How to access the World Wide Web in 1996

The Internet has grown up quite a bit over the last twenty years. Some lucky people bought domain names around this time, at a time where the whole world really didn’t know what to think of this whole “world wide web” thing. Just for fun let’s hop in a time capsule, go back in time twenty years and have someone explain the Internet to us for the first time…I think it would go something like this:


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Expiration Date

The domain name industry is full of people giving advice and the number of people offering advice has increased exponentially over the years. One of the biggest problems with the growth of the Domaining education space is that only a fraction of the people giving advice are speaking from experience, many are just trying to make money teaching something they’ve never actually proven out for themselves.

If someone like Frank Schilling gives advice, that’s a reliable source, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. If some random person on a forum “says” they’ve been Domaining for ten years but can’t prove it, take what they say with a very large grain of salt.

Here’s the catch.

Domaining advice, even from very credible real Domainers has a real expiration date. The reason for this is simple – we are in an ever-changing industry which means that industry experts more than anyone have to adjust their strategies over time. If you read advice that Frank Schilling gave five years ago I can tell you that some of it will still apply to how he invests today, other pieces won’t.

When you’re watching a video or reading a blog post it’s important to first verify that the person giving the advice is someone that has actually done it themselves. Then look at the date. People who gave advice to buy CHIPS in Q2 and Q3 last year were giving great advice and those who took it made a killing in Q4…that same advice does not apply today.

Domaining is a hard industry, very few make money but many like to pretend that they do. When taking advice be careful and remember, the experts aren’t doing the same thing every single year, they are changing their investment strategy to match the market. When you’re looking for advice first make sure it’s coming from a reliable source, and then make sure it’s still relevant.

Photo Credit: JulianBleecker via Compfight cc

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A Large Corporation Needs Focus, Too

FocusMorgan regularly writes about the importance of focus. What most people forget is that this is important to both small and large businesses alike. If you let other forces affect your company’s trajectory, even corporate giants will fail.

I’m going to use Microsoft as a case study for a large business. Microsoft recently had to open its eyes to the fact that they lost momentum and direction. In 2012 they were coming off another lackluster OS version, they were spread thin amongst products and fields without heavy ROI, and they had become an internally conflicted, bloated organization. They needed to get back to basics while overhauling their vision and leadership. Satya Nadella was appointed as CEO to accomplish all of this and essentially simplified the business with a few key moves:

  1. Trimming the fat: from overseeing layoffs to finally selling its feature phone business, Microsoft has cut back.
  2. Developing their core focus: from its inception, Microsoft has primarily been a software company. Their advancements in opening up Office to multiple devices and platforms, combined with a move to the cloud has made them look beyond just hosting it on Windows systems.
  3. Enhancing continuity of OS experience: Microsoft has unified all of their devices and products under Windows 10. They’ve cleverly offered free upgrades to the new OS to try and capture 1 billion devices by 2018. They’re banking on users paying for their other peripheral services while experiencing the Windows 10 environment. This seems like a great maneuver, although I will say I’ve largely been unimpressed with their virtual assistant, Cortana. It’s probably the worst one I’ve used next to Siri.
  4. Reinvesting in proven profitable areas:

There’s still a long ways to go with other market leaders like Apple and Google leading the way, but we see a different Microsoft today than in 2012 and it’s due to Satya Nadella’s focus.

Disclaimer: I have at one point or another invested in Microsoft, Apple, and Google stock.

Do you have another story about large businesses and focus? Do you think Microsoft is still horribly failing? Share in the comments section!

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3 Mistakes New Domainers Make

One of the questions I’ve seen the most from new Domainers is – “what are the top mistakes I should avoid making?” While I’d love to say that buying and selling domain names is easy, the reality is that this is one of the most complex investment vehicles on the planet. Yes, the potential is huge, but most new Domainers never make it out of the gate because they make critical mistakes in the beginning that turn them away from the domain industry.

If you’re just getting started there’s a good chance that you’re making one (or three) of these mistakes.

  1. Buying nothing but hand reg domains –  sadly this is how most people get started in the industry. It goes something like this. You discover “Domaining” and see a list of domain sales. You get excited…really excited, and immediately head over to your favorite registrar and start registering domains like it’s going out of style. You list those domain names on every marketplace you can think of and none of them sell. The reality is, you haven’t done your homework, you don’t know what people are buying, and you think something you came up with out of thin air will suddenly sell for thousands of dollars. Yes – you can make money with hand registered domains, and I’ve sold some myself for thousands of dollars, but that’s not the norm.
  2. Setting unreasonable prices for your domains – so you’ve learned your lesson and dropped a lot of the junk you hand-registered. Now you have a handful of domains you paid $500 – $1,000 for in the aftermarket. They are much better names than you had before so you price them at $25,000 each. They get offers but none sell. The problem is you’re delusional. Seriously, you are. Yes – the big guys can ask for whatever price they want for their domains, but you can’t, you need to make a profit and re-invest.
  3. Taking advice from random people on domain forums – this one should be common sense but surprisingly it’s not. I love Domaining forums, don’t get me wrong. The problem is when you take advice from someone that you know nothing about. It’s easy to give advice, but the advice that really counts comes from people that have done it themselves. If you read advice on a Domaining forum, do your research and make sure the person giving the advice has the credibility to do it.

Have more to add to this list? Share your biggest Domaining mistakes below – comment and let your voice be heard!

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Hello from ShopTalk

This morning we made the voyage from Austin to Las Vegas for the first annual ShopTalk conference. While this is the first year for ShopTalk it has already become one of the top eCommerce and retail innovation conferences in the world with keynotes ranging from Marc Lore, the founder and CEO of Jet.com to Tim Kendall, the President of Pinterest, and Jerry Storch the CEO of Hudsons Bay Company.

ShopTalk 2016

What I really like about ShopTalk is that it’s a conference focused on innovation and how the brands and retailers we know and love can leverage technology to make the experience for you, the shopper, better than ever before. We have a busy meeting schedule ahead for the next three days, here’s a first look at the FM setup at ShopTalk:

Fashion Metric ShopTalk 2016

As usual I’m looking forward to sharing the adventure with all of you. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, technologies like ours are changing the world and making it easier for people to do the things they love. Five years from now I think you’ll look back and say, remember when shopping for clothes online was almost impossible? Not for long.

 

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One of the hottest topics in the domain name world so far this year has been the decline in sales prices for 4L .COMs compared to the spike in Q4 2015. The average price of a 4L .COM (Chinese Premium) has declined from a high of just over $2,000 in December of 2015 down to around $1,300 now.

Chinese-Premium-Sales-History

(Source – LLLLSales.com)

Last week a bit of controversy around 4L .COMs broke out on Michael Gilmore’s blog. Michael then responded to the negative comment with a blog post which I think is great to see. It can be easy to try to hide criticism but facing it head-on and responding to it is, in my mind, a clear example of how to take the high road in the situation.

“I published an article about ChiP (Chinese Premium) domains yesterday and received a really interesting comment from a reader that I would like to unpack. For a start I would like to thank them for the effort they took in writing the comment as it’s clear they are really passionate about domains.” (Whizzbangsblog)

The comment Michael is referring to is from a blog reader who didn’t agree with Michael on where the market is going, i.e. hold onto your CHIPs vs. selling them.

“Your advice to sell is terrible advice. And then you offer to help CHIP owners liquidate. Four-letter .com prices are positioned to move up substantially in the coming years and you recommend getting out now. You obviously needed a better translator on your China trip. SELLING CHIPS NOW AT LIQUIDATION PRICES IS TERRIBLE ADVICE. PLEASE DON’T HEED.”

Michael shared his perspective on his blog and I think he shares some great insight into what’s going on with 4L .COMs and the Chinese market. Of course these are only opinions, none of us really know what is going to happen. For myself 4L .COMs represent less than 5% of my portfolio so I feel comfortable sticking with them for the long haul. If 25% of my portfolio was CHIPs, I might look at things differently.

I do agree with Michael that at the end of the day it’s all about your risk profile and what you can do to grow your money the most effectively. It’s no secret that the market dynamics are changing rapidly in China, the truth is none of us know where this is all going to land five years from now.

What do you think? Are you holding onto your 4L .COMs or is it time to liquidate and re-invest? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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Startup Words Wednesday: Incubator vs Accelerator

incubator vs accelerator

Several people use the terms “business incubator” and “startup accelerator” interchangeably, but they are not the same. In this week’s Startup Words Wednesday, we’re looking at the general definitions of an incubator and an accelerator, and then exploring their differences. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to decide between the two, hopefully this will help give you some basic knowledge of what their programs entail and encourage you to research deeper.

First, let’s start with the definitions.

Accelerator

“Seed accelerators, also known as startup accelerators, are fixed-term, cohort-based programs, that include mentorship and educational components and culminate in a public pitch event or demo day.”

Wiki

Incubator

“Business incubators are organizations geared toward speeding up the growth and success of startup and early stage companies. They’re often a good path to capital from angel investors, state governments, economic-development coalitions and other investors.”

Entrepreneur.com

Similarities

These definitions are very similar and that can be confusing, probably because in reality, these programs are fluid and there are new ones formed every year that can encompass components of both stricter definitions. Both programs offer invaluable mentorships and advice, can involve or lead to some sort of funding, are great for building a strong network of connections, and give you the tools to foster growth. So what’s the difference between these two? The major distinguishing factor is duration, structure, and funding.

VS

Incubator: Typically lasting between 1-2 years, incubators are primarily focused on very early stage businesses. They help startups develop an idea and find a scalable business model through mentorship, providing a workspace, simple services, and lots of networking opportunities. By the end of the incubation period, they ideally have a minimal viable product with some sort of product-market fit and traction. The incubator business model has varied over the years as some didn’t originally provide capital or take equity in the businesses. With the expanding definition of incubators, some include investments before or after completion in return for equity while some simply charge a fee for entry. Finding an incubator that doesn’t take equity is often more attractive to founders because they want to retain that 3-8% in their company that they would have to give up in an accelerator.

Accelerator: As stated in the definition, startups typically operate in an accelerator program for a fixed 3-6 month time period. Where incubators often leave off with businesses, accelerators pick up and offer services similar to management consultants like assistance in branding, fundraising, design, strategic advice, etc. Most of them have an open application process and are very selective. Their businesses receive invaluable industry contacts, capital contributions, and strategic advice in exchange for a small portion of equity in the company. The ultimate goal of an accelerator is rapid growth in preparation for an initial seed round of funding to continue the company’s growth trajectory and provide a return to the accelerator.

Conclusion

It’s important to note that incubator and accelerator programs and resources are not all created equal. Many more have popped up over the years, but some of the most prominent ones are Y Combinator, Techstars (full disclosure: I sold my last business, NameLayer, to Techstars), and IdeaLab. Overall, incubators and accelerators can widely differ even within these general definitions. Their curriculum and networks will continue to change and likely broaden over time. It’s best to look into each individual program and see which one best fits the stage and market of your business.

Have a story about an incubator or accelerator you participated in? Share in the comments!

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Do you remember the Virtual Boy? It’s on record as being Nintendo’s second worst-selling product, but it was a very early venture into the concept of consumer VR. To jog your memory, it looks like this:

virtual-boy

(Image credit – TechSpot)

There were a ton of complaints about the Virtual Boy and sadly it did not kick-start a VR revolution and we all had to patiently wait until today. Luckily, with the technology of today and one dedicated Reddit user, you can now enjoy your own personal Virtual Boy a la Google Cardboard.

I never had the chance to try a Virtual Boy before but this is a fun way to get an idea of how Nintendo saw the world of VR over 20 years ago. Sure, they were ahead of their time, but it’s hard not to experience a bit of the magic they had in mind when you try it for yourself. Here’s a video of what it looks like once you’ve followed these instructions on Reddit.


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Why 2016 might not be the year of VR

2016 has been dubbed as the year of VR. 

Fortune – 2016 The Year of Virtual Reality?

CNET – Virtual Reality Set To Takeoff in 2016, researcher says

BBC – 2016: the year when VR goes from virtual to reality

In some ways I agree – I think 2016 is already a year where people all over the world are getting comfortable with the idea of VR. Samsung has done a great job of making an affordable VR experience with the GearVR at $99 but that experience is vastly different in both quality and content than what the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PlayStation  are bringing to the table.

GearVR

 

 

Here’s the catch. To really maximize the VR experience for the Oculus Rift, you need to either buy or build a high-octane PC to power it. Here’s a quick look at the specs you’ll likely want to have to really experience VR:

Intel i5 or i7 processor

8GB – 16GB of RAM

256GB Solid-state drive

1TB+ secondary drive

Killer graphics card (think $500+)

A high-performance motherboard (think overclocking)

VR PC

Oh, and after all of this, remember you still need to spend $700 to buy the Oculus Rift itself. In total you’re looking at easily over $2,000 and it’s not hard to get to $3,000 depending on what video card and display you decided to go with. Believe it or not there are video cards that cost over $3,000 alone…and ways to run two together, yes that’s $6,000 just in video cards.

So while Samsung Galaxy phone owners will have the easiest path to a VR experience, it’s pretty well known that the gap between that experience and what you get with a Rift powered by a kick-ass gaming PC is a big one. I think 2016 and 2017 are likely to be more like VR’s Beta years, where early-adopters get a taste of the future, but the average person still isn’t quite prepared to jack into the Matrix.

To close this gap, high-end VR experiences would need to be powered by something different (and cheaper) than a gaming PC. I think 2018 is likely to be the year where this might become a reality, but it’s still too early to tell. For now, I’ll go on record saying that I don’t think 2016 can really be called the year of VR. I think that year isn’t far away, but it will come when VR is as ubiquitous as smart phones, and we’re not going to get there this year.

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Popular Podcasts and Audiobooks

Popular Podcasts and Audiobooks

Entrepreneurs simply do not have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything they want to. With all the immediate demands that come with maintaining and growing a business, there is usually precious little time left for longer term personal pursuits. A great example of this is continued learning and self-education.

Some of us are able to carve out the time to read on a regular basis, but it requires an incredible amount of willpower to set aside more immediate, but not necessarily more important, tasks. A more palatable option is to passively listen to audiobooks or podcasts while completing routine tasks. Those minutes add up at the end of the day, week, and year. If you commute anywhere in Los Angeles or another metropolitan city, that’s a substantial amount of your time.

Next time you drive to work, exercise, walk your dog, eat lunch at your desk, etc., try listening to a great book or an educational podcast. To get you started, here’s a list of some of the most popular services I use and content that I make an effort to listen to:

  1. TED Talks FeedBurner Page or any page on their site for video.
    – In case you’re not familiar with TED Talks, they’re popular speeches given by industry renowned experts on a wide gamut of fields.
  2. This Week in Startups via Stitcher
    – The popular serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Jason Calacanis has operated this show since 2009. He interviews other popular tech moguls and covers trending news in Silicon Valley.
  3. Ask Gary Vaynerchuk
    – As the title implies, it’s a show where expert marketer and angel investor, Gary Vaynerchuk, answers people’s questions on entrepreneurship, social media, and more.
  4. Any informative book on Audible.com
  5. NPR’s Planet Money
    – A bi-weekly podcasts on the global economy discussed in a casual manner.
  6. Smart Passive Income
    – Marketer and entrepreneur, Pat Flynn gives tips for running an online business.
  7. Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast
    – Podcasts covering popular topics from HBR’s management magazine. If you have the time, I recommend reading this one as their articles are usually heavily researched.
  8. The Investors Podcast
    – Hosts, Preston and Stig, study, discuss and interview billionaires.
  9. Mixergy Startup Stories
    – Andrew Warner explores popular startup stories and interviews their founders to provide great business tips.
  10. Foundr Magazine Podcast
    – Interviews with startup founders and entrepreneurs.

If these don’t interest you or they’re not in your field, don’t let that stop you. There’s a wide variety of content out there on Stitcher and iTunes. For instance, in the domain name industry I listen to podcasts from Domain Name Wire and DomainSherpa. Remember that one of the keys to growth is constantly pushing yourself to learn!

Have a favorite podcast or audiobook? Let us know about it in the comment section!

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