Thras.io

It’s safe to say Thras.io has carved out one heck of a niche for themselves, and after generating more than $500M in sales (with $100M in profit) in 2020, the company is getting ready to even more growth in 2021.

Thras.io has a very interesting business model – they buy existing Amazon businesses and then grow them. Essentially what Thras.io has been able to do is systematize the process of scaling Amazon businesses through best practices that they’d learned and developed, and they’re not joking around:

After acquiring your business, we put it through a 503-point migration process—ushering it through diligence, creative, brand management and marketing. Through its lifecycle, more than 50 Thrashers live and breathe your brand as it becomes a profit-doubling machine.

(Source – Thras.io)

The new funding over the last six-months totaling over $750M brings Thras.io’s total funding amount up to $896.5M and for those wondering, no, they don’t own the .COM (correction, someone on Twitter mentioned that they do own the .COM but it forwards to the .IO), they’ve built a multi-billion dollar business on a .IO. As for what the company is going to do with all the additional capital, co-CEO Joshua Silberstein shared this with Crunchbase:

Thrasio is also focusing on international expansion, having recently launched a team in Germany, where it has already completed two deals in the last quarter, as well as spun up a team in Japan in the past week. Beyond that, Silberstein is looking at India and China as other potential markets.

“We’ve never bought a company with $180 million revenue, not because they don’t exist, but up until now we have shied away from that space,” Silberstein said. “Now we are in position to do multiple deals with companies in the $50 million to $200 million revenue range.”

(Source – Crunchbase)

Congrats to Joshua and the whole Thras.io team, it sounds like 2021 is going to be one heck of a year! 🎉

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Ghost blogging platform

Last year I wrote about a cool new blogging platform called Ghost that I am thinking of moving this blog to. The more I learned about Ghost, the more serious I got about making the move.

So now, here we are, a new year and I’m still on WordPress. I’ll be honest, I have stage fright, and while I still really want to make the move because Ghost just looks so freaking amazing, there are a few things still holding me back.

Here’s what’s stopping me from moving from WordPress to Ghost:

  1. Potential losing 13+ years of SEO – I have been writing this blog for 13 years and while I know the move to Ghost is supposed to be pretty seamless. We all know things can and do go wrong in the SEO world all the time. I’m still consulting SEO experts but not many have experience moving from WordPress to Ghost given how new Ghost is and given how much traffic I get through search, losing that and having to rebuild 13 years of work would be, uh, really bad.
  2. Lack of phone support – right now Ghost only offers email support and while their support has been awesome at answering questions so far, it can take an hour or more to hear back from support. If something goes wrong and my blog is down this will be the longest hour of my life. What I really like about WPEngine, my current managing hosting provider is that I can call them and get someone on the phone almost immediately. Honestly I’d pay an extra $50/month for phone support at Ghost but it’s just not an option right now unfortunately.
  3. Limited 3rd party plugins – it’s no secret that WordPress has a massive ecosystem surrounding it. This makes sense because WordPress has been around while dinosaurs were still roaming the earth. Okay, not that long but it has been around for a while. Ghost is still relatively new so there just aren’t as many cool add-ons, at the same time, do I really need them, so much is built in? This one might not be as much of a deal-breaker for now.

So that’s where I’m at, still on the fence but continuing to do research. I feel incredibly lucky to have a blog that is continuing to go strong after so many years. I love my readers and am still in awe of how many amazing sponsors I have. The old saying, “if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” sticks in my mind, but this new cool shiny thing called Ghost is still top-of-mind.

What do you think I should do?

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Another day, another BrandBucket success story

BrandBucket Success Story

As many of you know I’ve been a fan of BrandBucket for years. It’s run by an amazing founder, Margot Bushnaq who is a real pioneer in the brandable domain name space. Over the years I hear more and more success stories from both domain owners and startup founders and today it happened again so I thought I’d share it.

This time it comes from domain industry veteran Shane who announced on Twitter that he’s done over $90,000 in deals through BrandBucket in the last twelve months, here’s the tweet:

Shane Brandbucket

Shane has a great eye for domains and also knows how to price them which is why he’s seeing such good results. One mistake I’ve seen investors make is to put great domains on marketplaces like BrandBucket but then list at the absolutely maximum price they can.

The reality is, it’s all about doing the research and knowing the market and pricing accordingly. With three domain sales totaling over $90k you can do the math and know that Shane is pricing these in the $30k range. While I don’t know the price he paid for Jukio(.)com my guess is it was less than $3k and he probably locked in a 15x or better ROI.

Congrats to Shane and BrandBucket, here’s to the next sale! 🎉

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DNWE Subscription Model

Yesterday DNWE.com (Domain Name Wholesale Exchange) announced it was going to change to a subscription payment model. The news was announced on Domain Name Wire, here’s a quick recap:

The platform is scrapping commissions in favor of a subscription model. Users will pay a $14.99 per month (or $149 per year) fee to use the system, with early bird pricing of $9.99 per month (or $99 per year). The new model will begin on January 10.

Sellers will no longer pay a 12% commissions on sales. Buyers will pay DAN.com’s 5% escrow and transaction fee when they buy domains.

(Source – Domain Name Wire)

There has been a lot of buzz about the changes on Twitter and Josh shared some nice advantages for both buyers and sellers with the new changes:

Personally I’m a big fan of the change, the subscription price is incredibly reasonable. What I really appreciate about DNWE is the quality control that Josh and Josh have done, they’re definitely working hard to make sure that the right names make it in and at truly wholesale/liquidation prices.

When it comes to building great products, being comfortable experimenting, pivoting, and trying different things is so important. Sometimes it’s hard to do, with every change you have a chance of annoying some people and losing some customers. At the same time, in the end it usually means learning, improving, and creating a much better product over time.

Congrats to Josh and Josh, great way to start the year and I’m looking forward to being one of your first subscribers! 🙌

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Rick Schwartz isn’t wasting any time to make 2021 a banner year for him – this morning he announced that he has a $1.8M deal in the works structured in a similar way to his famous Candy.com deal.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Rick is his vision, Rick doesn’t just look at making a quick buck, he likes to see his domain names go to people that are going to do something big, and I mean big with it, and then he shares in the success.

Rick has always been open to creative deal structures that allow the new owner some flexibility so that the deal gets done and in many cases, Rick gets to share in the success if things go well.

In many ways I look at Rick as a combination between a domain name investor and a Venture Capitalist. As a domain investor Rick is of course trying to maximize the profit he makes selling domains, but as a VC, Rick looks for great founders with a big vision and the ability to execute. I think it’s safe to say this combo has been a winner and it looks like he’s gearing up for one heck of a 2021. Rick has said this time and time again on his blog, here’s one good example from a post he did about the Candy.com deal:

Back then I invested in 2 guys that won me over and I believed in. Before they were married, (not to each other) before they had kids and before they had a successful and growing entity. I like investing in PEOPLE!

(Source – Rick’s Blog)

And now it looks like Rick has big plans for 2021 which he also shared in a tweet this morning:

Like the tweet says, Rick retired and then the next year did $12.5M in domain sales, this year he plans to break his own record and I can’t wait to watch him do it.

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CRED

Cred.club came up with a pretty unique idea – why not reward people for paying their credit card bills? The startup, based in Bangalore India seems to be onto something as they now have over $3M and are starting the year with a whopping $81M funding round valuing the startup at ~$800M.

Oh and as I’m sure you noticed, they’ve been doing this on a .CLUB domain while the .COM sits dormant collecting dust. As an app I’m not sure the company will ever see getting the .COM as a priority but safe to say, they can afford quite the price tag now if they make a move for it.

So how does CRED make money? Here’s the scoop from the CEO himself in an interview with Techcrunch:

Shah said CRED makes money by cross-selling financing products — for which it has a revenue-sharing arrangement with banks and other financial institutions — and levies a similar cut from merchants who are on the platform today. More than 1,300 brands — including big names Starbucks, TAGG, Eat.Fit, Nykaa and emerging premium direct-to-consumer brands such as The Man Company, Sleepy Cat and Crossbeats –have joined the platform in recent years.

(Source – Techcrunch)

One really cool addition to the funding round updates is the news that the company also spent ~$1.2M buying back stock from employees giving them some liquidity along the journey. When I was at Sonos we had a similar event take place during a $100M+ funding round but it was the new investors that bought shares back from some of us.

I can tell you, as an employee at the time, it was energizing to see my stock options turn into real money and it definitely added some wind to our sails along with the fresh funding. So not only does CRED have some nice buzz around the new funding, but with employees starting to cash in on their stock I can only imagine the vibe is absolutely electric over there.

It’s very likely that CRED will cross the billion dollar valuation mark likely in 2021 which could make it the first company to build a billion dollar brand on a .CLUB domain 🚀

Congrats to the whole team over at CRED, what a way to kick of 2021!

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domain investing

Going into 2021 I can tell you that a majority of the domain names I add to my portfolio will be .COM. This was my core focus last year and I don’t see anything that would change that for 2021. At the same time, like many investors, I do always keep a small chunk of my portfolio in non .COMs that I think will make good investments.

My general rule of thumb for myself when buying outside of .COM is – could I see this name sell for six-figures in .COM? In some cases, I can look on NameBio and see the matching .COM did sell for six-figures but often I have to go with my gut. This usually means my focus is one-word domains and I’m biased towards positive action words.

All that being said, when it comes to non .COMs that I’ll be buying this year I see three key domain extensions that I’ll be focusing on:

  1. .IO – I’ve been investing in .IO for over five years now, it has always been my top performing asset next to .COM so will continue to be my main squeeze in 2021 🚀
  2. .GG – every year that goes by I get more and more bullish on .GG. I watch eSports a lot more than regular sports and I see .GG everywhere. I started buying .GG names maybe two years ago, own maybe 20, haven’t sold one yet so the jury is still out on if they will turn out to be good investments 🤷‍♂️
  3. .AI – I’ve mostly held off on .AI for the last few years because I don’t like the high holding cost for these names. Depending on where you register a .AI name you can expect to be spending $100/year or more for them so unless you can get truly premium names that will sell, I can see .AI really cutting into your profits over time.

What are you investing in alongside .COM?

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Well it’s official, 2020 is now behind us and that means it’s time to hit the ground running in 2021! While I’ve found that I’m making changes all the time to my domain investment strategy, every year I try to take a big step back and come up with a handful of key changes I want to make.

What I’ve always found so interesting and exciting about domain name investing is the sheer number of opportunities that are out there. Without fail, when I talk to other domain investors from around the world at conferences I come across a few people that just blow my mind with what they’re doing in the space. These are usually people who went deep in areas that other people weren’t looking, and finding these on my own is one of my favorite things about being a Domainer.

So enough backstory – let’s get to my domain investing resolutions for 2021:

  1. Buy more domains directly from owners – like many domain investors, I buy a lot of my names through expired domain auctions at popular marketplaces like Go Daddy Auctions and NameJet. I keep telling myself that I really need to branch out and start doing some direct outreach. The idea here is to identify domains that someone bought, usually for a project or a company, stopped using, still owns it and may or may not have thought about selling it. While this has been a pretty standard practice for a lot of domain investors in the .COM space, there are some ccTLDs I invest in that I think this approach could work well with and I’m looking forward to giving it more focus in 2021.
  2. Add more names to sites like BrandBucket and Squadhelp – I know enough people who did great on brandable domain markets like BrandBucket and Squadhelp last year that I realize it’s time I put more names out there. While marketplaces like Sedo and Afternic certainly move their fair share of domains, I do think brandable domain marketplaces that match your domain with a logo and provide a more enticing format to highlight your domains can make a difference. Like any marketplace, I’m not expecting gangbuster sales but I do think it’s hard to argue that the more eyeballs you get on your domains, the more likely they are to sell.
  3. Experiment more with different landing page designs – I use Efty for my landing pages and keep trying to remind myself to experiment more with different landing page options. Efty has a huge library of landing pages and I want to go more in-depth this year both with customizing the text on my landing pages and using different designs. I have also been going back-and-forth for a while now on whether to stick with pages that just ask someone to get in touch vs. landing pages that ask for a specific offer. I’ll continue to experiment with these options this year to see which ends up performing the best.

Okay, there are my domain investing New Year’s Resolutions – feel free to share yours in the comment section below or comment on any of mine.

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So for those who have been reading my blog for the last decade or so, you know I get pretty darn sentimental and appreciative right about now. In the past I’ve written long posts thanking dozens of people, and while I have a lot more than three people to thank in 2020, I’m going to start with three.

It would be a serious understatement to say that 2020 wasn’t a tough year for everyone, some in similar ways, others in different ways. And on that note I’d like to start by honoring everyone we lost this year, and to give a big 🙏 to all of those who have been saved this year.

While we you can look at 2020 as a year of division, I’m a glass half full kind of guy and I appreciate all of the things people did to strengthen their community and help others. The three people in this post are people who helped me and many others in 2020, and I want to end the year saying “Thank you!” to them, and giving them some love and appreciation. So here we go…

Braden Pollock – Braden I have been friends for somewhere in the 13-15 years range. I’m at that point now where I’m getting too old to remember the exact year, but I have a tight range so we’ll stick with that. Beyond being an exceptional friend, I can proudly say that Braden is #1 on my list when it comes to people I admire and want to be more like in life.

Along with starting and investing in more amazing businesses than I can list, Braden also shares, helps, and connects with as many people as he can. When I first met Braden I thought there must have been some angle, some edge, that he was getting out of connecting with so many people. I quickly learned that it was more about hearing other perspectives and just genuinely appreciating people, their approach, and ideas.

I could go on, no seriously I could, for a whole post just about Braden, but I’ll leave it at this and tell you that I’m honored to call him a close friend and every time I spend time with him I am more inspired. Thank you Braden 🙏, you made 2020 much better for me.

Ron Jackson – as someone that somehow ended up writing a daily blog about domain names, I can say with 100% certainty that my journalist hero is Ron Jackson. Ron is one of the most talented and dedicated journalists I have had the pleasure to get to know in my life.

What I truly appreciate about Ron is how much he cares. For those who have been reading DNJournal for 10+ years like I have, you know that Ron doesn’t just get stories out there. Instead, like an artist, Ron puts together meaningful impactful articles and approaches journalism in the way that I think we wish all journalists would.

On top of all of that, and on a more personal note, I have always been in awe of the amazing marriage Ron and Diana have. If you don’t believe in soulmates, spend some time with Ron and Diana and you will. Thank you both for brining peace and joy to my life in 2020 🙏

Francois Carrillo – Francois has created what I think we can all agree is the go-to resources for Domainers. I am always incredibly thankful that Francois does what he does, he brings the community together and through a lot of hard work has built a truly exceptional resource.

I have a secret plan (that’s not so secret any more) to someday meet Francois in France and do a live video interview with him. It’s safe to say the pandemic might delay my plan by a year or two but I’m really looking forward to the day I can make it happen.

Thank you Francois, you have made my life and countless other Domainers lives better in 2020. I am in awe of your vision for seeing what this industry would become so long ago, and honored to be a part of the vision you helped form.

Okay, well it’s 10:30PM on New Years Eve, time to go! I hope you’re all having happy and safe end to 2020, here’s to an exciting 2021, no matter what lays ahead of us, we’re going through it together! 🙌

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Flippa, the world’s largest marketplace for buying and selling online businesses and websites recently released a new offering called Flippa Exclusives which you can think of as a small collection of private, off-market listings.

Out of the gate I’m told the new offering will be available to people who run their business using Quickbooks Online, Stripe, or Shopify which should cover a ton of businesses. That being said, it sounds like Flippa will be adding support for apps, Saas, eComm, and media ad businesses shortly.

What I’ve noticed, that you might be noticing as well is that Flippa is really trying to up their game when it comes to verifying revenue stats. By connecting directly with accounting solutions like Quickbooks Online and payments solutions like Stripe Flippa can go much further to verify that the money a businesses says they make, is actually what they’re making.

🤩 🤩 🤩 So there’s one feature I read about that well, deserved the star eyes emoji, and three of them. Flippa has a price beat guarantee that I’m not sure I’ve seen before on any marketplace. Essentially, Flippa will ensure that you sell your asset and pay lower fees than anywhere else. As for all the mechanisms they employ to do this, I can’t tell you, but it’s a guarantee so it sounds like they’ll do what it takes.

So when will Flippa users opt for Private Exclusives?

  • IMO one of the best uses of this new option is to test market demand
  • Companies where key partners might see an exit as risky
  • Companies where the owners or employees want to make sure to keep the sale private and discreet

Flippa has a massive market of buyers that includes Private Equity firms and institutional buyers so I can see sellers with six and seven figure businesses really digging this new option. Qualifying assets can select the option through Flippa’s onboarding process or contact AccountManager(at)flippa.com for more information.

Congrats to Flippa on adding this feature – while we might not hear about the sales, my guess is this will make 2021 one heck of a year for them! 🥳

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