This week we exhibited at Shop.org, one of the biggest conferences in the retail world. Three years ago Daina and I went to the show and walked the floor, at that time Fashion Metric was just the two of us and along with our first hire, Key. I thought, someday we’ll have a booth here, but it felt like that day was far in the future.

Fast-forward to today and we have a whole team, five of which came with us to the show. I’ll be honest, after we setup our booth and all stood there looking at it, I got goosebumps. Three years ago I looked in awe at the booths, the teams all together showing off their products, it seemed out of reach then, now it’s a critical part of our life.

fashionmetric-booth

I’m so proud of the product we’ve built, it’s also an amazing feeling to sit down and walk through what we do with some of the largest retailers in the world. As a founder though, the real thrill for me without a doubt is the team.

It reminded me of my early days at Sonos, when we’d all pile into a cargo van or lug way too many suitcases onto an airplane and together do something different than we do on a normal day. The process of building furniture, setting up the lights, laying down the floor, building “Manny” our mannequins isn’t in any job description. Doing it together as a team and seeing how well we all work together, how much everyone wants to help, it’s the best feeling in the world.

team-fashionmetric

Yes, I want to change the world (and I’m confident we already are), I want us to build the best product, and make a ton of money for our investors and our employees. But at the end of the day, what really brings me the most satisfaction is building an incredible team, a team that everyone once and a while crawls around on the floor laying down a plastic floor, sets up chairs, builds a mannequin (or two), and does an amazing job because we know we’re all in this together.

booth-teardown

Sure, you can hire someone to build your booth, but you’d miss out on seeing how amazing your team is when they’re doing something so different from what they do on a daily basis. Some of my best memories at Sonos came from doing these things together and while I look forward to being back at HQ, I have some great memories from this week.

So what’s one of my favorite things about running a startup? Seeing our team come together, doing something as a team completely different from what we all normally do, and seeing how well everyone works together. In my mind, if you have this, you really can do anything, together of course.

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The Greatest Domain Stories of all time – Part 1

Greastest Domain Stories

Today we are going to take a trip back to the past, a time before anyone knew Rosener, Berkens or Schilling. A time when many corporations, especially those outside of the tech sector did not know if they should even grab a domain name.

According to Wired Magazine only one-third of the Fortune 500 had registered an obvious version of their names back in 1994.

Want a domain with that ?

The Golden Arches, home to Ronald McDonald and the Happy Meal, McDonalds did not own McDonalds.com back in 1994. Joshua Quittner was a journalist who decided to call the home of Ronald McDonald to see why they were not yet online.

Quittner contacted McDonalds and spoke to Jane Hulbert a media relations person for McDonalds. When Quittner asked why there was no McDonalds.com ? Hulbert replied with, “Are you finding that the Internet is a big thing? Quittner told her that some think it’s a very big thing.

Hulbert hung up and went to find someone more tech savvy within the company. Quittner hooked up with Hulbert again a few weeks later by phone.

Hulbert told Quittner, “I don’t have anything for you, and I probably won’t have anything for you,” she confessed. “I’ve left a lot of voicemail for people, but no one seems to know anything about it.”

Here is one of the largest companies in the world, that protects their trademark like a Barracuda, shutting down unrelated business that call themselves Mcanything, and they have no understanding about the Internet.

Two weeks later, Joshua Quittner registered McDonalds.com. Quittner also contacted Burger King, there was no BurgerKing.com and they were almost as clueless as McDonalds. In an article published by Quittner he mentions he thought about asking Burger King if they wanted McDonalds.com.

Let’s take a time out and look at the process of registering domain names in 1994. Most domain investors who read blogs and forums day in and day out were not active in 1994.

Quittner had reached out to someone at InterNic to understand what the process was, and how many people were working on Internet registrations.

Scott Williamson was the person who supervised InterNIC registrations back in 1994. Williamson explained to Quittner that there were 2.5 people who handled all the demands for domain registrations. Williamson said that a year ago, his agency received 300 requests a month for domain names; now, more than 1,300 requests stream in each month.

So you can see that there was an opportunity for many registrations to fall through the cracks. Williamson told Quittner,”If we had to research every request for a domain name right now, I’d need a staff of 20 people,” Williamson said. So the policy is simple: “Trademark problems are the responsibility of the requester.”

Quittner asked Williamson if he could register McDonalds.com ? Williamson replied, “There is nothing that says I can stop you from doing that.” He went on to note there is a need for some kind of policy.

So now Quittner sets up an email address, Ronald@mcdonalds.com, he asks people what he should do with the domain name ? Quittner published an article offering the domain back to McDonalds, in return for the domain he would like McDonalds to donate some computer equipment to a local school. McDonalds now turns up the heat on InterNic and they actually agree to revoke the registration.

InterNic then changes it’s mind and leaves McDonalds.com with Quittner. McDonalds donates $3,500 for the computer equipment and they get their domain name. According to the book “Social Media & Electronic Commerce Law” this is the first known instance of a registrant gaining an economic benefit from a willing registrant.

I want my MTV (.com that is)

Adam Curry was an early pioneer online, in addition to being a VJ on MTV, Curry was up on all things tech. Curry has been called “The Podfather” as he was one of the first podcasters.

In 1993 Curry registered MTV.com, Curry said that he informed his bosses at MTV and they had said nothing to discourage the registration. Curry eventually left MTV and that’s when MTV changed their tune on the domain name. Curry was adamant about keeping the domain name, he called the case between himself and MTV, the Roe vs Wade of of the Internet and the information superhighway.

MTV is owned by Viacom and Viacom wanted the name, Viacom and Curry went back and forth and eventually settled. No details were mentioned.

Yet MTV.com is always listed on all time domain sales lists as selling for $100,000. That info actually comes from the dispute Viacom had with the owner of MTV.com.sg who actually won against Viacom in the first ever Singapore SDRP. This was kind of like a UDRP but for the country code of Singapore .sg. Elitist Technologies was looking for $200,000 and Viacom thought this proved there was bad faith. Elitist replied that it was a fair starting point considering they paid Adam Curry $100,000 for MTV.com.

Today Viacom owns MTV.com.sq but I have not found what the sales price was.

Wrong kind of Candy

Porn company Internet Entertainment Group, Ltd. purchased Candyland.com back in 1995. There is a popular children’s board game named Candy Land that is produced by Hasbro Inc. There is also the fact that Hasbro has had the trademark on Candy Land since 1951.

Hasbro took legal action and won the case. The thing I found interesting was that IEG was allowed to hold onto the domain for 90 days to let people know they were moving to another domain name.

You can read the results of the case here.

How Cool is that ?

Back in 2000 wrote an article on ZD Net that profiled Tim Lee the owner of Cool.com. In 1995 while a student at the University of Washington, Lee registered Cool.com for free. His friends echoed the sentiments of many at the time, “Why would you want a domain? What are you going to do with it ?”

Lee told Wolk that at first he really just wanted to pay off school and get a down payment for a house. He would have sold the domain for less than $100,000.

He started getting offers in 1996 and says he got an offer from Adam Curry of MTV.com fame. According to the article, for a while, Lee loaned out the name to other entrepreneurs for six months at a time, hoping they would be able to develop a business plan compelling enough to persuade him to invest his increasingly valuable asset.

Lee goes on to talk about bigger and bigger offers, the highest being $8 million in cash and $30 million in stock. He declined the offer.

When you look at Lee’s LinkedIn profile you see Cool.com in his work history. He incorporated as Cool.com Inc.

  • Founder / CEO / Chairman

    COOL.COM (dba Cool Media Group)
    2000 – 2001 (1 year)

    • Founded Cool.com, Inc in July 1999.
    • Planned and developed company vision and strategy.
    • Effectively completed initial business plan, resulting in startup capital and significant Series A preferred financing.
    • Successfully built key executive team for business development, technology, sales, and human resource functions.
    • Chaired Board of Directors and oversaw management team and a total of 25 employees on the implementation of business plan and vision.
    • Designed and implemented internal IT network and systems including Linux VPN, firewall, and file sharing solutions.
    • Successfully developed and integrated collaborative work environment using MS Windows & Exchange Server.

In an article that was published in 2002, Lee is asked if he regrets not selling ?

Cool.com owner Lee, 29, now works as a consultant to an unrelated business. He said he was often asked if he regretted not selling the address when he was offered millions for it.

“I don’t,” he said last week. “It was quite a learning experience.” He declined to elaborate.

Of course in 2002 a lot of people were writing that not only domain names, but the Internet was done.

Here is the earliest screenshot available from Archive.org

cooldotcom

Today Cool.com is owned by Thunayan K Al-Ghanim and his FMA.com. Thunayan once told me about acquiring Cool.com and it was certainly nowhere near $1 million. I do not recall the exact price he mentioned and have reached out to him for a quote. If he gets back I will update the post.

Currently Cool.com resolves to a parked page.

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Brandable Domains

Routes.com – at a time where both ride-sharing and GPS navigation are hotter than ever this is a hard name to beat. 22 year-old one-word .COM and at the top of my list for a reason.

Fly.io – great .IO name and the market definitely sees value it’s already at $3,500 with nine days to go. Great brand either for a startup in the aeronautics space or a company that builds software or APIs for anything that flies.

Brexit.com – hard not to include this one even though I don’t think it’s an incredible brandable domain, the word has had so much media attention that it definitely has some very meaningful built-in traffic.

Should.com – you should, I should, we all should. What we “should” do is up to the person who buys this name.

Went.com – great brand for a travel blog or a company that builds time machines…okay, we’ll stick with travel blog for now 🙂

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iphone-7

Okay, so I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who honestly sees zero impact in my life on an iPhone sans headphone jack. Seriously, I’m being 100% honest here and I’ve heard the complaints about it so I’ll address them both.

  1. Carrying a dongle – come on, IMHO this is complete BS. You’re okay carrying a laptop charger, iPhone charger, Apple Watch charger, Kindle Charger…but you can’t remember a simple dongle? I’m used to carrying things in my laptop bag, it’s not a new phenomenon, and the dongle is the smallest out of all the things I have to carry. Oh and for those of you that constantly lose a dongle, come on, can you really not be trusted to keep track of it? You deal with much more complicated things in your life than a little dongle that can fit anywhere.
  2. Not being able to charge while headphones are plugged in – I get this for some people…but I’m not one of these people. I’ve had iPhones for a LONG time now and I can’t remember the last time that I needed to charge my iPhone while also listening to music. I’ll be honest, I have Sonos all over my house and a 3 minute commute to work so I actually don’t use my iPhone for music all that often. A friend of mine who takes the train to and from work told me this is a deal-breaker for him because he frequently needs to charge his iPhone on his commute back from work. In that case I could see this being an issue…but still I feel like most people (especially those who work in offices) can keep their iPhones charged throughout the day.

One thing that I am is an audio nut, anyone who knows me can vouch for that. I know that the old 50 year-old headphone jack is a bit like the old VCR, it just doesn’t provide the same quality as modern technology. When you use the *free* dongle that Apple includes with every iPhone 7, your music actually sounds a whole lot better.

“The headphone jack is really quite limited,” says Dr Joshua Reiss, head of audio engineering research at Queen Mary University of London. “For the person who wants really great sound, using the Lightning port is much better than using the headphone jack.” (Source – Forbes)

So I’m sorry if I’m still the only guy on the block that isn’t bugged in the slightest by Apple removing 50 year-old technology from their state-of-the-art phone…but at least I have a reason behind why I don’t care.

What do you think? Is that headphone port a deal-breaker for you? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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games

Today registrars around the world made .GAMES available to the public and it looks like gamer and game developers are jumping on the opportunity.

“Lots of big brands are validating the value of .GAMES domains, too. With 368 applications coming in during the recently closed Sunrise phase—making it one of our most applied-for TLDs to date—brands like Nintendo, EA, Blizzard, Apple, Major League Baseball, and many others are already interested in their .GAMES domains. Several strong, generic keyword pairings with .GAMES have also already sold, with Racing.GAMES, Math.GAMES, Free.GAMES, and others being quickly snapped up.” (Source – Rightside Blog)

I’m going to pick up a few .GAMES domains myself, nothing too crazy but as you all know I’m a VR nut and I do think that the VR/AR space online is going to grow like crazy over the next five years. Here’s a quick look at the projections for the global games market, with an 8.8% CAGR it’s one of the fastest growing industries right now:

global-games-market

While I do think it’s too early to know if a .GAMES domain will have any investment value, it’s a space poised for growth and an industry that has found its home online. With big brands like Nintendo, EA, Blizzard, etc. buying .GAMES domains something tells me this is a market that has been waiting for its own TLD.

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Brandable Domains

iReplay.com – 17 year-old brandable .COM that is perfect for the gaming space, I’m thinking of something like Twitch where you can watch gamers play your favorite games.

VRNetwork.com – for any company working in the networked VR space this is quite possibly the domain you’ve been looking for.

Routes.com – it’s rare to find a 22 year-old one-word .COM hit the market, this one screams GPS-related app, possibly a new Waze competitor?

GoVR.com – another solid VR domain, this one is more generic so could be used for anything from a VR Blog to a company that makes VR software.

JackAndJill.com – I’m usually not a huge fan of three-word .COMs but this one is a solid brand, easy to remember and something that most people know from their childhood.

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iphone-7

For those of you who know me, you know I’m an audio nut, I guess that’s what happens after spending almost a decade at Sonos. Yes, I have more speakers in my house than rooms and more headphones than devices to plug them into. Along with loving music and listening to it just about every minute of the day (yes we have Sonos all over our office too!) I also love good sound for movie and tv shows.

But I have something to admit that seems to baffle most of my friends, it doesn’t bug me that Apple removed the headphone jack from their new iPhone. I pre-ordered the iPhone, can’t wait to get it, and don’t think my life is going to be a complicated mess in any way in the absence of a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Across the Interwebs the removal of the headphone jack definitely struck a nerve, here are some examples:

bgr-logo

Either way, the burden was decidedly on Apple to convince users that they wouldn’t miss the headphone jack. And now that we’re a few days removed from the event, we can calmly ask: did Apple adequately justify its decision to remove the headphone jack?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is resounding no.
(Source – BGR)

the-verge-logo

While it’s tough to make the case that dropping the headphone jack is better for consumers, the benefits for Apple are much easier to see. The iPhone 7 will be bought by tens of millions of people during the next few months alone, and its lack of a headphone jack is going to make many of them consider buying Lightning or Bluetooth headphones. Apple profits from both. (Source – The Verge)

business-insider-logo

Apple’s iPhone 7 has no headphone jack.

Instead, Apple wants people to use its proprietary Lightning connector to attach headphones — or, better yet, to buy Apple’s new $160 wireless AirPods.

If that sounds like a major frustration to you, don’t worry — there’s a very silly-looking dongle that you can plug into your phone so that standard headphones will work. (Source – Business Insider)


 

So why I am not grabbing my pitchfork and heading for Cupertino? To be honest with you there are three simple reasons why this doesn’t but me at all, and sorry in advance if my reasoning bugs you but here they are:

  1. I actually think it will drive innovation and move consumers towards wireless headphones faster. While the act of a removing the headphone jack from a device isn’t innovative, the fact that it got so many people talking about it and thinking about wireless headphones I do think will move consumers away from wired and into wireless faster. Wired headphones have been around for 100+ years, wireless is quickly becoming the norm and the more we can thrust it into the focal point of conversation the faster that transition will take place. Yes, Apple as the owner of Beats headphones and a newly minted “expensive” set of earbuds will benefit in the process but let’s be realistic, there are a zillion other companies that make wireless headphones and the iPhone 7 works with all of them.
  2. I do think that Apple will benefit from having more space for hardware inside the iPhone 7 chassis. As someone that spent a great deal of time with microelectronics (I’m an Electrical and Computer Engineering Major) I know that every millimeter of space counts. Simply put, the headphone jack took up space, and without it there’s more space for other more innovative/useful things inside the chassis.
  3. The audio quality through the lightning port is higher quality. Like I said, I’m an audio nut, and I like great sound quality, so connecting my wired headphones to a port that provides for higher sound quality is a-okay by me.

Also, just one last point and then I’m done here…Apple does include a free dongle that you can use to still plug wired headphones into the iPhone 7 so it won’t cost anyone a penny more to listen to their current wired headphones.

So that’s my two cents, what do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

(Image source – 9to5mac)

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In a report released by Mattermark last week New York City edged out Silicon Valley in M&A activity with early-stage companies dominating in concentration. Not surprisingly most M&A activity tended to gravitate towards regional hubs, which makes sense since that’s where most of the acquiring companies are located:

Leading regional hubs exchange companies with one another quite freely, whereas companies from smaller cities flow more readily to their leading regional hub. (i.e. west coast startups flow to the Bay Area, and Midwestern startups flow to Chicago.) (Source – Mattermark)

While I’d love to say that our now hometown of Austin is a top ten, at least it made the top 15 when it comes to M&A activity. Of course this doesn’t mean that Austin companies don’t get acquired, but when they do the acquiring company is more likely to be in New York, Silicon Valley or LA. Here’s the full rundown of the top 15 cities for M&A activity in the US:

top-15-cities-m-and-a

How does your city stack up when it comes to M&A? Did you make the top 15?

 

 

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For years I’ve wondered if I should go through the trouble of covering the webcam on my laptop. Honestly I’ve felt like it’s a bit of an urban legend that hackers could actually access your webcam and watch you without you knowing. Well, now that the FBI director is saying that you should, I think it’s safe to say it’s time to take this more seriously.

The head of the FBI on Wednesday defended putting a piece of tape over his personal laptop’s webcam, claiming the security step was a common sense one that most should take. (Source – TheHill)

So I think it’s time I changed my tune and take the five seconds it takes to cover my webcam with a piece of tape. Still it feels silly doing this but I feel like it’s probably time to take the plunge. Have you already done this or am I just getting more paranoid over the years?

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It’s a question I’ve gone back and forth on for years. As a domain investor going on nine years, every month I have domains that I haven’t sold but I’m not going to renew. I used to go to great lengths to try to sell these names, then I felt like I was wasting my time, there was a reason I was dropping them, it’s because they weren’t as good as I originally thought.

Over time the number of domains I dropped each month decreased as I got better at picking names that would actually sell. Couple this with a bit more realism about the time horizon of domain sales and I’d like to say I have it down to a science…but like most domain investors the reality is I’m still learning, always learning.

I am more careful now with the domain that I buy than I ever have been, and I sell names for 10x or more what I paid for them. Still, every month I drop domains, less and less names every year but it still happens every month. Now I’m re-thinking what I do with these names, so I’m interested to know what you do.

What do you do with domains you’re planning on dropping? Do you put time into selling them? Or like me did you come to the conclusion it wasn’t worth the time? As someone who is always learning, I’m always looking for what I might be doing wrong, money I might be leaving on the table, which is why I wanted to put this question on the table.

Now it’s your turn, comment and let you voice be heard!

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