taking the time to converse with me and share insights to .ME's value-based goals and actions she discusses above. In learning more, I find .ME to be a perfect example of how taking the time up front to carefully consider our, and our company's ability to contribute in a greater way, can be a meaningful changemaker for all of us and our communities. Natasa, your team is a daily example of the values you all set out to uphold ten years ago.
Looking to acquire your very own .ME domain? Head over to HEXONET's website and start searching!