Interview with John Ferber | Secret Millionaire
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5 With John Ferber… Interview with Advertising.com Co-Founder

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Secret MillionaireJohn Ferber is most well known for being the co-founder of Advertising.com, with his brother, Scott Ferber. The Ferber brothers later sold Advertising.com to Time for somewhere in the ballpark of $500 million. While with Advertising.com, John was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and he was also named one of IT Recruiter Magazine’s “Top Techies to Watch.”

More recently, John co-founded a company called Domain Holdings, LLC, a domain name management and monetization company. The company’s portfolio of developed websites includes Handyman.com, HomeMortgage.com, Silver.com, and many other descriptive domain names.

John is also a philanthropist, and he founded a website called Microgiving.com, which is a “crowd funding website that lets you raise money online to fund a project” to help a non-profit organization. Based on his well-rounded background, it’s not really a surprise that he will be featured in an upcoming episode of ABC’s Secret Millionaire on Sunday, March 27th.

I had the chance to interview John so you can get to know him better prior to his Secret Millionaire episode:

ES: What were the keys to your success in growing Advertising.com from a great descriptive domain name into a multi-million dollar brand?

JF: Well a little history — Advertising.com was originally called Teknosurf Technologies — a coworker brought the opportunity to acquire advertising.com to our (My brother Scott and I were the founders of Advertising.com) attention and the initial price was 1 million and we weren’t interested, a few days later the price dropped to 100k if we could close on it that same day and our main decision was that we knew it was worth at least 100k, however we had no plans or intentions to change our name or any planned use when we acquired it.

Fast forward about 6 months later and we started getting feedback from our Sales Team that Teknosurf was not an intuitive name for the company and was creating friction in the sales process in the super important first 30 seconds of meeting someone and explaining who we are and what we do… Voila, it occured to us we owned Advertising.com and we quickly decided and implemented on changing our name to the company..

With that all being said we were never really able to measure the impact of our name/domain on our overall sales and growth of the company.. At the end of the day Advertising.com was purchased based on the underlying results of the company which was 750 employees, doing a couple hundred million in revenues, etc at the time….

So while I am sure that having the name was very valuable to the company, ultimately the purchase by AOL wasnt for an undeveloped premium domain name but a real, functioning, profitable business, that also had a great category defining domain name…

ES: How is Domain Holdings leveraging your knowledge and experience to build value on domain names owned by your company’s clients and partners?

JF: The entire company, every single person has historical internet marketing experience, from my expertise with Internet Marketing overall, Chad Folkening’s tremendous Domain expertise, Jason Boshoff our CEO (10 years SEO), Jeremy Kayne (former General Manager of Shop Local), Sean Sullivan a very successful domainer, etc, we combine all of our individual talents and knowledge together on behalf of our own portfolios as well as our partners.

We build our technology and solutions first for ourselves and once they are battle tested and proven to be creating value we extend them to our partners for their benefit as well.

ES: When people Google “John Ferber,” the first thing they’ll probably learn is your background with Advertising.com. What else would you like people to know about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what your goals are?

JF: Well first and foremost I’m really just a normal average guy, I love spending time with my girlfriend, family, friends, watersports, playing guitar, going to concerts, exercising, living an increasingly healthier lifestyle, and trying my best to enjoy life and treasure every moment as much as possible… I reside in South Florida and really love it down here, there’s so much do to all the time, never a dull moment…

It’s flattering that people think highly of what I’ve personally accomplished but i dont personally reflect on it much, I’m 37 years old and I think I have alot of value creation left ahead of me and I look forward to doing that, asides from my business interests, I have a yearning desire to try to help the planet and society be a better place in a substantial way, my foundation, The Microgiving Foundation is my first attempt at doing so, it’s a platform that lets people raise money for anything, with a particular focus on Hardship situations, we’re in year 3 of operations and growing more and more, but there is still alot of work to be done.. I have a few other concepts in my mind and hopefully in a few years I can start to work on those as well..

ES: Even after selling a company for somewhere in the ballpark of half a billion, you’ve continued to work hard and start new companies and organizations. What drives you in your endeavors, and why not just kick back and live the easy life?

JF: It’s in my DNA… Until I was about 21, I was honestly the laziest person alive, i did the bare minimum with everything, i.e. school, etc to get by and nothing more, then one day as if I was struck by lightning my entire attitude towards life changed… Suddenly I loved to work, school, etc… I finished college as fast as I could rather than coasting by and starting my first company just as I was finishing school…

I used to watch the same reruns on TV over and over, now I can not watch the same episode twice, From the moment I wake up til the moment I goto sleep my mind is racing and I am racing through the day trying to accomplish as much as I can and loving every minute of it…

ES: Over the last several years, you’ve become a philanthropist, giving millions of dollars in money and your time to non-profit organizations. What are your favorite causes/organizations, and how can others with less money become involved?

JF: I dont like to single out any specific causes, etc.. I have some personal feelings for MS, MD, CF, and Cancer because of friends and family whom I’ve known who’ve battled it, but I spend most of my philanthropic time and most of the money towards the Microgiving Foundation and trying to get more and more people to use it, etc…

The more people use it, the more people get helped, etc.. So I try to focus on the bigger picture as being an enabler for charity and being agnostic to specific causes… While nowhere near the scale that Mike Mann and his team has achieved with GrassRoots.org, I think we share some similar philosophies about the best use of our time and money is to help provide philanthropic services as widely as we can as opposed to any one specific cause…


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (17)

    Michael Castello

    Nice to see John receiving the recognition he deserves. Fantastic to read how he went from a young lazy teenager to being committed to so many people and business later in his life. Interesting interview Elliot. Thanks

    March 24th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    MarsDavis

    Elliot,
    Thanks for sharing the short inspirational story. Cheers

    March 24th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Jim Sickorez

    Elliot,

    Great article and insight…This article will definitely help the kids I mentor (who are young and lazy) and will help inspire/motivate them as they try and figure out which college they want to attend and what they want to do for the rest of their life…

    March 24th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    David J Castello

    Great article, Elliot. John is a class act (and drives a mean waverunner).

    March 24th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Andrew Rosener

    Great interview. Look forward to hearing a lot more from Domain Holdings in the near future!

    March 24th, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Jeff Edelman

    Very enjoyable interview, Elliot. Kudos to John for all that he has accomplished and for being very focused on philanthropy.

    March 25th, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Steve Cheatham

    I enjoyed learning about John. Interesting story.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Chris

    Cool story. Making money is not hard with good domains.

    If anyone is interested I am divesting a whole big portfolio of generics for bargain prices, email me at chris@chris.net for more info. Some examples are Autowax.com, OnlineStockMarket.com, VirtualStockMarket.com, FastInternet.com and many more.

    March 25th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Jackson Dunes, Pug At The Beach

    Great interview. Inspiring. I’d love to know what the motivating factor was for his attitude change. What was that lightening like thing that prompted his lifestyle change.

    March 27th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Barbara

    Just want John to know he touched me, I watched the show tonite but it did show that even having all that money it does feel good but you are still learning everyday what god is trying to show us that we all could help it isnt just the money.. I am looking to find a fine person like you even just to be come friends it shows me there are some good young men coming up in this world, gives me faith. God bless you. I bet you think about it and it has to be hard to imagine. Keep up the good work.

    March 28th, 2011 at 12:38 am

    karen stewart

    I’m also interested in that “lightening like thing”. I believe God blesses us financially so that we can help others. I watched the show tonight and it brought tears. What a wonderful person and no doubt there are many more like him, but still not enough. Thank you.

    March 28th, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Karen

    :) Thank you so much John for taking this journey through LA’s poorest of poor community SkidRow.
    I too understand the sadness of being a in a domestic abusive situation and loosing my job after 22 years with the same company. However, life is so precious and having two children on my own and watching you give with your whole heart your money to help these places and people…. Thank you so much….. I would love to work for you however Im in California and would like to continue this help to my communitees domestic shelters. Thank you again for your kind heart

    March 29th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Lynne Tiemeier

    I am so blessed and awed by what I saw John doing on Secret Millionaire, I can’t begin to express it. What a loving caring , gentle and precious man. I put myself in his shoes when he gave the money. I have done volunteer work all my 70 plus years, m y favorite being teaching children to read and all of the things I did brought the same feelings of gratitude and the desire to do more. I’ve been on halt for awhile because of transportation. We share a car and Wayne needs it for business, so he comes first. I design and make jewelry, and do private shows, 14k, sterling and fine gems, out of the box designs. Love commissions. May John receieve the blessings he gives to others so freely.

    March 31st, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Raman

    Interesting… Learned a lot from his past. He deserves it.

    May 9th, 2012 at 1:57 am

    a. nunley

    CHEAP ASS BASTARD!!! the most disappointing episode of secret millionaire i’ve ever seen, he was on skid row, the absolute lowest of low for poverty in america, and he throws a few thousand dollars around and offers to repaint a mural? this guy has 500 million dollars!!! he gave less than ANY millionaire in any episode. he even gave a shelter 25grand, plus 5 grand “to split among the 9 women in the shelter”. SHAME ON YOU!!! he could have done fantastic things. he could have saved dozens if not hundreds of people! he could have built an entire youth center. here was our biggest millionaire in the neediest part of our entire country and he can only cough up a few thousand dollars and a mural repainted. SHAMEFUL. anyone can talk about all their charities but when push comes to shove, when he was writing his checks directly… he was a cheapskate. SHAME ON YOU JOHN- GO BACK TO SKID ROW AND DO IT RIGHT!!

    June 23rd, 2012 at 3:11 am

      Elliot Silver

      I think it’s amusing when people comment on how much others should give to charity. If people would mind their own business, everyone would be better off.

      June 23rd, 2012 at 8:19 am

    a.nunley

    i am not amused when a man worth half a billion dollars, who can save hundreds of lives with the stroke of a pen, who has actually SEEN the devastation and despair of skid row (the lowest of the low) and met the people, DOESN’T do all he can. he could have given several hundred thousand and not even blinked. and 5 grand to split between 9 women in the house?? GO BACK TO SKID ROW AND DO IT RIGHT! secret millionaire is one of the most heart warming shows ever, to see the generosity and the lives changed is amazing. He didn’t change one life. didn’t do anything incredible. it was selfish. go back to skid row and build another shelter and a youth center, or do SOMETHING. I’m sorry but it angers me to see the real horror and devastation of skid row and here sits the biggest millionaire ever on the show give the very least. no, i won’t mind my own business when i know dang well there are people dying on skid row, kids being abused, gang violence, drugs, and domestic abuse that could have been saved with one check. it angers me. JOHN needs to go back.

    June 24th, 2012 at 3:43 am

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