NBA Top Shots

Well, another day, another two missed drops for me. First things first, yes – I’m so late to the party when it comes to NBA Top Shots that I should probably pick up a broom and help cleanup. That being said, I’m digging NFTs and enjoying learning while missing every drop I try to get into.

From what I can tell, there are some very lucky people who got in early and now are sitting on a pile of NFT gold. Then there’s the rest of us, who, well, didn’t. But that’s okay.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my entrance into the domain industry in 2007, arguably 10 years late to the party it’s that opportunities are everywhere. While ground floor opportunities are definitely where you’ll find the most profit in just about any asset class, I’d argue that it’s still very early for NBA Top Shots since 99% of the people I talk to about them have never heard of them.

The same is true for NFTs in general. Today Kings of Leon became the first band to release their latest album as an NFT and my guess is this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I currently own zero NBA Top Shot Highlights or Moments, or whatever the heck you call them, but I’m having a blast trying to get into the drops, failing, and then trying again. For anyone that hasn’t gone through the process, here’s how I think it works…remember, I know nothing Jon Snow so take what I say with a healthy dose of, “does this guy even know what he’s talking about…?!?”

From what I can tell, when you go to the NBA Top Shots website, you’ll see details on when the next drop is. There are common drops and rare drops, rare is better but harder to get, i.e. there are less packs made available.

This morning I learned about two drops today, one at 9am PST and one at 5pm PST. I joined the morning drop at 8:58am PST which I think might have been too late to get a good place in line…at the same time I’m told the line position is randomized so maybe it doesn’t matter? At any rate, when you’re in line and haven’t been assigned a number, you see this:

NBA Top Shops in Line

Then in a minute or two you’re told how many people are ahead of you in line, and if that number is greater than the number of packs available in the drop, you missed your chance, reference the image at the top of this post to see what that looks like.

There’s another drop tomorrow morning so I’ll try again. I have no idea what happens if I actually get lucky, do I pick which moments I want? Are they randomly assigned to me? Feel free to comment below if you know, for now I’m just having fun figuring it out.

From NBA Top Shots to the new Kings of Leon Album, I’m trying to just get involved and soak up as much as I can. In many ways it reminds me of my early days in domain investing, not knowing what I was doing but having fun learning.

As I’ve always done on my blog, I’ll share what I learn with the rest of you. If you know a thing or two about NBA Top Shots or NFTs in general, I’d love to hear from you – comment and let your voice be heard!

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Windows blue screen of death

There was an interesting story on arstechnica today that I thought was worth sharing with all of you. Before I share the story I’ll just mention that I’m not a fan of typo domains, don’t own any, don’t plan to. And as you’ll see, this story isn’t about a typo-squatter per-say, instead it’s about a researcher who decided to run an experiment and got some pretty interesting results.

The idea was a simple one – register variants of windows.com that were one bit flip away from the actual domain. Here’s the general reason why this happens and what it means:

arstechnica

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to perform actions like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

(Source – arstechnica)

There are 32 possible bitflipped domains and the researcher here, who decided to go by “Remy” found that 14 of the 32 were actually just sitting out there available to hand register.

I was surprised to hear this because normally companies scoop up these names, especially companies like Microsoft…and especially when their computers can perform tasks that send traffic to them. But that wasn’t the case, and Remy got them and with it came a surprising amount of traffic:

Over the course of two weeks, Remy’s server received 199,180 connections from 626 unique IP addresses that were trying to contact ntp.windows.com. By default, Windows machines will connect to this domain once per week to check that the time shown on the device clock is correct. What the researcher found next was even more surprising.

“The NTP client for windows OS has no inherent verification of authenticity, so there is nothing stopping a malicious person from telling all these computers that it’s after 03:14:07 on Tuesday, 19 January 2038 and wreaking unknown havoc as the memory storing the signed 32-bit integer for time overflows,” he wrote in a post summarizing his findings. “As it turns out though, for ~30% of these computers doing that would make little to no difference at all to those users because their clock is already broken.”

(Source – arstechnica)

I don’t want to re-write the whole article here so I’ll leave it for you to read more if you find it interesting. One additional piece of data that seems to come in after the article was written is that there’s no real way to prove the traffic Remy got on these domains came from bitflips. The reality is, these are typos of Windows.com and well, there are a lot of people typing Windows.com and probably code out there with it spelled wrong as well.

Either way, it’s crazy to think that someone went out and hand registered 14 domains for $126 and suddenly had 400,000 visitors a month coming his way 🤯

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Some interesting data recently became available through Pitchbook and as I was going through it I thought, heck – why not share it with all of you. First things first, and no surprises, .COM is still king and I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m suggesting that startups are giving up on .COM. That isn’t happening.

What is happening is that more and more startups are looking at new gTLDs as a viable option and the adoption rate has more than tripled for Seed and Early Stage startups. Before I say anything else I know what you’re thinking, “gimme the data!” so here it is:

Startups leveraging new gTLDs

As you can see, adoption of new gTLDs grew the most in 2020 with Seed Stage startups which are companies raising anywhere from $500k – $5M. If you want to do a deeper dive into Seed Round size, this is a good read.

Also as you can see, new gTLDs are still a small part of the pie but at 7% in 2020 and pretty clean increases every year in Seed and Early Stage startups it’s not hard to imagine a future where 10% – 15% of startups are branding on new gTLDs.

I think what will continue to accelerate this trend is more successful established startup branding on new gTLDs, good examples include startups that are well on their way to unicorn status 🦄 like Compound.finance which is backed by two of the world’s largest VCs, Andreessen Horowitz and Bain Capital. Compound.finance has already raised over $33M so it’s safe to say their valuation is in the nine figure range.

Like I said in the beginning of this article, I don’t think this means startups aren’t just as excited about .COM as they’ve ever been. At the same time, it’s clear both startups and Venture Capitalists are becoming more comfortable with new gTLDs and that trend seems to only be picking up speed.

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DogeDrip Water

While Bitcoin has been in the headlines constantly in 2021, unlikely cryptocurrency underdog (no pun intended) Dogecoin has become the talk of the town pretty much everywhere. Thanks to people like Elon Musk who are constantly singing its praises, Dogecoin is becoming one of the most talked about cryptocurrencies in the world.

So it should come as no surprise that more and more companies are starting to accept Dogecoin, from hotels to restaurants, and now products are starting to brand themselves around the crypto world’s latest hero.

Today I found out there’s a new company called DogeDrip (DogeDrip.co) that is making Doge-branded water, and before you call it ridiculous, you might be interested to see that there’s actually a pretty neat charity component to the idea. Here’s the scoop:

We are also quite informed about the increasing rise of cryptocurrency acceptance among people and this is behind our adoption of cryptocurrency as a payment method. We are actively involved in charity and for every 10 (6-Pack) of water sold, 1 Case (24-Pack) is sent to assist families across the world.

(Source – DogeDrip.co)

Of course I couldn’t help myself so I had to buy some…

Dogedrip Order

Having been to Colorado quite a bit I can tell you, fresh Rocky Mountain water actually sounds great, Doge-related or not. That being said, I am a Dogecoin fan, I’m enjoying what’s going on with it right now, and I think it’s awesome that DogeDrip has a charity angle to it.

So you can stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant, buy bottled water, all with Dogecoin, and if Elon gets his way, in the future you’ll be able to buy a Tesla with it…but I think we’ll have to wait a while for that.

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Trojan Horse Malware

Well here’s something interesting that you might not expect. Hackers are getting more sophisticated every year, and in 2021 they’re doing something you’d never expect, helping their victims rank better in search engines.

While it might sound a bit weird, there’s a method to the madness:

According to Sophos, the so-called search engine “deoptimization” method includes both SEO tricks and the abuse of human psychology to push websites that have been compromised up Google’s rankings. 

(Source ZDNet)

It might sound like a good thing to rank better in Google…but the hackers are actually getting the sites to rank for things completely unrelated to what they actually do. Then, by putting fake pages on the hacked site that look like forum posts they try to trick web users into giving away information like banking details.

Oh, and doing this kind of SEO magic is no small tasks, apparently it takes around 400 computers to make it happen 🤯

To accomplish this phase of the attack, the operators of Gootloader must maintain a network of servers hosting hacked, legitimate websites (we estimate roughly 400 such servers are in operation at any given time). The example shown above belongs to a legitimate business, a neonatal medical practice based in Canada. None of the site’s legitimate content has anything to do with real estate transactions – its doctors deliver babies – and yet it is the first result to appear in a query about a very narrowly defined type of real estate agreement. Google itself indicates the result is not an ad, and they have known about the site for nearly seven years. To the end user, the entire thing looks on the up-and-up.

(Source – Sophos)

My guess is the end result is bad news for the website owner as I could see Google delisting compromised domains making it tough for them to rank for anything in the future.

There’s no doubt that hackers are getting more and more clever but jeez, using 400 computers in an attack, that’s something else.

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Last year I decided I was going to expand this blog beyond just me as a writer and add some other inspiring and talented people. As I expected, easier said than done. If there’s one thing I’ve learned running Bold Metrics it’s that hiring is hard, and finding great people that don’t just have the skills, but also have the right attitude is critical.

So, after quite a search I’m excited to say I have my first new addition to the writing team at MorganLinton.com, his name is Mushfiq, he lives in Chicago, runs thewebsiteflip.com and buys and sells websites, lots of them.

To start with Mushfiq will be writing a monthly column about website flipping and we’ll let it evolve from there. I’m a big believer in starting small and learning over time. And to kick things off I thought it would be a good idea to do a little interview with Mushfiq so all of you can learn more about him. Enjoy and welcome Mushfiq!

Mushfiq

1) When did you start buying and selling websites?

I stumbled upon search engine optimization (SEO) in 2008 while a freshman in college. I wanted to earn some money on the side. I built up my first website, CheapestVOIPCalls.net, in the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) niche. I worked on it for 2 years while in college and then received an email that someone wanted to buy it. I had no idea that websites could be sold; it was the wild west back then. 

I threw out a number that made sense to me (not knowing what the multiples were back then) of $25,000. The buyer agreed. We set up the transaction via Escrow.com, I handed over the assets, and that was it. The company that acquired it was Slashdot Media, which owns many sites in the VoIP vertical (including mine) to this day.

Fast forward more than a decade, my team and I have been buying, growing, and selling sites as a side-business with many 6-figure exits. To date, we’ve done 175 website transactions on the buy, sell, and broker side.

2) What are your go-to marketplaces for buying and selling websites?

Unvetted Marketplaces

I love to buy websites from the Flippa marketplace. Being an open platform, anyone can list any business for sale with as little or as much information about the business as they please. This naturally leads to poor deals. However, if you know what you are looking for, you can find quality sites built up by “hobby bloggers”, who write excellent content and start generating organic/social traffic but lack the expertise to monetize that traffic effectively. 

Vetted Marketplaces

Other marketplaces that I always monitor is Motion Invest, Investors.club, and Empire Flippers. These marketplaces ensure all listings pass basic website due diligence (e.g., no shady SEO techniques, verified traffic, verified revenues).

Private Network

Some of my best deals have been found through my private network that I’ve built up over the years. Some people in my network want quick liquidity and are willing to reduce valuations to achieve that. 

I can either acquire the websites to add to my portfolio for a long-term hold, or I perform the easy wins to increase revenues and then flip within a 6-12 month period, or I can broker it out to my network for a commission fee (usually 10% or lower).

For further reading, I did a detailed deep-dive into the top website brokers in the website investing space in this write-up.

3) Can you share one or two qualities you look for in a potential flip?

I have 8 in-depth website investment criteria that I look for. The two big ones I look for are (1) organic search traffic and (2) the number of content articles.

The reason I look for organic traffic is that traffic leads to revenue. Any traffic can be monetized via different revenue streams, such as display advertisements, lead generation, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, among others. Furthermore, content is the key that brings in that traffic.

Often, if traffic is low on a site but there is a lot of content, small on-page tweaks may lead to more traffic over time.

Think of these as two major levers to a business. You can take the existing traffic and do conversion rate optimization (CRO) to improve the earnings, and/or you can improve the content from an on-page SEO perspective to increase traffic over time. 

In practice, both of these tactics are done simultaneously to an acquisition to fuel the growth.

4) What advice would you give to people who want to get into website flipping?

Learn due diligence. In other words, learn how to spot the red flags. I always go into the diligence phase of acquiring a website with a mindset that I am not looking for the positives, but I am looking for that red flag that allows me to reject the deal.

Every seller will shine a light on their business as if it’s the best, most profitable, and perfect business for a buyer. That’s seldom the case. 

Learn how to do proper due diligence to spot those red flags on websites

5) Did you notice any changes to the website flipping market in 2020?

Oh yes! Sales multiples rose rapidly as more and more private equity, and large pooled fund buyers entered the marketplace. Furthermore, quality deals sell quickly. If I list a site for sale, I can usually get a fair market value offer within 24-48 hours and a closing within 7-10 days.

Empire Flippers, one of the top marketplaces, has increased website valuations to multiples of 40-50 times monthly average profits throughout 2020. Before that, multiples were in the 30-37 times range.

Experts in the industry opinionated that the high valuations would slow down buying. However, that has not been the case. More and more buyers are scooping up websites at these higher multiples.

This also has incentivized many sellers to sell at these multiples to take “chips off the table”.

Overall, a win-win for the industry.

6) Anything you can share on any changes to your strategy in 2021?

Most website investors and flippers misunderstand the true value of their content sites. I see my sites as a media brand with human visitors. I control the user experience. This is valuable.

Large brands are willing to partner with the right websites on a long-term basis if the value can be created.

Often, website investors take the easy way out by slapping on advertisements, affiliate products, etc, and calling it good. I am guilty of this as well. However, in 2021, my focus is to build out true authority brands in the space that provide value not only via content on the site, but through email marketing, social media presence, and more.

This will allow my portfolio of sites to build meaningful long-term relationships with brands as opposed to the one-off sales commission.

7) Last but not least, can you share one fun fact about Mushfiq that people might not know?

I can try. I am a dull individual!

I’ve lived in Bangladesh, Japan, and Belgium throughout my early childhood. I was fluent in French while going to school in Brussels, Belgium until moving to the U.S. I no longer remember any French; very sad about that.

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NFT Craze

If there’s one thing distinctly different about 2021 it’s the massive buzz around a wide range of digital assets from crypto to NBA top shots, and like the title of this post says NFT’s.

First things first, if you don’t know what NFT means let me break it down quickly so you can follow along with the rest of this post.

NFT stands for Non-fungible tokens, and you can think of them as digital assets that represent a range of either tangible or intangible items. A good example that is becoming increasingly popular is digital art. Just like collectors love owning a painting from a famous artist that has a little 20/50 on the bottom of it, NFTs work in a similar way, except rather than being physical it’s digital, yup – nothing but 1’s and 0’s.

If you want to really go down the rabbit hole on NFTs feel free to read this article on CoinDesk – What are NFT’s and how do they work?

Over the last two weeks I’ve seen NFT’s go from something that very few people know about to something everyone is talking about. It’s a bit like Clubhouse. This time last year, the word clubhouse was something we probably never said, not once, since we were kids, now – try going a day without saying it, I dare you.

I think what makes NTF’s so interesting is that for most people it’s hard to grasp how a digital asset, something made of just 1’s and 0’s could be considered unique and valuable. For domain name investors like myself, I think this concept is just a fact of life.

The reality is, as many of us know who own domain names and get inbound offers on our domains. Most people think they should be able to buy our domains for reg fee. We’ve all had emails from people who want to buy a domain from us asking why the heck we’re charging so much – aren’t domains just $10? Why would I pay $10,000, or $100,000?

Like domains, the value of NFT’s comes down to how unique and/or rare the digital asset is. And just like people have been predicting that domain investing will die – like in this famous post from John Chow – Why Domain Investing is Dead, the same is happening with NFT’s. Of course the main difference is domain names have now passed the test of time – they’re an asset class plain and simple in my opinion.

NFT’s on the other hand are very new and could just be a fad. Still, just like the OG domain investors bought domain names in the 90’s, a new digital investor is emerging and betting on NFT’s. Only time will tell if they are ahead of their time, but what I can tell you is, all day, every day, when I look on Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, heck – even looking at CNBC articles about Mark Cuban – NFT’s are front-and-center.

Like most new investment opportunities outside of domains, I’m just trying to be a sponge now and learn what I can. I don’t know enough to start investing, my investment dollars are still pretty darn focused on domains, but just like crypto, handshake domains, and NBA Top Shots, I’m curious and learning more every day.

What do you think? Are NFT’s just a fad or is this the chance to get in on the ground floor of something big? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Efty.com and Saw.com

Today popular domain name portfolio management platform Efty shared some exciting news – they are rolling out a brand new brokerage platform and have partnered with some of the best brokers in the industry – Saw.com. I have lots of good things to Saw.com, but I’ll start with some comments from Doron, the Co-founder and Head of Product at Efty:

“Experienced domain brokers can increase your ROI and Efty’s partnership with Saw.com provides our sellers with easy access to an industry-leading brokerage team at the click of a button. Jeffrey Gabriel’s experience in building one of the largest and most successful brokerage teams at Uniregistry gives us the confidence that Saw.com is well-positioned to handle a high volume of leads and convert them into successful transactions for our sellers”  

(Source – Doron Vermaat)

Okay, now for more good stuff from me. Let’s talk about Saw.com. I’ve known Jeff and Amanda for maybe a decade now and can tell you, they are some of the best domain brokers in the world, period. I’ve seen both of them in action and know some of their clients who swear by them, and for good reason.

When it comes to brokers that don’t just know what they’re doing but really care about doing a good job, I put Jeff and Amanda at the top of my list. Now that it’s even easier to get them in the path of my domain sales I will absolutely be making the move. I am definitely not as good at negotiation domain deals as either of these two so to be able to have inbound offers go to them honestly is a bit of a dream come true for me. Jeff shared his thoughts on the move as well today:

“Excited. That is the only word that comes to mind when thinking about this partnership. Only great things can happen when we combine the industry-leading technology we have in Efty with our growing team of well-trained, experienced Domain Brokers at Saw.com.”

(Source – Jeff Gabriel)

The reality is, finding a good domain broker is hard. There are plenty of brokers out there that will charge a lower commission…but like they say, “you get what you pay for.” I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about people who hired a broker who offer a commission of 5% or even 1% and they had a terrible experience.

A good domain broker will help you make a lot more than the 15% they charge and they’ll also save you a ton of time. As you all know I’ve been a huge ran of Efty’s for years and to me this really feels like the icing on the cake and the completion of what might just be the perfect platform for domain investors.

Congrats to Doron and the Efty team and Amanda, Jeff and the Saw team. This is a big day, and now I need to go login to my Efty account and get things rocking. Amanda, Jeff – let’s sell some domains! 🕺

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Diversification

With almost two months down in 2021 there are already some trends emerging that are hard to ignore, and one of those trends that you can’t miss is domain investors trying out new things and seeing good results in the process.

It’s no secret that Bitcoin reaching news highs and altcoins from Cardano to Dogecoin seeing major price moves domain investors have been jumping in, or doubling down in many cases. Handshake domains have also found a nice intersection between domains and crypto and places like NameBase are now seeing $5,000 in transactions every three hours.

And then there’s NBA Top Shots which I feel like I’m hearing about daily now – I didn’t even know what this was a few weeks ago. Two well-known domain investors actually tweeted about NBA Top Shots today, see below:

I think this is going to make 2021 a really interesting year in so many ways. Now on Twitter domain investors that used to talk about domains exclusively are talking about crypto, handshake, and virtual sports cards. There has also been a ton of buzz about NFT’s but I’ll leave that for it’s own article since that’s really a hot topic.

While domain investors are definitely branching out, I don’t think it’s taking any money away from the domain industry, if not investors are going even bigger this year. The reality is, so many domain investors had a banner year in 2020 which means they’re coming into 2021 with more money to spend and an even bigger appetite for risk.

I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be alive in so many ways and I think we’re going to be hearing about some interesting sales this year, plenty of domains, but plenty of other digital assets that should raise some eyebrows.

One thing I can tell you about 2021 is there are more opportunities now than ever before, the key will be identifying the true opportunities and not spending too much money on the duds.

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Yesterday I wrote an article on ccTLDInvesting.com covering the top .IO and .CO sales from the last week, and @HandshakeJesus on Twitter mentioned that there are some pretty impressive Handshake sales happening as well, he even mentioned an 100k coin deal that he knew about, here’s the tweet:

I honestly didn’t know where you’d go to even look at Handshake domain sales so I asked on Twitter and @NamesakeMark got back to me with two links:

So this morning, I couldn’t help myself, I had to poke around and check out some of the handshake domain sales for the past week and I was pretty impressed with what I found. Surprisingly the top Handshake domain sale I found is an emoji domain that actually sold yesterday, the 😞 emoji which sold for 50,000HNS which is around $15,000 USD.

Handshake emoji domain sale

A handful of other sales caught my eye:

  • SCP/ – sold on Feb 20th for 25,001HNS ($7,500 USD)
  • Logic/ – sold on Feb 19th for 8,000HNS ($2,400 USD)
  • Mezcal/ – sold on Feb 19th for 4,500HNS ($1,350 USD)
  • Healing/ – sold on Feb 19th for 7,000HNS ($2,100 USD)
  • Clinics/ – sold on Feb 19th for 5,000HNS ($1,500 USD)

As I’ve mentioned I currently only own one Handshake domain, morganlinton/ and I’m still not sure if I’m going to be investing in any more. While I’m interested in the market, I’m more interest in continuing to invest in two-word .COMs and premium .IO and .CO domains.

That being said, I am paying attention and I could see myself investing in a few Handshake domains this year once I learn more about the market. One thing I’m really enjoying about Handshake is the community, there are some very passionate people who really believe in Handshake, and that can go a long way to helping to gain more widespread adoption.

Special thanks to @HandshakeJesus and @NamesakeMark for continuing to help me learn more about Handshake, you guys rock! 🎸

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