On behalf of the staff at Webnames.ca, we would like to congratulate Cybele Negris on receiving Business in Vancouver’s 11th Annual Influential Women in Business Award.
We would also like to extend our congratulations to the other honourees:
• Janet Austin, CEO, YWCA Vancouver
• Ida Goodreau, Corporate Director and former CEO of LifeLabs and Vancouver Coastal Health
• Sarah Morgan-Silvester, Chancellor, University of British Columbia
• Janine North, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust
This below article “Cybele Negris – Queen of her Domain” is from Business in Vancouver March 23-29, 2010; issue 1065
Is it still relevant to focus on the success and role of women in business? That’s one of the questions we asked this year’s IWIB honourees, and they responded with a resounding “yes.” As successful as women have become in business, there are still great strides to make and milestones to achieve; which makes our annual IWIB section even more relevant for inspiring women of all ages to reach their full potential.
Queen of her Domain
Cybele Negris may have taken the long route to achieving success, but it wasn’t for lack of entrepreneurial drive.
Article by Curt Cherewayko
To think: shyness nearly relegated Cybele Negris to an academic career in psychology, far from the front lines of the Internet where she stands today.
Years before co-founding web domain registrar Webnames.ca in 2000, Negris dropped out of the commerce program at UBC and completed a psychology degree, which required her to do fewer front-and-centre presentations.
At the encouragement of her professors, she was taking a hard look at pursuing a PhD in psychology.
“I did quite a bit of research in the last year and a half of my psych degree and realized that was really not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and that business was my first love,” said Negris. “I took the long route I guess.”
She overcame her introversion through a lot of work, including the Dale Carnegie self-improvement program for businesspeople.
Since then, self-improvement, particularly the form that comes through community participation, has been a key factor in Negris’ career trajectory.
She is one of four founding partners and COO of Webnames, a UBC spinoff that registers, hosts and manages website domains and domain portfolios for thousands of Canadians and Canadian businesses.
Though profitable since its first year of business, Webnames doesn’t disclose specific figures.
Negris said that the company has grown steadily in revenue, profitability and employee count since year 1, when sa;es were $2.5 million.
In the mid-1990s, with only a psychology degree and a handful of business courses under her belt, she was going to pursue an MBA to get back on the business track, but landed a role with Richmond-based Pegasus Pharmaceuticals.
“That ended up becoming my real-life MBA,” said Negris. “I was thrown into the fire.”
Leveraging the strong connections that she forged at UBC during her years as a student there, she moved on from Pegasus and began work in the university’s human resources department.
She was quickly promoted to the role of faculty relations manager for the president’s office.
After two years there, she realized that she was better-suited for work in an entrepreneurial setting.
“I end up giving my all with any job,” said Negris. “I realized at that point that if I’m going to work this hard I should be working for myself.”
She was consulting for UBC’s University-Industry Liaison Office when she met John Demco, the manager of computing facilities at UBC’s department of computer science.
Demco had created the “.ca” domain registry in 1987 in a bid to give Canadians a national identity online.
But the registry was growing so fast that what essentially started as a hobby was becoming a full-time volunteer job for Demco.
As a result, he and UBC transferred control of the registry to the better-equipped Canadian Internet Registration Authority(CIRA). Negris was sent over to Demco’s office to help manage the registry in the months before it was to be transferred to CIRA.
Demco expected that he would need to explain the highly technical inner workings of the registry to Negris at least a few times before she grasped it – as was the case with most people.
“She came back a day or two later with the most astonishingly complete notes I could imagine,” said Demco, noting that his rule of thumb was to expect people to grasp 20% of his introductory explanation about the registry.
“She got it 100% right the first time – it was just unbelievable.”
After transferring the registry from UBC to CIRA, Demco, with Negris and two other technology professionals, Stephen Smith and Matthew Lane, founded Webnames.
It was one of the first registrars in Canada to sell and manage domains from CIRA’s registry.
Demco, Webnames’ director, said that among Negris’ contributions to the company is an ability to constantly find ways to tweak operations and make the Webnames machine run more smoothly.
For someone so driven and thorough, Negris acknowledges that her career to date appears rather unfocused.
“That’s what I love about business and being an entrepreneur: there’s so many opportunities [that] you need to be flexible and ever-changing,” she said.
“All of those experiences I had when I was younger prepared me for being an entrepreneur.”
She a is prominent member of the Vancouver business community as a director of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, a director of the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, vice-chair of Small Business BC and a director of the B.C. government’s small business roundtable.
She also is a former president of Wired Woman Vancouver, a non-profit organization providing education, networking and mentorship to women in the technology sector.
She remains a mentor at Wired Woman, but stepped down three years ago after having her second child with her husband of 10 years, Brad.
Among the reasons that Negris joined Wired Woman, which reaches out to girls as well as women, was to build the support structures needed to provide girls with more encouragement to pursue careers in the technology space.
“There is still a lack of women in executive roles in most industries, especially technology,” said Negris. “So it is important to have positive role models who can mentor future generations to reach their best potential.” •
5 Questions: Cybele Negris
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud that after close to 10 years since Webnames.ca was founded, I can honestly say I still love what I do and am passionate about our ability to keep things fresh and innovative while maintaining our core competencies. Also, our success allows me to give back to the community that has made us successful.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Like any entrepreneur, two key challenges are a constant lack of time to accomplish everything and “Entrepreneurial ADD” – most entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas and, as your company grows, more opportunities come along. Successful entrepreneurs can focus enough to get the next milestone accomplished while not stifling innovation on what may be the next big thing.
What career decisions would you make differently were you starting out today?
I would have embraced my leadership role earlier. Years ago I thought of myself as a shy person who just wanted to be behind the scenes rather than be the face of an organization. These days, I have to limit the number of events I attend each week. I do 15 to 20 speaking events each year.
What’s one business lesson that you’d like to pass on to others?
Surround yourself with successful, hardworking, positive people. That includes hiring people who have a track record for success as well as partnering and networking with highly successful, smart people.
Is it still relevant to focus on the success and role of women in business?
It’s great to have the opportunity to celebrate success no matter who you are, male or female. BIV also recognizes young entrepreneurs (male and female) through the Top Forty Under 40 program and BIV’s lists recognize success across many industries, so I see no problem in celebrating the success of women.
Business in Vancouver (www.biv.com) has been publishing in-depth local business news, analysis and commentary since 1989. The newspaper also produces a weekly ranked list of the biggest companies and players in a wide range of B.C. industries and commercial sectors, monthly features and industry-focused sections that arm its subscribers with a complete package of local business intelligence each week.