Morgan's Flippa Five

Hello, happy Tuesday, and welcome to Morgan’s Flippa Five. This week I’m going to switch things up a bitand try something new. While I see a lot of great domains hitting Flippa every week, I also see a few ridiculous ones that I thought might be fun to point out.

So let’s start with the ridiculous:

Car.Company (Listed at $18,000,000) – sorry but this is just insane, please don’t spend 18 million dollars on a .COMPANY domain, oh and for whoever listed this, get a clue – divide this number by ten and you still wouldn’t get a single offer.

Now onto three that I like:

HTML.com – I love this domain, it’s a big one, HTML isn’t going anywhere and this is a nice short name in a huge niche. It’s currently at $31,000 which IMO is still below market on this name.

Jazz.io – while .IO is still a very new market, it has seen some signs of real market value, of course prices will be well below .COM, but these names have value and Jazz.io is under $50 with three days to go.

3248.com – as I’ve said many times, I’m no expert when it comes to numeric domain names but I can tell you that 4N domains seem to be hotter than ever from what I’ve seen. 9595.com sold for $180,000 last week so there is real value in this market segment.

And last but not least, a domain that I think would be a great brand name:

RocketTax.com – this is an incredibly memorable name for a company in the tax space. I can see the TV ads now, take your savings to the moon with Rocket Tax!

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Tomorrow is a big day for Domainers in Los Angeles, it marks one of the largest MeetUps to-date with over 75 people attending and a monster sponsor – Uniregistry, a company that I have many times likened to the Apple of domain registrars.

Southern California Domainers and Uniregistry

This will be the first MeetUp of the year which means that many Southern California Domainers have been itching to re-connect after NamesCon and before The Domain Conference making the timing about as good as it gets. Jason, the founder of the Southern California Domainers MeetUp group is a good friend of mine and told me this will definitely be an event to remember and I’m sure it will be.

so-cal-domainer-meetup

The photo above is from one of the very early Southern California Domainer MeetUps from back in 2010, you might recognize a few people in this photo.

So if you’re in the LA-area don’t miss-out on a great night of food, drinks, and Domainers – it doesn’t get much better than that!

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How to Negotiate Buying a Domain Name, Part II

[This is Part 2 of 3 in an ongoing series addressing how startups can negotiate buying a domain name. You can read the previous article here]

In the last article we covered the research phase that comes before contacting a domain owner. This time we’re exploring outreach tips as well as tactics to use when attempting to make contact with the seller. I’ve also included email examples.

  1. Tracking Extension – Domainers have written about their use of email tracking extensions like Sidekick or Streak. These extensions let you know if an email is opened. I recommend you use these, or an equivalent gmail extension, to gauge the success of your outreach attempts. However, this has its limitations as it only works if the person who opens the email has their settings enabled to display images; these tracking methods are primarily based on image inclusion.
  2. Record Contact Attempts – Keep track of which addresses you’ve sent emails to and when you sent them. This could become useful later if you notice a pattern in their response time.
  3. Outreach Etiquette – Be sure to reach out to domain owners via their preferred contact method, if they have one. If they don’t have one, begin by emailing them two times over a period of two weeks, and then follow up with phone calls. See below for example emails.
    • Phone Call – If they prefer to engage in negotiations over the phone, then agree and set a time. Carl Icahn, one of the best investors in the world, used to schedule negotiations at the end of his opponents work day in their respective time zone. Studies show that people suffer from decision fatigue later in the day and their willpower is compromised. He just made sure to take a nap or sleep longer before hand. Whether you should use a similar tactic is up for debate, but it’s effective.
  4. Contact Multiple Sellers – As I stated in the previous article, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with a name, especially if you have a deadline. Open up your options and be honest with the seller that you’re considering alternatives. However, it’s ok to express that you’d prefer to own their domain.
  5. Inquiring Price – If possible, you should try to get a price from your seller at the onset of negotiations, and before presenting your offer. Be careful though, as the first number mentioned in negotiations is the benchmark for all subsequent offers. With this in mind, your initial message should be tailored toward the specific type of domain owner you’re approaching:
    • Domainers, Some Inventories, and Large Companies – This group won’t respond to emails without an offer. They usually won’t respond to emails with an offer in the wrong ballpark. Avoid hitting your ceiling straight out of the gate, but don’t insult them with something they’ll clearly refuse. Make sure the offer’s currency is clearly stated and understood by both parties. It’s fairly common for international deals to fail because each party accepted an amount they thought was in a different currency. Without an agreed price and meeting of the minds, no contract is formed.
    • Website Owners, Brokers, and Domains without Forwarding – Send a simple inquiry to this group of owners to measure their level of interest. It’s not necessary to present an offer to them, but instead it is appropriate to request a price first. It’s possible you could get the domain for far lower than your first offer if their price is low.
    • Domains at Auction – If the auction doesn’t have a “Buy-it-Now” price listed, send a private message to the seller on the auction platform asking them if they have one in mind. If they don’t respond shortly, use their email address. Your next move will depend on how they respond, and we’ll address the appropriate responses in the next article on negotiation and interaction. The goal is to get the owner to coordinate posting a BIN that is acceptable to you so you can win the auction.
  6. Legality – Offers presented over email or phone are binding when accepted. Make sure you can actually pay whatever number you submit. You should state the following in your offer:
    • That there is a specific amount of time the offer remains valid. This is so you won’t be held to an offer you made ages ago that went unanswered.
    • That the offer is pending based on fulfilment of any other deal terms.
  7. Spam – Make sure your email is not blacklisted as spam. Help prevent your offer from being flagged as a promotion or spam by refraining from inserting any links in the email body. Add a space between the domain mentioned and it’s TLD.
  8. Email Templates – Use the following examples as a start:
    • First Contact with Price
      Hello [Name],I would like to buy [domain] [TLD] for [amount] USD. Please let me know if you’re interested.

      I’m currently operating on a deadline to purchase it before [date]. I’m in contact with other domain owners, but I’m most interested in yours so I would like to make a deal.

      My offer is valid for [duration] days and is good pending our deal terms and due diligence.

      Thanks!

    • First Contact without Price
      Hello [Name],How much is [domain] [TLD]? Are you interested in selling it?

      I’m currently operating on a deadline to purchase it before [date]. I’m in contact with other domain owners, but I’m most interested in yours so I would like to make a deal. Feel free to send me an email or give me a call.

      Thanks!

    • Follow-up
      Hello [Name],I sent you an email regarding [domain] [TLD] last [date]. Are you interested in selling it?

      Again, I need to purchase it purchase it before [date] as I’m in contact with other sellers. I’d like to make a deal with you. You can reach me by phone or email.

  9. No Response – If they never respond to you, try including your offer, increasing your offer by order of magnitude, or contracting a broker. It’s entirely possible they’re not taking you or your offer seriously.

Don’t get discouraged when doing outreach. It’s common for people to take a long time to respond. It’s possible that they were busy during that time or on vacation. However, if you don’t hear from them after trying several times over email and phone for two months, it’s a sign that they’re not interested, or that you need to hire a professional broker.

If you have any stories or tips you’d like to share, please leave a comment!

Checkout part III next week where I’ll address the interaction and negotiation portion of the process.

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I can still remember my first domain name conference, it was the TRAFFIC Vegas conference back in 2010. It was an absolutely surreal experience and coming early made all the difference in the world. I got to live what was a dream of mine at that time – breakfast with Rick Schwartz, Howard Neu, and Ron Jackson. I couldn’t believe it was happening, but it did.

I also met Shane (DomainShane.com) at TRAFFIC and gave him his first official Vegas tour, which I’m sure neither of us will ever forget. A lot of the friends I made at that first domain conference are friends that I’ve had for the last five years and I plan to have for the next 50. Here’s me and Shane at our first domain conference:

Morgan and Shane

Since then I have closed more deals and created more opportunities in the weekends leading up to a domain conference than I have at the conference itself.

The Domain Conference

The next domain conference on the books is The Domain Conference, a new domain conference from people that are legends in the domain conference space, the Neu family. Between Barbara, Howard, and Ray let’s just say this trifecta knows how to put on a show, couple this with Jothan and a special day of DOMAINfest and you’re looking at two conference in one run by the best-of-the-best.

I will be flying into Florida on Friday night and I can tell you that many other domain investors from across the country (and around the world) will also be flying in for the weekend. The great thing about being at a domain conference before it starts is the opportunity to network. I have been to the exact hotel that the conference is at and can tell you that the pool area and surrounding hotel property is probably one of the best places to relax and network.

DOMAINfest Conference

Last but not least, The Domain Conference is hosting DOMAINfest on Sunday which means you actually get two conferences for the price of one and have yet another reason to come to the conference early.

So if you’re on the fence about going to The Domain Conference, get off the fence and book your ticket now. I can tell you from experience, going early is worth it, and this time around it’s going to be worth it more than ever before.

I hope to see you there!

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From Twitter to Vine, Angel List to Google, .CO has become a mainstay for some of the most recognized startups and Fortune 500 companies on the planet and like most startups, it has everything to do with the team and their ability to execute. When it comes to this execution Juan Calle and Lori Anne Wardi could write the book on it, they took an extension with absolutely no name recognition and turned it into a household name.

I first met Juan and Lori back in 2010 when they were launching .CO. I can still remember eating dinner together at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. I’ll be honest, I thought Juan and Lori were amazing, but I thought it would be incredibly hard to get true mass adoption for .CO.

Brit.co

Then after seeing them in action for a year I realized it was more than possible, it was happening. Now some of the most innovative startups in the world are building their brands on .CO, from Brit.co (raised $27.6M), Jelly.co (founded by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone), Angel.co (raised $24.1M) and many more. All of these companies use the .CO for their primary domain, not as a forwarding address, and none have the matching .COM.

At the same time, while startups and Fortune 500 companies flocked to .CO, so did domain name investors, and I know many who have made a fortune selling .CO domains. Ticket.co sold for $20,000 on popular domain marketplace Sedo.com a couple of months ago along with True.co for $17,000 a month earlier.

What .CO proved is what I think we are going to see with new gTLDs, great teams that know how to execute can turn an unknown domain extension into a household name. We’re seeing this with new domain extensions like .CLUB, .NYC, .GURU, .XYZ, and many more.

Huge congrats to .CO and team for providing what’s possible, there many domain extensions that will try to do the same, and as we’ll see, only the best of the best will survive. While the extension itself is important, the team is the most important thing, period, and .CO has one of the best.

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How to Negotiate Buying a Domain Name

Acquiring a good domain name is integral to the success of your business. There’s a good chance that your lynchpin domain that meets all your company’s brand goals is already taken. Domain sellers are armed to the teeth with sales knowledge and buying experience. Make sure you don’t have your seed investment sandbagged with a large payout that could have been bargained down, or even worse, lose the domain entirely.

This series focuses on the three main steps required for startups to lead successful negotiations:

  1. Research – Perform in-depth searches for various types of information to determine how outreach will be conducted, and to prepare for all possible scenarios during the interaction phase.
  2. Outreach (part II) – Based on your research, we’ll go over when and how you should contact the domain owners, and what tracking tools you should use.
  3. Interaction (part III) – Everything builds up to this point in time. Your research has prepared you for this, and the outcome of your first contact with the seller will give you more information on how you should conduct yourself.

In this article we are going to outline the research questions that will eventually determine what actions you should take during the outreach and interaction phases. Establishing your own shopping parameters, gathering background knowledge on the domain, and learning more about the seller can go a long way. It’s never a good idea to play catch-up after a negotiation has started. Make sure you’ve gathered all of the necessary information before contacting the owner.

  1. Domain Market Value
    • Price History – Search NameBio and DNJournal for similar keyword domain sales to get a ballpark on what you should expect. You may find that it was purchased or flipped recently, which is invaluable information.
    • NamePros – Read their Domain Evaluation and Appraisals Guide to understand the factors people take into consideration when estimating the resale value of a domain. Even ask the community for a free domain appraisal before buying it. Full Disclosure: I’m the Senior Director at NamePros, but I sincerely believe this is the best place to learn about domains and their value.
    • Appraisal Tools – Valuators like Estibot and Epik’s appraisal tool provide some loose knowledge and stats on what you should expect the seller to quote. While these appraisal tools shouldn’t be used as a stand alone metric for price in any respect, they still give you a good jumping off point. They also come in handy as an additional negotiating point when the seller’s price is vastly different.
    • Google Adwords Keyword Planner – Insert the domain’s keywords and see what the CPC, competition, and average monthly searches are. Quite often, a domain’s organic traffic will determine its value.
    • TLD Market Value – Use DNPric.es’s Stats by TLDs section to gauge the pricing relationship between different TLDs.
    • Social Media Accounts – If all its handles are taken, let the seller know that it will be more difficult for you to create a social media presence without them in order to drive the price down.
  2. Trademark Issues – Search the US Patent and TradeMark Office’s TESS website for possible trademark issues. You should avoid purchasing a domain that potentially infringes on IP.
  3. Domain History – You should find most of your information when performing your Domain Market Value assessment, but be sure to aggressively search the domain on Google as well.
  4. Seller History
    • Quantify of Domains – Use DomainTools.com to see how many domains they have in their portfolio. If it’s only a few, you may be in luck. If it’s hundreds or thousands, get ready for a long negotiation.
    • Domain Forwarding – Where does the domain forward? Here’s a list in order of lowest to highest price expectations. Depending on who owns it, the price will be higher:
      • Not forwarding anywhere
      • Parked
      • States sale price
      • Broker
      • Developed site with little or no traffic – If the owner operates a website on the domain, gauge the traffic and potential revenue of the business. It’s guaranteed that the owner will use this information to increase the domain’s price.
      • At auction
      • Part of a large portfolio or domain inventory company
      • Developed site with good traffic or established brand
      • States not for sale – You shouldn’t give up at this point, but be prepared for an extremely high price tag.
    • Track Record – Determine what type of negotiation tactics you should expect by googling their email, name, company, and address to see what comes up. If they’re a domainer of any sort, try searching NamePros with their name, company, or email to see if they have a trader rating.
    • Contact Info – Find their details by looking at their:
      • WHOIS Info – This should yield the required information immediately. If they have privacy on the domain, contact them through it as a last resort.
      • Website
      • Parking – If it forwards to a parking site and there’s no link to a sales page, you’ll have to settle with WHOIS info.
      • Auction – If it’s at auction, see if there’s a way to privately contact the owner through the platform and note it for later.
      • Domain Inventory or Broker – Note the URL and price for later. Don’t submit a bid.
  5. Your History – If you or your business has a prominent presence on the internet, you may want to reconsider using your personal details when contacting the owner. If you don’t feel like going through the rigmarole of masking your email, phone number, and name, consider employing a broker. Brokers and masking your info will often help you avoid price gouging.
  6. Deal Points – Know the minimum and maximum amounts you’re willing to spend before starting the negotiation. I’ll cover creative financing and other options in the last segment of this series.
  7. Alternatives – There is always the possibility that this deal won’t pan out. Being able to easily walk away from the negotiating table grants you more leverage than your counterpart. Letting the person know that you have other options should make them worry about the stability of the deal. I won’t go into the full process of finding a name, but here’s two suggestions:
    • Domain Suggestion Tools – Search sites like Domainr.com for ideas.
    • Domain Submissions – Put a descriptive listing on the Domain Names Wanted section at NamePros and include this info to receive more results.
  8. Alternate TLDs – If they’re available, buy them and let the seller know that they were available to register and no one wanted them. This will lower their bargaining chip and ability to also sell the alternate TLDs to you. This is a small investment to make if you use GoDaddy coupons. Warning: Don’t actually build a brand on these alternate TLD names as you’ll only decrease your ability to negotiate with the original domain owner.
  9. Timeframe – Create an acceptable timetable for purchasing a domain if you don’t already have one. Remember that negotiations can take months and even carrying out a transaction can take weeks. Adjust your schedule accordingly and solidify a deadline in the immediate future that you can relay to the domain owner to help speed up the transaction.

Gathering this research and following through with the other two phases is a time-intensive process, but it is crucial to have a long-term strategy when procuring a domain name.

If you have any questions, know of something you’d like me to address in the next segment, or have personal tactics you’d like to share, please leave a comment!

Checkout part II of this series next week when I cover how to contact different types of sellers.

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A year ago Fashion Metric was two people, me and Daina, working out of our apartment in Marina del Rey. Now we’re a team of nine, and we’re not done building the team. It has been an incredible journey and I can tell you that we’re still learning every single day.

Fashion Metric Team

Daina and I have put an incredible amount of time and energy into hiring what I think is fair to say is nothing short of a dream team. This has been a dream of ours and while it has been a huge challenge, I think we have really honed our skills when it comes to finding talented passionated people, and Austin has been a great city to do it in.

Since I know there are many startup founders that may have just raised a round of financing and are building their initial team I wanted to share some tips that I wish I had read a year ago. I’ll keep it short and sweet and pretense this with the fact that I haven’t done this before and I’m definitely not an expert, I’m still learning, but I love sharing what I learn.

  1. Avoid recruiters in the early days –  recruiters aren’t bad people and I know many startups that have found great people through recruiters. That being said, we tried a number of recruiters and found that for hiring your first 5-10 people they just aren’t going to care as much as you are. They also won’t be as good at qualifying people with specific skills. For example, we needed someone with data science experience, but specific machine learning skills and that might not be in the market for leaving their job but open to having coffee to talk about the opportunity. People like this would have told a recruiter to take a hike but they’ll meet a founder for coffee, and if you can get them excited, you might just land an incredible team member.
  2. LinkedIn is your friend, your best friend – I never really appreciated the value of LinkedIn, now I do. It takes a lot of time and research to find the right person for an early team. We look for a lot of things from previous companies they might have worked at to specific job titles and skills. There really is no better tool than LinkedIn and you’d be surprised at how many people will respond if you keep your outreach short, and if you’re not a recruiter.
  3. Culture fit is critical – for each open position we interviewed a minimum of five candidates. In some cases we found amazingly talented people that fit the requirements perfectly, they made it through two or three in-person interviews, but then when we introduced them to the whole team and saw everyone interacting, it was clear they weren’t a fit. This is a hard thing to determine and we got a lot of advice on how to understand culture fit both during the interview process and when you see someone interacting with the rest of your team. It is so important since your initial team needs to really gel since you’ll most likely go through many ups and downs together.

Of course these are still the early days for us, the journey is still beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the majority of my investments are and will continue to be .COM. I think I’ve repeated this almost weekly for the past year but still people seem to miss the boat because they know I’m also a fan of new gTLDs. How can this be? Easy, you can invest in .COM and still believe that new gTLDs will ALSO be good investments.

Over the weekend I announced a domain sale of mine and got the following response on Twitter:

New gTLDs

It seems that there’s always confusion when I talk about how I see potential in new gTLDs so I thought I’d make my stance clear so as not to accidentally mislead anyone.

I still put the vast majority of my investment dollars into .COM, and .COM domains continue to be the TLD I focus on when it comes to buying and selling domain names. At the same time, I think that new gTLDs have incredible potential and I am proudly investing in these and happily selling non .COMs at the same time. 

I would absolutely not suggest that anyone drop all their .COM domains and focus on new gTLDs. At the same time, I think not investing in new gTLDs will mean missing out on some great investment opportunities later down the road. I think five years from now still over 50% of my investments will be .COM, but I also think I’ll have more new gTLDs than I have today, and I’m also confident I’ll have some awesome new gTLD sales under my belt.

So expect to see me writing more about new gTLDs, it’s the beginning of something great and I’m behind them 100%. Just know that you can be a fan of new gTLDs and a fan of .COM. I’m not alone here, Frank Schilling, Michael Berkens and many other domain investors that are much more badass than me also see the opportunity, but like me they are also big fans of .COM at the same time.

What do you think? Do we have to pick sides or is it okay to believe that .COM is the best investment today but that new gTLDs could be great investments as well in the future? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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Morgan's Flippa Five

Hello, happy Sunday, and welcome to Morgan’s Flippa Five. As usual I’ve gone through Flippa’s domain auction catalog and hand-picked five domains that I think could make great investments. As always, remember, a domain name is only a good investment if purchased at a wholesale price so do your research to determine what that price is using resources like DNJournal and NameBio, now onto this week’s names!

Employ.com – this one really speaks for itself, short, memorable one-word .COM in a massive industry.

HTML5.com – the online education space is growing, particularly when it comes to teaching people basic web development skills like HTML, CSS, etc. This would be a great fit for a company that teaches online HTML 5 courses, just remember it’s a lot less valuable once HTML 6 comes out.

3248.com – NNNN.com’s are possibly hotter than they have ever been before, the fact that this name is already at $7k and still rising is proof that the numeric domain market has real investment opportunity. I’m not an expert in this market so can’t tell you whether this is approaching retail pricing or if it’s still safely within a wholesale price range.

GNP.com – I love big juicy three character .COMs like this, not much more to say here, these are typically very good investments as long as they don’t have letters like X and Z in them. Oh and it was registered 24 years ago which doesn’t hurt.

Microfunding.com – solid two-word .COM in a space that I think is going to really grow over the next 5-10 years. This one might be tricky to sell so I’d be cautious about buying it for too much unless you plan on developing it yourself.

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Self-Driving Cars Have Arrived In Austin

I can tell you that moving our startup to Austin was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only is Austin’s startup scene growing like crazy, but Austin is quickly becoming a major global hub for innovation. Google picked Austin as one of the first cities to get Google Fiber, and now in another bold move has also decided that Austin will be its next test city for self-driving cars.

Self Driving Cars AustinThere are a number of reasons that Google picked Austin as the next city to test self-driving cars in:

  • Austin is very open to welcoming new technologies
  • Google Fiber is already here (i.e. Google infrastructure is already in place)
  • The Mayor actually welcomed Google’s self-driving cars to the city
  • How else could you keep Austin weird?

Austin is already an important city for Google; not only is it home to some Google offices, but it’s also one of three cities where Google’s Fiber high-speed Internet is up and running. The company says it expects Austin residents will provide “great” feedback on the self-driving cars. (Source – Mashable)

Of course you know what this means…I’ll be on the lookout and hopefully can post a photo or video of a self-driving car that I manage to spot in Austin. If you’ve been to Austin before you know there’s never a dull moment, and now Google is making sure that’s more true than ever!

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