Monthly Archives: June 2017

Domain names were of little concern to businesses

It seems like a distant memory now, particularly to companies founded to service just those needs – companies such as Carlow-based Blacknight. Providing domain name registration services and website hosting, Blacknight owns numerous servers (read big computers) that are connected to the internet all the time.

The company, which is 100% Irish owned and based, opened its own data centre in Carlow in 2014 (home to those servers that are connected to the internet) in addition to data centre space in Dublin.

Realistically, Blacknight is competing globally, as people can buy domain names and hosting anywhere. But this works both ways, and it now has 80,000 customers in 130 countries.

Officially incorporated in 2003, the company started out in 2000 when Michele was a student at University of Limerick. As is the case with many tech companies, Blacknight started in its founder’s bedroom. Michele subsequently met business partner Paul Kelly online; the first time they met in person was to sign the documents. The company was established in Carlow because that’s where Paul was based when Michele moved back from Italy, where he was working at the time.

Becoming an ICANN-accredited registrar has been important for Blacknight as it means cutting out the middle man and being able to supply services others can’t, for example, instead of a “.com” customers can buy a “.irish”.

 

Interview with Michele Neylon

 

What was the inspiration for setting up your business?

I was at UL studying European Studies with Languages around the time the internet was taking off in many respects. I knew a little about computers, and started doing web pages for some of the departments in the Humanities College in UL. It morphed into something whereby I was doing it for other companies. I struck a deal with a company in Canada where I was getting space on its servers; it was a basic reseller concept. They’d give me space and I’d sell it on. Their service had issues. The choice I had was very simple: stop offering these services or find some way of not leaving customers in the lurch. At that point I got my dedicated server and realised there was a business opportunity in providing the hosting for the websites and email, but not getting involved in the design and development. I was working in Milan teaching English as a foreign language. In the summer of 2003 I decided I had to do this seriously.

 

How did you initially fund your business?

We begged, we borrowed. We didn’t have any external funding. Going back to 2003, we had several servers we were paying for out of our own pockets. Over time, once there was enough revenue, they managed to cover themselves. Paul took a small personal loan – a four-figure sum – in 2003 to buy some hardware. We were self-funding and didn’t rely on third parties. On one hand it was a limiting factor. Anything we were doing was sustainable. Over time, you discover you need more cash to be able to do things: buy better servers, invest in better infrastructure. At that stage it was tough. Financial institutions and enterprise boards didn’t really understand what we were doing.

 

Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?

You have to diversify or you die. You have to evolve. As businesses’ usage of technology and the internet has evolved, so have the services we offer. What we try to do is bridge the gap. If we have a client who is happy to come to us for a variety of services and then asks if we do something in particular, we will see if we can offer it.