Black History: Special Delivery!!
Can you believe that the “.com” internet domain naming system is 35 years old?! Emmitt McHenry, was the co-founder of Network Solutions, Inc,; one of the early leading internet domain service providers. Before most people became aware of the “world-wide-web,” it was a U.S. government cold war project. Its purpose was to provide a communications network that could withstand a nuclear attack. McHenry and his business partners launched Network Solutions in 1979. They found it challenging to secure financing for the business, so they mortgaged their properties and used credit cards to finance it. Network Solutions became very successful. The firm was able to secure a contract with the National Science Foundation. Their first assignment was to develop the U.S. government’s first domain name addressing system for the internet.
McHenry developed the computer code that now allows us to surf the internet and receive emails! His invention is now known as the “.com.” Due to McHenry’s success, the U.S. government granted Network Solutions an additional contract to continue developing a domain registry service for the internet as the sole domain name registrar for “.com, .net, .edu, .gov and .org” domains. Network Solutions was also awarded a contract to manage the central database of domain names, which was a $1 million/year contract; making them the only company authorized to develop and issue website addresses. They had no competitors for the contract because no one really knew what the internet was at the time. As the internet began to take off, McHenry realized that he needed more capital to grow the business. However, the National Science Foundation contract made expansion challenging because no matter how many new domain names they registered, they could not increase their contract prices.
McHenry decided that he would apply to the U.S. government so that Network Solutions could charge directly for the domain names to help increase revenue. Under the initial contract with the National Science Foundation, all domain names had to be issued for free. At the time, no one knew how much the demand would explode. Emmit reached out to wealthy and high profile members of the black community, financial institutions, and Wall Street, to seek additional funding for the business but could not find anyone to invest in it. He did receive some financial assistance from a white fellow engineer, but it was not enough. McHenry was now faced with the possibility that the government might revoke his contract because they were struggling to keep up with the demand. This placed the company in a difficult position because they needed additional funding to increase staffing
In 1995, McHenry sold Network Solutions to Science Application International Corp (SAIC) for $4.8 million. Almost immediately, the government gave SAIC permission to charge $70/year for each domain name. SAIC also received a royalty for other domain names created. This was the very request that McHenry had made and been denied. Millions of individuals and companies were requesting domain names at the time. Within a year, SAIC leveraged its $4.8 million purchase of Network Solutions into $21 billion in profits!
McHenry continues to serve as CEO of NetCom Solutions, International, a company he founded after selling Network Solutions. NetCom is a telecommunication, engineering, and technical services firm. The company has offices in Virginia and Oklahoma and employs over 200 staff. He also serves in a co-CEO role at Archura along with his son. Archura, LLC is located in Leesburg, VA, and is part of the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry.
McHenry says he has no regrets. He says, “We misjudged the fact that demand would drive the telecom infrastructure…..We spent a lot of time being engineering purists and we didn’t focus on the capitalist potential.” He also insists, “A man should never regret selling at a profit”. McHenry was born in Forest City, AK on July 12, 1943. He received a B.S. in communications from the University of Denver in 1966. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, attaining the rank of lieutenant. McHenry is also graduated from Northwestern University in 1979 with an M.S. degree in communications.