Uncompromised Digital Identity: The Akram J. Atallah Way

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The largest and most relevant portfolio of top-level domains (TLDs) currently in existence is managed by Identity Digital under the leadership of Akram J. Atallah. The company provides people and businesses with the most authentic and pertinent domain names to represent their digital identities. Their purpose is to motivate individuals and organizations to own their uncompromised digital identities. Descriptive TLDs give domain name owners the freedom to use both sides of the dot to convey their brand’s uniqueness from the very first impression. Identity Digital (previously Donuts) has been in business since 2010. Headquartered in Bellevue, WA, with offices in Colorado, California, Ireland, India, Australia, and Canada, they also provide best-in-class backend registry services for hundreds of other registry operators and help them bring their domain names to consumers globally.

Logical, Methodical & Strategist: Qualities of a Leader:

Akram shares, “I had a passion and aptitude for high tech at a young age. That is why I studied computer engineering and started as a hard disk drive systems engineer developing some chips along the way. But I soon realized that even the best product doesn’t work unless it addresses a market need. Since those decisions are made on the business side, I decided to get my MBA, allowing me to make a greater impact in these matters. After my MBA, I took product marketing roles with semiconductor companies.” Eventually, Akram moved into management at various tech companies. These leadership positions allowed him to play a key role in developing comprehensive and well-thought-out strategies, leading to the success of established companies as well as start-ups. As he shares, “I came to product/business management roles with a background in engineering. As such, I was used to tackling problems with logical thinking, analyzing and dissecting in detail how best to execute and test solutions. But that was definitely not the right approach in management. Here, you have to manage multiple functions simultaneously and be able to make quick decisions. That was a real challenge for me at first.”

Before joining Identity Digital as CEO, Akram served as the first president of the Global Domains Division at ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. He generated 90% of ICANN’s revenue by expanding business activities, which he created from the ground up. His appointment as CEO of Identity Digital was a logical next step. Under his leadership, Identity Digital has become a well-recognized domain provider. Akram most recently led a rebranding process changing Donuts to Identity Digital to better match its image and aspirations of evolving the future of authentic digital identities for forward-thinking individuals and enterprises worldwide. The new name reflects the dedication to helping customers find, access, and grow their digital identities. His leadership focuses on continuing to support that purpose in the coming years.

Identity Digital: Helping Businesses Achieve Success 

With the world’s largest portfolio of nearly 300 TLDs, such as .live, .technology, and .restaurant, Identity Digital customers have many descriptive domain name options that are relevant, memorable, and SEO-friendly—positively impacting business growth. The company operates around 25 million domains on its innovative registry services platform and is the only provider to include free advanced anti-phishing technology with its domain registration service. The technology automatically prevents bad actors from misappropriating a customer’s brand, business, and identity through homographic phishing.  

As Akram shares, “Identity Digital helps clients gain digital growth with concise, well-thought-out domain name options that use both sides of the dot. They are easy to remember and highlight what is unique about a start-up or small business from a customer’s very first impression. Examples of successful domain names using both sides of the dot include vacation.rentals, and elicit.wine. These descriptive domain names are highly impactful in terms of SEO, memorability, and click-through potential, helping our clients rank higher in search results and be more relevant to a wider variety of searches by leveraging specific keywords and phrases.”

Identity Digital is very environmentally mindful. They are developing an initiative around the TLD, “.green, discussing new ideas and how they can best contribute to sustainability. They provide paid volunteer hours, and a percentage of these hours go to such efforts. The company also creates a sense of family with a company culture in which every voice counts. Akram strives for a workplace where employees have a happy and flexible work-life balance. This makes for more dedicated and productive employees who feel appreciated.

"Find a permanent solution to a real problem, build a terrific team, and let logic drive your approach and decisions."

Inspirations, Experiences & Achievements: What makes a Great Leader?

Akram shares, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. As an engineer, I always worked toward “perfection,” but I learned early on that making the market window is critical to success. So, to succeed and grow a business, you must deliver good products on time. Understanding and picking your battles along the way can be the difference between failure and success.” He feels that early career experience is invaluable and should never be underestimated–it can impact both the short and long term. 

In his opinion, it is impossible to be a successful business leader without a strong team and close communication with every member of the company’s ecosystem. Akram feels his greatest achievement has been “The teams I’ve built over the years. So, I suppose it’s multiple achievements, technically. Teams are your company, your culture, and your success. To be successful, you must build solid teams and nurture them.”

Akram has a curious mind, and he is always trying to grow and learn. He listens to and relies on the advice of experts and seasoned professionals. Akram shares, “I also read about the latest developments in leadership and learn a lot from biographies. I most recently read Angela Merkel’s “The Chancellor and her World,” which was very inspiring. I respect her incredible humility and wanted to know what gets her up every morning and how she was able to maintain her reputation and role for so many years.”

Akram has created numerous products throughout the years as an engineer but was continuously let down by the choices made on the business end. Even though they were creating excellent solutions, they couldn’t sell them. He understood that the commercial side of organizations made these kinds of judgments. That’s why he shifted direction, moving into leadership roles that allowed him to work on both the engineering and marketing of goods and services. Akram feels that “ A great leader needs to employ logic, strategy, and collaborate. When someone brings up a good product idea and tells me they have the audience for it, I immediately visualize all the other necessary questions and qualifiers. For instance, why are they going to like it? What if someone copies you? How will it get to market? Is it easy to use? It’s not about disqualifying the idea ; It’s about getting to solutions so we can execute and be successful.”

Furthermore, when it comes to strategy, Akram believes it’s about identifying a critical problem and finding the best solution with the most effective execution. And all three must be well thought out and vetted. He also feels that collaboration is essential. That is why he has created trustworthy and mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers, employees, and customers. As he shares, “When I was running a market-leading semiconductor business, I took care of my customers and helped them succeed although they needed my product more than I needed them. Later on, when I moved to run a new business, they returned the favor by updating their designs to use my new product, which helped me succeed.”

Balancing Act: Managing Personal Life & Keeping an Eye for the Future:

In the near term, Akram thinks the economy is going into a recession, which means tough times for many industries and people. However, he feels this is also the moment for opportunities for those prepared and ready to act now. At times like this, new companies are born, and existing companies can flourish. Akram states, “We’ve seen it so many times ; If you can navigate the tough times, you get rewarded and come out stronger on the other side.”       

Identity Digital has fared well. Akram shares, “The  increase in start-ups and new businesses in the last few years has driven demand for digital identities and  domain names. To be successful, virtually every business must have an online presence.” Identity Digital has also expanded by acquiring Afilias, a registry and registry services provider. This was essential  in their decision to rebrand to Identity Digital this year. The rebrand brings both companies under one umbrella.

“We never stop seeking what’s on the horizon,” states Akram. Identity Digital is constantly inventing and researching to deliver future solutions that align with customers’ requirements which vary as the digital world advances.

On a personal front, Akram’s typical day starts very early. He says, “I like to be in the office. I like to interact and collaborate. Certainly, every day is different, but every morning I review my schedule for the day and prioritize what I want to achieve. So I drive my schedule instead of letting my schedule drive me.” Work-life balance is something that Identity Digital endorses and supports as an organization, and so does Akram, “I take vacations. I take breaks. I make sure to carve out family and relaxation time because I know that helps me recharge so I can continue to be present and productive for my team.”

Looking to the future, his goals include continuing to grow the Identity Digital team and organization. Akram envisions the next step would be making sure more people know about their TLDs and the power they can bring to their digital identity. As for his legacy, “I don’t really think about that ; I am pretty focused on the now and being present for my team and my family.” Akram signs off on this note, “Find a permanent solution to a real problem, build a terrific team, and let logic drive your approach and decisions.”

Akram J. Atallah

Akram J. Atallah

CEO Identity Digital

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