A couple of days ago I wrote a post about Efty, a platform for domain investors to manage their names and put custom for sale landing pages on them, like this one:

efty-landing-pages

While I’ve been testing out Efty with some of my own domains I noticed that the landing pages loaded pretty slowly. I also mentioned that the founder, Doron, was super quick at helping with support requests and in this case, he rallied the team and literally, since I wrote the post on July 31st (yes today is August 2nd), the landing pages are significantly faster dropping from around 8s to around 3.5s.

efty-faster-landing-pages

Sure, it’s not perfect yet. A simply landing page shouldn’t be faster than 51% of the tested sites and yes the load time should probably be closer to 1s – 2s, but getting the pages to load twice as fast is still a pretty nice improvement. It’s little things like this that go a long way. So many companies hear about a problem a customer is having and say, “we will add that to our feature request list” then months go by and nothing changes.

Hats off to Efty for making a move here so quickly. Like I said above, I’m not saying it’s perfect yet, but to improve so much so quickly definitely shows how much they care and about how quickly they can make an impact on an issue like this that I know is so important to all of us who use the service.

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eSports

It’s no secret that AR, VR, and eSports are probably three of the hottest (and most nascent) areas in the gaming and digital entertainment world, period. There are a lot of rumors about eSports being in the Olympics sooner than you might think and given that I just took off my Oculus Rift headset to write this blog post…safe to say VR is making its way into the home, also faster than people might have expected.

So it’s not all that surprising that a VC from the billion dollar Greycroft fund would branch out to explore this area…and maybe find some good deals for the larger fund along the way. The fund, called “Tracker” raised $15.6M and plans to make a lot more investments over the next couple of years.

One thing to note is that while they might be writing checks now, companies that get funding from the new fund shouldn’t expect follow-on investments as Jon mentioned in an interview with Venture Beat:

jon-goldman-vr-ar-esports-fund

“We have a lot of dry powder,” Goldman said. “That’s because we are not likely to be making follow-on investments, as that is the kind of thing that Greycroft would do if they wanted.” (Source – VentureBeat)

The neat thing here is that you essentially have a VC from a billion dollar VC firm, investing like a micro-VC would, and teeing up some investments for the larger fund which I’m guessing they wouldn’t have discovered without someone like Jon focusing on the earlier stage deals.

I think this is a great move for Jon and definitely a fund to watch, something tells me some of the hottest new AR, VR, and eSports companies will find Tracker on their cap table. In case you’re wondering how Jon got so into investing in the future of video games and eSports, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that he was the CEO of Foundation 9 Entertainment, a video game company started in 2005 that got a whopping $150M in funding a year into its life.

Foundation_9_Entertainment_67bfa_450x450

So yeah, Jon knows a little bit about gaming, entertainment, and where this is all going, and if he’s betting on AR, VR, and eSports, it’s safe to say there’s something there, something big. Congrats on the new fund Jon – looking forward to following along with your investments…and of course – playing with what they make in VR 🙂

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Landing Page

The short answer is – yes. As with most things in life, people are busy and the amount of time someone has to wait directly relates to sales. In the apparel world retailers see this happen in-store all the time, long lines at dressing rooms usually means less sales or less items purchased on average. On a website it means less conversions, and when it comes to getting inbound offers on domain names it means, well, less offers.

I have been testing out a new service for landing pages on some of my domain names called Efty. Overall I have been pretty happy with the service, it’s easy to customize your landing pages and they some great design options. While I think the backend is a little clunky from a UX perspective, honestly the level of customization it provides is better than anything I’ve used before.

Here’s the problem. Since I’ve been using the service I’ve seen my inbound offers drop by quite a bit. So I started to look deeper into the landing pages, was it the text I was using? Maybe the landing page template? None of those seemed like the culprit. Then I noticed, hmmmm, it is taking quite a while for these pages to load.

So I did a test and found that it was taking between 8s – 12s on average for my landing pages to load, here’s an example below:

efty-pageload-times

Luckily the founder of Efty, Doron, is super accessible, any time I’ve emailed him he always responds pretty quickly. I let him know about this issue and he said he would look into it. Then I got an email from him a couple of weeks later letting me know they had identified that issue and were makes some tweaks on their end.

While I don’t think all the tweaks have been made yet I am interested to see how the number of inbound offers changes as the page load time goes up. Right now I’ve seen inbounds drop by around 50% which might be scary for some people but I love experimenting and since I’m honestly so happy with so many other parts of the Efty platform, I’m willing to take a little hit while I wait for page load times to increase.

But if you’re making your own landing pages, make sure to host them on a fast server and avoid fancy landing pages full of Javascript and large images because at the end of the day, the faster it loads, the more inbound offers you’re likely to get.

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The founder of Oculus might save AltspaceVR

altspaceVR-logo

I just had a VR meetup with some friends from college on AltspaceVR, it was a blast and we talked about doing it again next month. Then news broke last week that Altspace was closing down, which came as a huge shock to me since, as a VR early adopter, I always saw AltspaceVR as one of the main pioneers in social VR.

For quite a while now huge media companies have been testing out VR and Altspace has been one of the main platforms they’ve been using to test the VR waters. Literally just last week ESPN was using the social VR service to interview a football player in virtual reality.

Everyone at Thursday night’s interview with Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Cairo Santos had a front-row seat. That’s because the interview was held in virtual reality (VR), and everyone tuning in with a VR headset had the sensation of being only a few feet away. (Source – SportsVideo.org)

Now there’s a chance that Palmer Lucky, the founder of Oculus will jump in to save the company which he hinted at in a poll on Twitter yesterday:

palmer-lucky-save-altspacevr

I was actually surprised that only 66% of people were in favor of him coming to the rescue as I’d imagine this to be a pretty heavily supported move but maybe there are some politics around AltspaceVR that I don’t know about. Apparently the reason why Altspace is shutting down has to do with their next round of funding falling through.

Some have speculated that Facebook’s entrance into the Social VR space might have cooled investor’s interest in putting dollars towards startups in the space. This would make Luckey’s move all the more interesting since he used to work for Facebook and likely knows quite a bit about what they are doing/planning to do in the Social VR space.

At the end of the day though, I’m guessing AltspaceVR’s situation is more complex than that. I still think there are plenty of investors out there that still think Social VR has a bright future outside of whatever move Facebook makes. Honestly I’m still in shock here so I’ll probably reach out to some people at AltspaceVR to see if anyone wants to share a bit more about what happened.

Still, it Luckey comes in to save the company, that could be a very interesting move, let’s see what happens.

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I’ll start by saying, no, I am not getting some kind of refund relating to bidding in an auction that was proven to have shill bidding taking place on it. While NameJet is doing an internal audit to determine if shill bidding has been impacting their auctions, it looks like they’re also uncovering some payments for auctions that never got made to the seller.

In my case, a handful of domains that I sold in the NamesCon auction earlier this year had sellers that paid late and it looks like somehow my payment got lost in the shuffle.

In my humble opinion I think this is actually pretty awesome. While the purpose of NameJet’s internal investigation is to do a deeper dive into shill bidding that may have happened on their platform, it’s nice to see them uncovering other totally unrelated errors and doing the right thing.

As you all know, just about every waking minute of my life is dedicated to running a startup so it’s easy for something like this, especially when it’s not a huge amount of money, to just slip right under the radar. If NameJet didn’t email me I would have never known but the fact that they did shows me that this internal audit isn’t just to understand if shill bidding took place, it’s to make sure everything across-the-board is being done right.

While I do hope that the result of this investigation leads to better processes for preventing shill bidding in the future, I do have to say I’m happy to see NameJet going so deep here to really make sure everything they’re doing is done right. Of course nobody would be thrilled to find out that they never got paid for domains they sold six months prior…but hey, better late than never right?

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marketo-logo

On Tuesday, the wildly popular marketing automation software company Marketo (which was acquired for close to $1.8B last year) accidentally let their domain name, Marketo.com, expire. While you might not use Marketo every day, imagine if a core app that you did use every day suddenly stopped working…so you went to their website and it didn’t exist.

Scary town.

While you might think that someone hacked the marketing giant, this actually is a good old fashioned case of someone just accidentally forgetting to renew the domain name at the core of the multi-billion dollar company. I think a lot of big companies would be so embarrassed to have something like this happen to them that they’d cover it up but the CEO actually did the best thing you can do in the situation.

Honestly, this is probably the most awesome response a CEO can give. No excuses, no pretending you were “hacked” just honest. So that’s pretty awesome right. Well as you know from the title of my blog post, it gets better. Marketo was also pretty lucky because a nice guy named Travis Pebble paid the outstanding renewal and reinstatement fees to make sure the domain made it back to Marketo safe and sound.

Today Steve Lucas, the CEO of Marketo announced that they will be giving $10,000 to Project Pinball, a non-profit that puts pinball machines in Children’s Hospitals.

It really great to see a big company like Marketo not only admit right off the bat when they made a BIG mistake, but to then have the domain rescued by a good guy who didn’t try to extort a fortune from the company and in the end seeing $10,000 go to a great non-profit. All I can say is “wow” – there’s a lot of good out there, and it comes in all forms.

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virtual-reality

I’ll start this post by saying that while I am definitely a VR fanatic and have been one ever since I read Snowcrash in High School, I’m definitely a complete beginner when it comes to building a PC. Still, when I pre-ordered the Oculus Rift I thought – I really want to do VR right and building my VR dream machine is part of that process.

Little did I know that this meant actually learning how to build a PC, which everyone says is easy, and while it’s definitely not rocket science, you can make mistakes, and I made three that I wish I didn’t make. For two of these mistakes I had the embarrassing experience of putting all the parts together, setting up lights, taking pictures, and then…finding out that the PC build was a no go.

That being said, I am really happy with my VR PC, it’s super crazy ridiculously fast, and there’s something satisfying about knowing that I picked each component myself and, errrr, screwed up a couple times along the way. I’ll chalk it up to battle scars, that sounds better then stupid mistakes right?

Here are the three mistakes I made while building my VR dream machine:

  1. Getting the wrong RAM for the motherboard – when you buy a motherboard, don’t just assume it will take a certain kind of memory, even if you think you’ve memorized what kind of ram each different motherboard you’ve looked at takes. After narrowing down my selection to two motherboards (and I looked at a ton) I somehow confused the RAM one board took with what another takes…and the wrong ram won’t fit. It can be easy to see a ton of boards that all take the same RAM and think, this other one I’m looking at will take the same…not always true.
  2. Not pushing the RAM in all the way – yes, two RAM problems. Once I did buy the right RAM I once again got everything together, took a bunch of pictures, even recorded a little video saying things like, “if at first you don’t succeed, try again, and here we – go!” only to have the computer start for an instance and shut down. This one was much harder to figure out and embarrassingly enough I ended-up going to Fry’s and waiting for hours to have someone look at it only to be told, “yeah man you just didn’t push the RAM in all the way.” I could swear I heard a click…but I learned you really have to push.
  3. Buying only one relatively small SSD drive – for some reason the idea of VR games and experiences taking up gigs upon gigs of storage space didn’t cross my mind. So I bought a 250GB SSD drive thinking, well that’s what my laptop has and I’ve got plenty of room left so that should cut it. Boom, I think I filled up the drive the first week I had it. Then I had to order a drive on Amazon (went with a 3TB non SSD but still super fast) and of course forget to buy the cables to connect it so then had to order the cables. I guess you could call this mistake three and four.

If you’ve built your own VR PC I’d love to hear some of the mistakes you made below…or you feel free to comment on any of my mistakes. The funny thing is, I feel like if I didn’t make all these mistakes I might not really appreciate my VR PC as much as I do, something about screwing things up every step of the way made me love my computer even more 🙂

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oculus-touch

Okay, so you probably all know by now that I’m a huge VR nut. I pre-ordered the Rift before I had even built my VR PC, and then proceeded to totally screw up my VR build by getting the wrong RAM, wrong motherboard, and in the end not pushing the RAM in far enough (yes this was pretty frustrating). That being said, I now have a pretty kick ass VR setup and I’ve been really enjoying the Rift and all the amazing games and experiences that are available for it.

When the touch controllers came out I thought, well I already have a controller and it seems to work pretty well, and I have a ton of games that don’t require touch, so what’s the rush. Then as time went on I started to feel like I was missing out, so I finally decided to get them.

Now I’m kicking myself for not getting them sooner because I’ll be honest, the Oculus touch controllers are more of a game-changer than I thought, way more. I think what I failed to see is that while a controller gives you a really great way to move around and interact in a virtual world, touch controllers give you hands, and that really does make all the difference.

the-climb-vr

The first game I bought is called “The Climb” and as you might have guessed from the name and the picture above, it’s a game where you get to rock climb in VR. Wow. Seriously, this blew my mind. First I think it’s safe to say this is more of an experience than a game, and yes, it really does feel like you’re rock climbing in a lot of ways.

tilt-brush

My second Oculus touch experience was Tilt Brush, a VR app made by Google that probably represents the future of how art will be made – in VR. While I don’t think I’ll win any awards for my early work (okay, it was pretty chaotic and ugly to be honest) I can tell you I spent a solid 15 minutes just standing my living room painting in a virtual world, and that was awesome.

So I waited too long to get the touch controllers and now I’m playing catch up. Better late than never right? Now back to painting my next VR masterpiece…just after I climb this mount.

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domain-escrow

I’ve said it many times before but it never hurts to say it again – if you sell a domain name for more than a few hundred dollars, you should be using an escrow service that specializes in domain names. An escrow service isn’t just valuable because of the escrow service itself, and while this is of course the primary reason why you use an escrow service, but one often overlooked service is the dispute resolution process.

While most escrow processes go smoothly, when they don’t is when you really get to see if the escrow service that you choose can get to the bottom of what happened and make sure that no side ends up getting scammed. One of the escrow services that specializes in domain names and has a rock-solid process for handling disputes is Payoneer.

Payoneer divides the dispute resolution process into two phases:

Negotiation Phase – the buyer and the seller communicate via the Payoneer Escrow website and attempt to directly negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement

Arbitration Phase – the case is escalated to our authorized independent arbitration provider, NetNeutrals, to evaluate the case and issue a binding decision

What I really like about this process is that Payoneer actually brings in a third party arbitration provider called NetNeutrals to evaluate the case. There are very few escrow services out there that go through this level of diligence and I think it says a lot about the quality of service that Payoneer offers across-the-board.

So next time you’re buying or selling a domain name, remember – don’t use Pay Pal or a bank wire because if things go wrong you will kick yourself for not using an escrow service. At the same time, if you use an escrow service without a rock solid, well documented process for handling disputes you could end up on the other side of a bad deal. To learn more about Payoneer’s dispute resolution process you can take a look at their FAQ here.

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NameJet_Logo

Unless you’ve literally been living on a rock, with no wifi, and your smartphone isn’t handy, then you know that shill bidding at NameJet has been a very hot topic in the domain industry. If you’re behind on what’s been happening, here’s the thread on NamePros that will get you all caught up.

Now I don’t have all the facts and as someone that has been a fan of NameJet for years I do think they are going to do the right thing here. The question is, what is the right thing?

Currently NameJet is doing their own internal investigation and they’ve been updating the community on their progress, here’s one of the latest responses courtesy of Elliot’s Blog:

“In an effort to keep everyone current as to where we stand on this matter, I wanted to share the following update. There have been some inaccuracies and misconceptions that have been brought forth by such a spirited discussion. And it would be a challenge to respond to all of them – therefore, I want to bring the discussion back to the heart of the matter.

As stated earlier, we take the issue of shill bidding on NameJet very seriously and we are conducting a thorough investigation, keeping in mind that the integrity of our platform is of utmost importance to us. As I have said repeatedly, we do not condone shill bidding of any kind. We would never encourage, promote or otherwise be involved in any such thing and our position is clear – it is never allowed on NameJet!

In our current investigation certain auction activity has come to light that we deem questionable and a possible violation of our terms. This kind of activity is not acceptable to us and we are taking steps to deal with it. We have suspended several accounts while working through the information we have available.

I thank everyone for their patience as we work through these issues. Our goal is to best serve our customers and we are working hard to that effect.” (Source – DomainInvesting.com)

Elliot has also been a proponent of having a third party investigate the issues here and to be honest, I think that really is the only path forward if they want to win back the trust of the domain name community. Like I said in a post earlier this week, I don’t think there are any situations where bidding on your own domains are okay, and action should be taken to ban accounts that do this.

Still at the core of this issue is trust, trust for a service that many of us have trusted for years. I hope, more than anything, that at the end of all of this it will actually make NameJet an even stronger and more trustworthy place to buy and sell domain names. But like I said above, to do this I think we need to move beyond an internal investigation and let a third party jump in to really dig into what is going on.

What do you think? Is an internal investigation enough or should a third party get involved? Comment and let your voice be heard!

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