The Quick Summary
Hi, I’m Michael Cyger, the publisher of DomainSherpa. I bought my first domain name when I was 29, building a website that grew into an award-winning business-to-business media company with more than 600,000 unique monthly readers. Eight years later I sold it and semi-retired. Today, I’m focused on helping entrepreneurs and investors build wealth with domain names. If I don’t have an answer to your domain name question, I’ll find an expert – a “sherpa” – who does: that’s the DomainSherpa mission.
NOTE: For professional/event biographies, please use this press bio.
The Full Story
In the Beginning
When I was 8, my mom sent me to summer camp to play with computers. I learned to program on an Atari 400 – yes, the one with the membrane keyboard. My programs were saved on a standard audiocassette tape drive. Thus began my lifelong passion for computers.
After graduating from college with a degree in nuclear engineering, I worked for GE Power Systems in California. When Microsoft Access was released in 1993, I learned SQL and developed custom databases at GE to centralize and set-free data that for years was trapped in spreadsheets.
In 1995, GE sponsored my master’s degree at UC Berkeley. It was there that I first played around on the Internet as it became commercialized. When I returned to GE full time, I continued climbing the corporate ladder. One promotion resulted in a move across the country to be closer to the action and leaders at GE corporate headquarters. During this time, I built and maintained websites for local businesses after my GE workday.
In the late 1990s during evening non-work hours, I would crank up the 14.4 kbps computer modem and write content for The Mining Company (now About.com) as a Guide. Through that experience, I learned content architecture, search engine optimization (SEO) and monetization strategies (and earned an extra couple hundred dollars a month). In particular, my newly developed SEO skills ultimately led to my being asked to lead the SEO initiative across GE from 2000 to 2002.
When Life Learning Meets Opportunity
When Jack Welch selected his last corporate initiative before retirement, Six Sigma, I jumped on board. Six Sigma is a methodology and tool set to streamline processes, eliminate defects and waste, save money, and grow revenue. Through formal training and the completion of multiple Six Sigma projects, I was able to save GE millions of dollars.
I later left GE for Citigroup to implement Six Sigma at its then online-only bank. It was there on Wall Street that I noted a large number of financial institutions practicing Six Sigma, but I also noticed a lack of resources for Six Sigma practitioners, so I started iSixSigma.com in 2000 as a hobby to fill the marketplace void.
Building iSixSigma was my trifecta – it allowed me to combine and make full use of my database, content and SEO skills. I completely bootstrapped the business and grew it in-line with revenue, often upgrading website hosts when I was shut down for using too many resources.
After developing out iSixSigma for a couple of years, I thought I might be able to transition my profitable hobby into a full-blown online magazine and make iSixSigma my full-time job. So – just two months before my first child was born – I took a leap of faith and quit my well-paying-with-benefits job at GE to become an entrepreneur. Although I was terrified of leaving a guaranteed EFT paycheck every two weeks for a much riskier enterprise, I also recognized I could earn rewards commensurate with my effort and results.
From Hundreds to Hundreds of Thousands Per Month
iSixSigma.com grew from a single-author site programmed entirely by me in ASP classic, to a multi-million dollar company with nine employees and a small army of contractors serving 600,000+ unique readers per month. The business encompassed an award-winning print magazine; an award-winning research organization; an industry-wide collection of blogs; a Monster.com-like online jobs board; an Amazon.com-like marketplace for selling templates, ebooks and training materials; and a book publishing division.
I spent more hours on iSixSigma than I care to think about. In the early years, I would retreat to my office after dinner to write content and code late into the night, then rise early the next morning to get to my day job.
Although the stress of building a successful venture and providing for employees was high at times – I once urinated blood just before an all-employee meeting – it was always a labor of love…it very seldom felt like work. The entire iSixSigma team helped people improve their skills, become more marketable and make their companies more profitable. I loved attending events and being approached by complete strangers who wanted to shake my hand and thank me for helping them find a new job in the industry. Experiences like that pushed me to work even harder.
Eventually my wife and I decided that we wanted to spend less time on the business and more time with our young and growing family.
I sold my media company – CTQ Media, including iSixSigma.com and a few other online properties and web services – to a larger media company in 2008 for a 7x multiple of earnings. I stayed on for more than a year and helped launch an events division for iSixSigma that brought in another million dollars in revenue in the first 12 months. During that time we developed custom Six Sigma and Operational Excellence events for the U.S. Department of Defense, Chevron, Halliburton, Marathon Oil and Hess, and we launched a signature event, iSixSigma Live!, that drew 200 people the first year. iSixSigma Live! was a dream of mine for years, and I was ecstatic to see it come to fruition.
The Next Big Thing
Around Seattle, a major center for entrepreneurial and technical ambitions, almost everyone I meet has an idea for starting their own business. I love it. And I get tremendous satisfaction from helping other entrepreneurs launch and grow businesses, so I spend a good amount of time doing so.
Being thought of as an “Internet guy” by friends and family, I am inevitably asked about domain names, and I never feel like I have definitive answers on the subject. As an avid real estate investor, I love the idea of owning a location on the Internet and building value in that property, like I did with iSixSigma.com.
Combining my passions for real estate, the Internet and publishing, I launched DomainSherpa.com on January 3, 2011.
Unlike most people in this industry, I don’t make my living by flipping domains or developing mini-sites (although I once flipped a $60 domain name for $7,500 and a case of Banana Boat sunscreen). I love figuring things out and am a lifelong learner. As a result, I love helping other people understand topics inside and out.
DomainSherpa is the place I share everything I’ve learned in order to help other people discover, buy, manage, monetize and sell domain names. If I don’t have an answer to your question, I’ll find an expert – a “sherpa” – who does: that’s the DomainSherpa mission.
It’s my personal mantra, and it’s our journey at DomainSherpa – to provide more useful resources every day. But I can’t do it alone. I need your input on what you like, what you would like to see changed, and what topics you don’t fully understand so we can create the resources that make you more successful. Please let us know.
For professional/event biographies, please use the following:
Michael received his engineering degrees from UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley, business education in corporate America at GE and Citigroup, leadership training at Crotonville (GE’s John F. Welch Leadership Center), and ability to solve problems through GE’s prestigious Edison Engineering Program, years of Six Sigma training, and lots of practice.
Michael loves thinking about start-up ideas, helping kids succeed in school, spending time with his family, and assisting other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.
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