Rod Beckstrom

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Rod Beckstrom is the President and CEO of ICANN and an Advisor at Uniloc.[1] He serves on the boards of the Environmental Defense Fund, named by Fortune Magazine as one of the seven most powerful boards in the world, and the Jamii Bora Trust, an African micro-lending group. [2]

Beckstrom is also a writer, and has co-authored four books, including the best-seller The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, which provides a model for analyzing organizations, leadership styles, and competitive strategy. The Starfish and the Spider has been translated into 16 languages.[3]

On August 16, 2011, Rod announced via Twitter that he would be resigning from his position as President and CEO of ICANN in July 2012,[4] at the end of his three year contract. ICANN confirmed the news with an official press release later that day, highlighting his past two years with the organization.[5] He first took up the post in July, 2009.

Work with ICANN

Beckstrom was appointed President and CEO of ICANN at the conclusion of ICANN's 35th international meeting in Sydney, Australia, in June 2009.[6] Mr. Beckstrom's performance has been met with criticism by a wide ranging group of ICANN insiders, but he has also overseen the organization during some of its busiest and most progressive work. Following the announcement of his departure, a PDF was released that highlights his achievements over the previous two years.


The aforementioned PDF of achievements can be found here. Mr. Beckstrom also outlines a number of achievements in his opening remarks to ICANN 41; the transcript can be found here. Achievements include:

  • Signed the Affirmation of Commitments
  • Implemented DNSSEC in the Root Zone
  • Perfectly synchronized IANA operations
  • Supported gTLD development, including working with government detractors
  • Saw IDNs implemented into the root, including both traditional and simplified Chinese
  • Encouraged the expansion of the multi-stakeholder model
  • Initiated relationship with Interpol
  • Increased sponsorship for ICANN meetings

Mr. Beckstrom is also known for starting the "Music Night" tradition at ICANN meetings, where karaoke and a live band loosen up ICANN attendees mid-week.[7]


Many ICANN attendees have questioned his ownership over the aforementioned achievements and instead point to a list of dubious decisions and alarming statistics. Some of his more widely criticized moves include:

  • In May, 2010, Rod Beckstrom brought on Elad Levinson as a consultant, and later promoted him to VP of Organization Effectiveness. Mr. Levinson's background as a self-help, weight loss, and Buddhist-inspired psychologist and guru riled many ICANN watchers.[8] Some interpreted it as Rod Beckstrom bringing on a personal teacher into a position of authority within the organization, and were especially irritated over the creation of new VP positions when other existing positions remained unfilled.[9] Internal emails from the GNSO show disagreement over whether or not the hire was appropriate, and include a defense of Mr. Levinson's effectiveness.[10]
  • Rod Beckstrom has been accused of being paid too much.[11] He had released information regarding his salary, which stands at $750,000 USD per year plus bonuses, at risk compensation, and benefits.[12]
  • Rod Beckstrom was publicly derided by both Maria Farrell and Lesley Cowley at the public forum at ICANN San Francsico.[13] Ms. Farrell first took the mic to accuse the organization of chasing away its experienced staff members, herself included, and lament the "hollowing out of expertise" therein. Her comments were met with sustained applause. Rod Beckstrom responded that turnover was below 15%, less than the average for a nonprofit or high-tech companies. Lesley Cowley later took the mic to point out that the turnover rate for senior staff members was likely significantly higher, around 78%.[14] Audio of that forum can be found here, with the aforementioned interaction beginning around 23:10. Rod Beckstrom further defended the turnover rate in his opening address at ICANN 41, he noted that turnover for the previous year was at 11.62% and that it was tracking at 13%. When he was later asked about the loss of executives in an interview in September, 2011, he defended his management and team by saying, "The evolution of the management team was absolutely deliberate. Sometimes skills you get in a $100m organisation are different from those in a $5m organisation. I have assembled an excellent management team".[15]
  • He has been criticized for attaching his name too heavily to organizational achievements, or taking credit for his predecessor, Paul Twomey, and other peoples' work. These achievements include the implementation of IDNs, and the approval of the Applicant Guidebook for new gTLDs.[16]

New gTLDs

In September, 2011, Rod Beckstrom was the Keynote Speaker at the Futurecom Information Technology Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There he praised, the organization in charge of the Brazilian ccTLD (.br), for being one of the only countries in the world to use a multi-stakeholder model to oversee its national Internet infrastructure. He also praised the organization for its work on IPv6 deployment. He then went on to comment on the new gTLD program being launched by ICANN, and he discouraged brand owners and businesses from applying for a new domain space unless they are ready for the financial and technical responsibility of continually running a registry. He said, “I want to make clear that ICANN is an organization that is not advocating new gTLDs for anyone. Our role is merely facilitation to implement the policy and the programs approved by our community, so we are here to educate not to advocate.”[17] Given that Mr. Beckstrom is often criticized for his high-profile and controversial role, this speech was no exception; one commentator noted how after all the work ICANN had undertaken to create the program, it seems like a terrible PR move to discourage people from applying.[18]

That stop in Brazil was the first stop in a larger global tour that Mr. Beckstrom undertook to spread awareness of new gTLDs and the implications for brands, individuals, and the future of the Internet.[19][20]

In December, 2011, it was announced that Mr. Beckstrom would provide the keynote address at a new gTLD conference in London, New Top Level, which is administered by CloudNames, the PR agency Burson-Marsteller, and international law firm DLA Piper. The event is not an ICANN event, despite the fact that Burson-Masteller has been contracted out by ICANN to help with its PR outreach. The event generally fits into Rod Beckstrom's larger world tour, evangelizing ICANN's new gTLD program.[21]

On December17th, 2011, Mr. Beckstrom responded to an anti-gTLD expansion editorial that was published in the Washington Post; his reply, also published in the Washington Post, was a direct response to the original editorial, which asked why ICANN was rushing into a gTLD expansion despite the serious reservations of various groups and individuals. He noted the laborious 6 year process that led to the creation and approval the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook; the long road ahead for all applicants, with those that pass the review process beginning to be signed into the root only in 2012; and the number of trademark protections in place that will help prevent defensive registrations. Rod's response can be read here, the original anti-TLD piece can be read here.[22]

Career History

Government Work

Mr. Beckstrom was appointed President and CEO of ICANN 4 months after resigning as Director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Center in March, 2009.[23] He served as Director for the Cybersecurity Center for just one year. His departure from the Department of Homeland Security was marked by his criticism of the National Security Agency's tactics in his letter of resignation.[24] That letter can be read here.

Private Sector

Prior to his 1 year stint with the Department of Homeland Security, he spent 1 year as the Chairman of

From 2001 to 2007, he was the Chairman for Global Peace Networks and an Investor and Advisor for American Legal Net. From 2005 to 2006, he served as Chairman for Carbon Investments; from 1991 to 2001, as Chairman of Privada; and from 1985 to 1999, as CEO for CATS Software.[25]

Rod founded CATS Software in 1985 at the age of 24, originally working out of a garage apartment. The venture subsequently grew into global enterprise with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Geneva, Sydney, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. It eventually went public and sold.[26]

Mr. Beckstrom also helped found Mergent Systems, which later sold for $200 million USD.[27]

Other Work

Mr. Beckstrom co-founded a global peace network of concerned CEOs to start Track II diplomatic efforts between India and Pakistan in 2003. Their work opened up greater trade and communication between the countries and helped resolve one of their escalating conflicts.

Rod Beckstrom is a passionate environmentalist, and is notably a board member for the Environmental Defense Fund[28]


Rod received a BA in Economics with Honors and Distinction from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He also studied Finance and Banking as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of St. Galen in Switzerland.[29]