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View from the Top: How Mountain Climbing Multi-Tasking Super Mom Tessa Holcomb
#1
MONDAY,6 JULY 2015 The Domains
According to the news from Domain Forum of China on July 6th,the popular domain brokerage company that Tessa Holcomb launched in 2010 at DomainAdvisors.com adopted a new brand name - Igloo.com - a couple of years ago. While that is a very cool name it is a bit ironic considering the personable Founder & CEO is such a ball of fire. Since entering the domain business with Sedo in 2009, this multi-tasking marvel has soared to the upper reaches of the industry while simultaneously balancing her Herculean work load with the needs of a very active family centered around three boys who share their mother's dynamic genes.

With the family thriving and Igloo.com having booked over $100 million in domain and website sales, it seems the only thing missing from Tessa's life today is a Superwoman suit and a phone booth to change clothes in. Considering the impact the California native has had on the domain business, it seems appropriate that her story - one that is as remarkable personally as it is professionally - begins with an earthquake.



Tessa Holcomb
Founder & CEO, Igloo.com







Young Tessa

Tessa was born in Los Angeles, two weeks early and just six days before the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake - a 6.5 magnitude shock whose epicenter was just a few miles from her home. Tessa told us, 'The family joke is that my parents caused the quake by having a child at their age (my mom was 47 and my dad was 50.) My dad later told me that it was just my way of entering the world with a bang!"

"My Mother was born in Mexico and moved to California in 1927 speaking very little English at the time. She acclimated quickly and went on to study at UCLA, then Berkeley, graduating with honors in just three years before being accepted into both USC and Johns Hopkins medical schools and receiving a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. Although World War 2 got in the way of her graduate opportunities at the time, she did return to USC in 1987 (at age 63!) to get her Masters Degree in Education and taught English as a second Language for the next 20 years. Her love for travel, languages and other cultures took her to 30 countries and


almost every continent except Australia and Antarctica and also motivated her to learn six languages (aside from Spanish and English) including French, Italian, German, Czech, Korean and even Farsi!," Tessa noted proudly.






"My father grew up in a small town in Montana and gave up a scholarship to Notre Dame to join the Air Force in 1942. He flew 19 missions as a B-17 Pilot in WWII before being shot down and captured by German soldiers. He survived countless interrogations and nearly 2½ years in prison camp prior to ending up in California and marrying my Mom in 1947. Ironically, my Dad’s first stop in the U.S., after his release from prison camp by General Patton’s army in 1945, was the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica where I would (60+ years later!) attend several DomainFest Conferences. A born salesman and entrepreneur, he started in advertising sales and finally landed in the moving business, owning and operating a local Allied Van Lines franchise in Burbank, California."

"Growing up, my parents were supportive of my ideas (as crazy as some might have been) and always encouraged me to “welcome challenges” and “get out of my comfort zone” which are two rules I’ve done my best to live by and have tried to instill in my children as well,' Tessa said.

Tessa was one of five children which resulted in her parents raising teenagers while in the 1960s, 70s and 80s! Anyone who has raised a teenager, even within a single decade, will appreciate the magnitude of that feat! Tessa noted, "They were married 58 years before my father passed away in 2005 at the age of



Tessa's parents, Robert Seelos
and Mary Kessler in 1946.


85. We lost my mom almost two years ago to cancer at the age of 89. I never truly appreciated their life experience and stories until later in life, but hope they realized the influence they had on me and how thankful I am for the responsibilities and values they instilled in me from childhood."










Clockwise from top left: Tessa's brothers Brian and Kevin. 1½ year old Tessa sitting on sister Marla's lap and at lower left Tessa's late sister Lorenna.

As fortunate as Tessa was to grow up in such a large and loving family, her youth was still touched by an awful tragedy. "The death of my sister Lorenna in 1984 was the event that most influenced the development of my personality and outlook on life," Tessa recalled. "I was 13 and she was 21. She was my closest sibling in age and a very big part of my life. Losing her, at the hands of a drunk driver, taught me how important it was to enjoy each and every moment in life and to look at every day as an opportunity to open myself up to something new. In some ways, I feel it allowed me to face challenges I may have not considered facing otherwise and gave me the outlook that no obstacle was too great to overcome."

I noted above that Tessa was a marvel of multi-tasking - a skill set that can also be traced back to her formative years. "In high school I was sort of a


“Jack of all Trades”, Tessa said. "My parents had always insisted that I not let myself be classified in any “one” group. Because of this advice, I ended up trying a bit of everything. I ran track and cross-country, was on the swim team, softball team, and cheerleading squad. I also loved photography and dance."






During here college years at UCLA Tessa started zeroing in on what she wanted to do with her life. "I definitely preferred English and Social Studies to Math and Science. I narrowed in on Psychology at UCLA and, while I had considered graduate studies directly after my senior year, I decided to accept my first of many sales roles and I’ve never looked back," Tessa said.

"While I hadn’t planned on using my psychology degree in a sales capacity, I quickly learned that sales is really figuring out the perfect mix of persistence and drive combined with connections, relationships and strategy. I looked at each sale as a challenge and I’m convinced that studying the science of the mind and processes definitely provided me the foundation to succeed in a variety of sales and management roles prior to starting Igloo (DomainAdvisors) in 2010," Tessa noted.

The domain business is a such a specialized field, and one so far off the average person's radar, that people always wonder how others found their way into it. Tessa's light bulb moment came when she had a



Tessa on graduation day at UCLA


fortuitous brush with one of the biggest domain sales on record. "After six years with a large, established company, I was drawn into the start-up world and had my first experience in online advertising in 2000 when selling 3D facial animation software for email, CRM, and advertising solutions," Tessa recalled. "I then moved on to create and sell online, email and print advertising campaigns for several family-focused companies, one being the owners of Toys.com which we all know later ended up selling to Toys 'R' Us in a bankruptcy court auction for $5.1million. It was then I realized that selling domains might be the way to go!," Tessa smiled. " I joined Sedo in January of 2009 at the encouragement of the Director of Brokerage at the time, who just happened to be my previous sales manager, Kathy Nielsen."










Tessa Holcomb (center) with former Sedo colleagues
Kathy Nielsen (left) and Simonetta Batteiger. Kathy is
now an executive with the DotGreen Registry and
Simonetta is Head of Product Management Trading at Sedo.

"While at Sedo, my attention was focused mainly on our top tier (Pro) clients, identifying opportunities for corporate clientele and negotiating high-value premium domain sales. The Sedo team, our clients, and our partners were second to none and it didn’t take long for me to realize this was an industry I wanted to be part of for the long haul."

"My fondest memories from Sedo are, without a doubt, the people I had the opportunity to meet and work with and especially putting faces to names at my first events. With so much time spent on the phone and emails, there is nothing like finally meeting someone in person, especially when it feels like seeing an old friend." Tessa said.


After her successful industry debut with Sedo, things progressed rapidly for Tessa with unfolding events opening a door that allowed her to start he own company. "In February of 2010, I had the opportunity to be part of a Mount Kilimanjaro climb team raising nearly $200,000 for the Water School, a non-profit organization that has developed a simple and sustainable program giving countless children, families and entire communities across Africa, and other developing nations around the world, lifelong access to clean water. We had the opportunity to visit the slums and the children for whom we were raising money. It was truly a life-changing experience," Tessa said.



Above: Mount Kilimanjaro Water School climbers get together at the 2011 DOMAINfest
Global conference in Santa Monica, California. Left to right are Jessica Besseling (who
was on a second climb in 2011) and 2010 climbers Kamila Sekiewicz, Gregg McNair,
Tessa Holcomb and Jazmin Carrillo.

Below: Tessa Holcomb (far left) and some of her fellow climbers reach the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010.








Shortly after Tessa returned from the climb, her career path took a sudden change. "Two months later, as a result of relationships forged on that climb, and my experience visiting philanthropy projects associated with PPX International in Africa, I accepted a dual role as Director of Business Development for DomainManager as well as Director of Philanthropy for PPX," Tessa said. "The climb’s organizer, Gregg McNair , an extremely successful entrepreneur and philanthropist himself, was the Chairman of this company and a great mentor. Although I was happy at Sedo, I have to admit that my trip to Africa (mainly visiting the slums and spending time with the children) changed my outlook and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to feel that my business efforts would be directly correlated to making a real difference among the underprivileged," Tessa said.



Tessa a beautiful new friend made during her
visit to Africa to raise funds for the Water School.


"As I expanded my knowledge base and relationships across the industry, I was fortunate enough to attend and speak at several conferences around the world while spreading awareness for Water School. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with many of the major players in the domain space and quickly became aware of the need for a consultancy service with experienced advisors who are ready to address and assist clients with their overall domain strategy. In the same way financial advisors work with their clients on their portfolios, I envisioned domain advisors educating our clients on the importance of owning the right domain names, capable of working with clients on branding, and helping them to sell and acquire premium domain names. With the support of Gregg McNair and the entire PPX team, DomainAdvisors launched in November of 2010."



Tessa Holcomb and Gregg McNair (4th and 5th from the left) with industry colleagues they hosted in Hong Kong and Macau in November 2010 - the month DomainAdvisiors (now Igloo.com) was launched.




Tessa recalled, "Any trepidation I had about launching DomainAdvisors (and re-branding to Igloo in 2013) among several well-established competitors was primarily trumped by my confidence in the team I was so fortunate to be able to put together, most of which is still in tact. It seems like just yesterday that Amanda Waltz (Igloo Director of Sales & Acquisitions), Gina Aubrey (Igloo Sales & Operations




Manager) and I were brainstorming at my kitchen table, in the fall of 2009, about the need for a company like DomainAdvisors within the industry. While we never saw DomainAdvisors as a “giant” within the industry, I do feel Igloo has been able to make a significant impact on our niche sector by capitalizing on the personal relationships, trust and confidence we’ve been able to secure in our key client base and partners which I most definitely attribute to my team's experience, dedication and hard work."




Above: (L to R): Igloo's Amanda Waltz, Gina Aubrey and Tessa Holcomb on a Boston
Duck Boat Tour celebrating the launch of the new Igloo.com Marketplace June 17, 2015.

Below: Also from Marketplace launch day, Igloo team members David Seelos, Amanda Waltz, Karen Keighley, Shari Snowiss, Gina Aubrey and Tessa Holcomb toast the special occasion.



Tessa proudly noted, "Igloo has surpassed goals with upwards of $120 million in domain and website sales. While we do offer appraisal and consultancy services, our core business has been both selling and acquiring ultra-premium names for investors, VCs, established companies and start-ups."

When asked about what she considered to be highlights from the company's five-year history Tessa replied, "I'd have to say that I consider two things as “key triumphs.” The first would be seeing domains we've placed (either via sale or acquisition) become successful sites and businesses. Some examples include Jet.com, Primary.com, Realty.com, NewOrleans.com, Yoga.com, and IG.com. The second, but most important triumph is the loyalty of our clients shown through repeat business and a high number of personal referrals. Igloo has been extremely fortunate to work with so many great buyers and sellers. There is nothing more gratifying than satisfied clients sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues."

Look ahead Tessa added, "I am extremely optimistic based on the initial feedback on our new Igloo.com marketplace, the current batch of ultra-premium domain names we are representing, and the high value acquisitions we are in the process of vetting for some key clients," Tessa added.




Over the past year the industry has seen the introduction of hundreds of new gTLDs. At this early stage the impact the new extensions will have in the domain aftermarket remains unknown but Tessa doesn't see .com's present dominance ending any time soon.

"While the release of new gTLDs opens more doors for investors, it causes confusion among the general public," Tessa said. "As far as impacting the aftermarket business, it will open up more affordable inventory, but as far as .coms go, Igloo is actually seeing clients who bought or registered new gTLDs in the past year to launch their business or product who are now contacting us for .com acquisitions. While they may not have been ready to invest in the .com initially, once their business plan is proven, etc., they are finding the .com is necessary now."



.Com image from Bigstock


However the market shakes out in the months and years ahead Tessa fully intends to be on the field in the middle of the action. "What I find especially attractive about the domain industry is the ever-changing climate and the constant challenge of learning new areas of business," Tessa said. "When Igloo is selling a premium fashion name, for example, the broker immerses herself in the fashion industry, then for a real estate name, the real estate industry, and so on. We have the unique opportunity to speak with many leaders in these industries and by taking them such amazing names (e.g. Fashion.com, Realty.com, etc.) the credibility is immediate and some amazing conversations are had."

"It's very exciting to meet with someone like Jet.com co-founder and CEO Marc Lore and not only hear his vision, but work with him to find a domain you are confident will soon be a household name. There are not many industries, certainly none that I know of, that offer these new and unique opportunities on a continual basis," Tessa noted.








Tessa Holcomb speaking at the 2014
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas.

No matter how many opportunities come her way, Tessa's family will continue to get the same time, love and care they are accustomed to. "Just like any business owner, I have learned to manage my time effectively, survive on little sleep and become an expert multitasker. Studies show that women are 'better at multitasking' than men, so perhaps I have a natural advantage over many just due to my sex!," Tessa laughed.

"I am also fortunate to work with several women who all have and maintain balance and fortunately, our industry does allow some flexibility in reward for hard work and performance."

"I was lucky to have exceptional role models in my parents, who were both extremely talented and industrious, but still made time to be very involved in my life."




Tessa enjoying a happy moment with her mother and father.



It's also important to have a spouse with a similar work ethic and goals. I'm fortunate that my husband works as hard as I do and our boys have been raised in an environment where responsibilities are shared equally throughout the household. We have three amazing boys (ages 8, 10 and 13) who I couldn't be more proud of and who also seem to have inherited the "must stay busy" gene. They are good students, altruistic and athletic. Fortunately, I love sports and staying active myself so you will likely find me with them at a football field in the fall, ski slopes in the winter, baseball field in the spring, and by the pool in the summer! I may have my laptop with me, but I'll be there!," Tessa promised.



Tessa and husband John with their three very active sons.



In closing Tessa noted, "Although my job will never be 9 to 5, I sincerely enjoy what I do, it fits well with other areas of my life, and the caliber of the people I've had the opportunity to get to know, and work with, can't be topped. The perks of being in the domain industry haven't been so bad either! From international travel to private concerts to world-class parties, NASCAR and more, I can't exactly say it's been boring! I truly can't see myself doing anything else. This has been my favorite job, and it will be my last."
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