Weekend Musings – Vancouver Edition

Coal Harbor - Vancouver

Hello, Happy Saturday and welcome to my weekend musings. We have been in Vancouver since Wednesday night for Fashion Metric meetings and now have our first day of downtime before we head back to Austin tomorrow. Never a dull moment but as someone that has done business in Vancouver for many years (I ran Sonos Canada for some time) it’s one of my favorite cities to do business in…and the photo above is one reason why.

I have probably been to Vancouver over 50 times now thanks to all of my Sonos trips up here so it’s always nice to re-visit some of my favorite places. The photo above is taken from Tap and Barrel, a new restaurant in Coal Harbor that just opened about a year ago.

Tap and Barrel Vancouver

While we have spent just about every waking minute in Vancouver working it has been nice to enjoy some walks on the water and one of my favorite restaurants on the planet – Carderos. When I was growing Sonos’ business in Vancouver Carderos what usually my first stop after I landed in the city.

We did this same on this trip and had the chance to enjoy a drink by the fire with some live music. If you come to Vancouver this is a must-visit stop even if you don’t stay for dinner (but their food is amazing!).

It’s interesting when you travel for business because while you’d like to catch up with people, sight see, etc. there really isn’t time for it. Luckily Vancouver is a city we’ve been to a lot so even just a quick getaway for dinner makes it special. For quite a while now Coal Harbor has been my favorite spot in the city, I love being close to the water and Stanley Park is one of my favorite places in the planet, period.

Coal Harbor Vancouver

Today we are going to visit with Daina’s family (both her Brothers live here) to meet our new niece for the first time. Yes, for those who have been keeping up both of our siblings ended-up having kids right around the same time so we are now duel Aunt and Uncles! On that note it’s time for Uncle Morgan and Aunt Daina to head out.

I hope you are all enjoying the start to your weekend!

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Flippa Friday

Hello, Happy Friday, and welcome to Flippa Friday here on MorganLinton.com! There are some very solid names that were added to Flippa this week, this is definitely one of my best lists this year, enjoy!

Freakish.com – 15 year-old one-word .COM that could be a good one for someone who is doing something Halloween-related. Domains like this aren’t as broad as many of the one-word .COMs I like but for a specific niche these can be a perfect fit.

99Clicks.com + 44 other names -portfolio sales are getting increasingly popular on Flippa and this is a great example that plays off of 99 Designs. 45 names total, all with that magic number “99″ in them.

Sponsored.com – while I do like Sponsor.com more, I still think this is a pretty solid name. Could be great for a company that focuses on sponsored content.

Poki.com – a nice short brandable .COM, very broad so this domain could be used for a company/service in just about any vertical.

ToolChest.com – easy to spell, easy to remember, and a saying we’ve all heard, great for a company that makes or sells tools  - could be physical or virtual.

JQuery.tv – I’d have to do some digging to make sure this isn’t a TM violation, but if it’s clean it could be the perfect domain for someone who wants to build a site with JQuery video tutorials.

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FastCo Labs came out with an article yesterday about Donuts and how they became the world’s largest registry overnight. I think the author forgot about Verisign who has many more domains under its wing than Donuts.

In the article Daniel Schindler one of the co-founders discussed things like specificity and how they thought long and hard about an extension that was 11 characters long. 40,000 plus registrations seems to be proof that specificity matters.

From the article:

What’s In A Name?

“You don’t want to be in dot-com because it doesn’t mean anything.” Daniel Schindler, cofounder of Donuts. “If dot-com was released now with all these other TLDs it wouldn’t have any success at all. It only had its success because it had a near monopoly for 25 years,” says Schindler. This isn’t the world we live in, though. The web consists of about a trillion pages and only around 1.6 million new gTLDs. The most visited sites everyone knows and loves all end in dot-com.

If Schindler sounds convinced, it’s because he’s put a lot of capital behind this hypothesis. At $185,000 each, applying for domain names isn’t exactly a cheap investment. Donuts applied for 307 domains, which is how they got to that $58 million figure.

So, how do you pick winners in the domain game? Schindler was reluctant to share Donuts’ methods, but told me there are 20-25 parameters that determine which domains will be successful. In the past, new gTLDs like dot-co or dot-us have performed with mixed results. Donuts points to .guru, which they suspected would be popular; in fact it has turned out to be a runaway success with 64,000 .guru domains registered in just a few months.

Domain names categorizing a specific field are strongest contenders, Schindler says. He points to .photography as an example. “We debated long and hard whether a world that was used to seeing two and three-letter TLDs would actually welcome a TLD that had whatever photography’s got,” a comparatively long 11 letters. “Forty-thousand people have signed up for [that] one because of its specificity.”

Read the full article here

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We have now been living in Austin for about a month and a half and thanks to Techstars and the incredible network Jason and the team has built we’ve had a chance to meet upwards of 80 people involved in the Austin startup scene from VC’s to Angel Investors, founders that just had a big exit, to founders who have had three or more.

Austin, TXSo lately I’ve had a lot of conversations with my friends who are running startups in LA, SF, and NYC about what makes Austin so special and why I’ve fallen in love with the city and the startup scene here so quickly. While there are more than a few things that make Austin special, here’s what has really stood out to me about the startup scene:

  1. It’s okay to just be yourself – I think what I like most about the Austin startup scene is that everyone is incredibly genuine. This is a common feeling throughout Austin and it has definitely permeated the startup scene. Nobody is trying to pretend to be something they aren’t, we’re all just glad to be here and it truly feels like everyone is okay being themselves. I’ve never felt more comfortable just expressing my opinions, acting like I would typically only around family and close friends, and doing that with everyone that I meet and feeling completely comfortable with it. In LA I’ve always felt there is this pressure to have the perfect car, perfect house, memberships to private clubs, etc. That’s all gone now, the real me is here.
  2. You will meet startup founders everywhere you go – in LA everyone you bump-into tends to work in the movie or music industry, in NYC finance dominates, in Austin (like SF) it’s startups. There’s a buzz going on and everyone is interested in what everyone else is doing and how we can all help each other out, which leads to #3.
  3. Community – there’s a real community here and it is incredibly inclusive. Thanks to people like Joshua Baer, Jason Seats, Bijoygo Swami and many more there is a real sense of community. The cool thing is that rather than feeling competitive it really feels communal, everyone wants everyone else to succeed. I think this has to do with the pride people have in Austin and building their companies here, we certainly do! One of the highlights is that other companies in the community like HomeAway, RetailMeNot, uShip and many more play an active role in the startup scene in a way ushering in the new wave of startups coming into the city.
  4. VCs and Angel Investors – as more and more startups have decided to call Austin home, so have more and more investors. From Austin Ventures to S3 there are some amazing VC firms and incredibly inspiring Angel Investors that are incredibly active in the Austin startup scene. This is only growing as more investors come out to Austin and decide to call it home after seeing what’s going on here.
  5. Did I mention it’s the fastest growing city in the US – 140 people move to Austin every day. There are massive skyscrapers going up just about everywhere and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. Couple this with the fact that Austin has one of the highest quality of life scores in the world and you know why.

I’ll try to give updates every couple of months as we continue to become more deeply involved in the startup scene here. What I can tell you now is that what I thought would just be a three month adventure has turned into a life-changing experience and a new home for us and Fashion Metric.

Photo Credit: Brian Koprowski via Compfight cc

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Dollar Sign

Now that we are well on our way into the new gTLD process I thought it would be a good time to poll the domain community on what pricing seems to be working and what isn’t. Without a doubt it is clear that the registration price of a domain name directly impacts the growth of the TLD but price it too low and you’ll have to sell millions to make a profit. Price it too high and you’ll have trouble selling 100.

Another important factor to consider is that not all domain name extensions are created equal. Strings like .GURU, .CLUB and .BERLIN are just naturally going to be more popular than something like a .HOLDINGS that is a bit more niche. For the sake of this poll let’s just assume all domain name extensions are created equal.

Of course it wouldn’t be fair for me to write this without sharing my own opinion. First I think a price-range is a fair answer since none of us have a crystal ball. I think the sweet spot is between $20 – $40.

Now it’s your turn – what do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

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This is one of those things you really do have to see to believe and yes, it pretty much solidifies the depth at which startup culture has in some ways gone mainstream. Banana Republic recently announced a new style for the summer, and the name of the style is – “The Startup Guy”

Source - Banana Republic

Source – Banana Republic

I still personally can’t get used to the whole “shoes without socks” look but I can tell you it’s a real thing in the startup style world. While I applaud Banana Republic for trying to nail this trend, I can tell you that most startup founders just aren’t this trendy, yet, but of course that could change.

Indeed, some people think that Silicon Valley has no style at all. “Vanity Fair struggles to find Silicon Valley’s ‘Best Dressed,’” ran a headline from ZDnet, for a list of fashionistas that sometimes hailed from outside the Bay Area. But, if you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em? Banana Republic has taken the bold move of transforming anti-fashion into the summer’s must-have threads. You can check out the entire line here. (Source Venture Beat)

Now here’s the million dollar question for all the “startup guys” who read my blog, does this look like something you would wear?

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Flippa Friday

Hello, Happy Friday and welcome to Flippa Friday here on MorganLinton.com! Every week I pick domain names that I think have the potential to be a solid investment. I don’t tend to list more than six names because, well, I’m picky and I think you should be too. Now onto my top picks from this week:

  • Cleveland.info – I think city name .INFOs make a lot of sense and definitely have real value. While they will only sell for a fraction of the .COM, .INFO has seen a fair amount of liquidity over the last few years and this one should have some flip potential.
  • Dowo.com – pretty solid CVCV that is easy to spell and remember. Currently at $3,750 with six hours to go, under $5k for this would be a steal in my book.
  • HealthcarePlans.com – I really like this name even though it is a bit long. The reason I like it is that there is a lot of confusion going on right now about Healthcare and a name like this would be perfect for a comparison site (or to get scooped up by one). Currently just north of $1,000 with over 20 days to go.
  • CPC.io – if you’ve been reading Fippa Friday for a while now then you know I’m bullish on .IO when you can buy at a low enough price. This is still a nascent market so don’t think of any investment in .IO as a “sure thing” but like .INFO I think it has some nice growth potential over the next few years.
  • SAY.io – another solid .IO name IMO but be careful not to over-spend, there are some great .IO deals out there so don’t feel bad if pricing does get too high, as I said above these are a risk and have no proven market like .COM does.
  • 3DPrinter.org –  as I’ve said many times, I’m not a huge fan of .ORG but 3D printing is going to be such a massive market I do think this name could be put to very good use over the next 3-5 years, it’s a longer hold but a good name.

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Early Stage vs. Seed Stage

Seed Stage

A good question came-up at Techstars yesterday during a VC meeting prep session that I thought would be good to share with all of you. I know that many of my blog readers are fairly new to the fundraising game so I’m sure this is a question that many of you also might have.

Just to give some quick background here, a startup usually begins with an Angel or Seed Round (and sometimes both) and then moves onto their Series A round once they’ve proven to investors there’s a viable way to scale. While plenty of companies that raise a Seed round already have some form of traction, the assumption is that startups at the Seed stage are still searching for product-market-fit.

Here’s where the confusion can come in. Many VC firms will label themselves as “Early-stage” which does sound like they would invest in companies in their Seed stage, right? However, as was highlighted during the morning session yesterday, when a VC says they are “Early stage” that usually means they focus on Series A, not seed. If an investor does typically invest in the “Seed Round” of a company they will usually say they are a “Seed stage” investor explicitly.

Sounds confusing? I think it is for many startups who are putting together lists of investors to target and might end-up with quite a few “early stage” VC firms when what the are really looking for is investors who contribute during the “Seed stage”.

Forbes put together a solid list of the top ten Seed Funders of 2013, some of these also participate in Series-A rounds and beyond but they are all comfortable contributing in the Seed stage.

Photo Credit: Neal. via Compfight cc

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Last week WordPress announced that version 4.0 of their platform is coming, and for those who want to give it a shot before the rest, the beta is now ready to rock. While I’m typically the type of guy who likes to dive in and try new software versions I tend to hold-off on testing new version of WordPress or Mac OSX since both are pretty mission-critical to my life.

WordpressThat being said WordPress has made it easier than ever to test this version of the platform thanks to a WordPress Beta Tester plugin so you can give it a shot without wreaking too much havoc.

Of course that doesn’t stop me from looking under the hood and what’s coming-up, here’s a few highlights I thought were worth mentioning about the next iteration of WordPress:

  • New plug installation experience – this looks pretty cool and something that I think has been in need of a refresh. Plugins are one of my favorite things about WordPress since it makes it easy to add complex functionality without spending your time writing custom modules
  • The editor should now resize itself properly – this has bugged me for a while and I’m the most interested in seeing how it works on mobile
  • Customizer panels – WordPress says it best themselves, “Just like a section is a container for controls, a panel is a container for sections” (read more here)
  • New improved media library – this is another section I’ve been waiting to see get a refresh and it’s the new media library looks a lot better (see a preview of it here)
  • Security patches – while WordPress often doesn’t go into too many details here I can tell you that there are plenty of secret security holes being fixed which is good for all of us, and a reason why everyone should update once the stable release comes out next month

If you want to dive deeper into this release without testing it yourself I recommend you check-out this post from WPMUDev.org

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Lately I’ve been thinking that there is a growing disconnect between the domain world and the startup world. A lot of this has come to me over the last year and a half as I’ve moved from the domain industry to the startup space myself. Now that I’m in Techstars I am surrounded by other startup founders all day every day and I’ve been learning that there is a bit of a disconnect.

First, most people think I made-up the term “Domaining” and “Domainer”. The #1 response I get when I tell people that I used to be in the “Domaining” space is, “Did you just make-up that term, what does that mean?” Once I tell people, “Domain Investing” then they start to smile, “Oh Cybersquatting!” is the typical answer.

So then I explain the differences between “Domain Investors” and “Cybersquatters” and usually that hits home. Still I realized that the term “Domaining” has really been an industry term, not as much a term that the outside world (or at least the startup world) is very familiar with. This made me think – if the startup world doesn’t know what “Domaining” is, they probably don’t know the term “new gTLD” which has become an incredibly popular term in the Domaining world.

So I conducted a little survey. I asked 20 startup founders if they knew about the “new gTLDs” only two had any idea what I was talking about. I asked 20 different startup founders if they knew about the “new domain name extensions” and eighteen of them knew what I was talking about. We’ve been speaking in riddles and the only ones who know what we are talking about is, well, us!

It can be easy to think that everyone knows what a TLD is or knows the difference between a registrar and a registry. So next time you’re writing about or sharing all the excitement around the “new gTLDs” just remember, you might need to say things a bit differently if you want other people to know what you’re talking about.

What startups do know is the extensions themselves, every startup I spoke to had heard of .CO, .ME, .IO and countless other TLDs, they just didn’t know they were called TLDs. Some had heard of .GURU, .NYC and a handful of others but these are still taking time to make it into the general population. As many of you know I think these new domain name extensions will help grow the domain industry in a major way, I’m incredibly excited about them which is why I also want to make sure we get the word out in a way that everyone else can easily understand.

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