A few reflections on the Sonos IPO today

sonos-ipo-2018

Today was a very surreal day, honestly it all feels like a bit of a dream and I don’t know if I’ve really processed everything yet. I am going to be putting together a Medium article this weekend once I have more time to reflection and share a bit more about the early days at Sonos.

I was at Sonos for a total of nine years and I held onto a nice chunk of stock even though quite a few people told me I was crazy and going to lose all my money. I told those people, “I’m happy to ride it to zero if that’s what happens.” What I don’t think people understood is that while I am incredibly passionate about the technology and solution that Sonos delivers…I remained an investor because of the people.

John MacFarlane, Tom Cullen, Craig Shelburne and Tung Mai are four of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met in my life. From the day I started at Sonos I knew we were doing a lot more than building a smart speaker – the mission was clear from day one, our goal was to change the way people listened to music.

Without a doubt, the biggest lesson I learned at Sonos is that great people like to stick together, and they attract more great people. From visionary product people like Mieko Kusano, sales geniuses like Kostas Reissis, to some of the best damn engineers on the planet like Chris Kallai – Sonos built a dream team.

It was an incredible honor to work with such a talented and passionate group of people, we had our ups and downs, heck – some of the hardest and most defeating days of my life took place at Sonos. More to come in my Medium article, for now I’m, just soaking in a truly incredible feeling that I hope to feel again someday. It’s safe to say that if you have Sonos in your home, it has changed the way you listen to music, and it will forever more, mission accomplished.

I would like to give special thanks to Kostas Reissis and Tom Cullen, the two of you honestly changed my life. Thanks for giving me a chance and including me on the journey of a lifetime.

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Do you still make money parking domains?

While it’s no secret that parking revenue has declined massively over the last ten years, I’m always surprised to hear of people making good money parking. I feel like every year I end up in a conversation with someone at NamesCon and the conversation moves to parking and they have one of two perspectives:

  1. Parking is dead
  2. Parking is alive and well

I often find that there isn’t much middle ground, people either feel one way or the other. I find myself in the first camp, I do think parking is mostly dead. However, like I said above, I’m always surprised when I bump-into someone who makes good money parking, it’s still happening and there are some parking services that are still alive and well.

So I thought now would be a good time to take a poll. Do you make money parking domains? If so, I’d be interested to know if you’ve bought any names in the last year or two that make decent parking revenue, and if you’re willing to share, where you found them.

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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I was talking to a friend the other day who has a few domains that still make some real money parked. He was saying to me that he wished there was a way to connect these parked domains with his Efty landing pages since he really wants the best of both worlds, parking revenue and slick For Sale landing pages. I told him – yup, Efty can do that and pointed him to this blog post.

For those who don’t know about this feature, Efty has come up with a pretty neat way to link to your For-Sale landing pages while you continue to generate parking revenue at your favorite parking service. Efty makes this possible through a wonderful magical universal URL, here’s a bit more about it:

Most parking providers offer you an option to input a custom URL to replace the inquiry form which means you can route visitors that are interested in purchasing your domain name to your own Efty For-Sale landing pages, directly from the for-sale banner or hyperlink on your parked page. And to make things easy for you we’ve coded one universal URL that works on any parked page on the web.

https://www.eftymarket.com/router/

When using the above URL on a parked domain, visitors will be redirected to the For-Sale landing page of the domain name on your own custom marketplace URL or, alternatively, an SSL-secure hosted For-Sale landing page on EftyMarket.com.

As I thought about this more, I realized that this is even more powerful than what Efty had originally intended it to be used for. If you think about it, this URL allows you to easily link to your Efty landing page on a developed domain as well.

While this might not make sense right away, here’s what I was thinking. If you build a great website and get it ranked well in Google, eventually someone in your space (likely a bigger fish than you) is going to notice and likely want to buy you out since you’ve become their competition. This type of consolidation happens all the time and Efty’s routing link could allow you to make a clear path to purchase for the potential buyer.

In many cases, I’ve seen people that are interested in buying a site but they just don’t know where to start. You could easily add a little link at the bottom of a page that says, “Want to buy this site?” that links to your For-Sale landing page.

No matter how you slice it, this is a pretty nice feature that Efty has added that makes it easier to integrate their landing pages into whatever you’re currently doing with your domain. I don’t personally have any domains that generate any money parked so this is where I’d love to hear from you, my reader. Is this something you’d want to try out on your parked domains? Did you know about this feature before reading my post?

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Normally there is one name that really catches my eye when I’m looking at expired domains. You know that feeling where you see a name and wonder how the owner forgot to renew it. Today when I went to look on Go Daddy auctions I found a handful of really solid names that are dropping over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s a look at the ten expiring .COMs on Go Daddy with the highest bids so far:

expiring-domains-go-daddyWhile I completely understand why Dispute.com is already at $36,000…I was a big confused to see HealthAtlastNow.com sitting at $8,100. So I did a little research and uh, something tells me it’s going to be a big surprise to the owners. HealthAtlastNow.com is actually the homepage of a pretty serious health care franchise in LA.

Here’s what you get when you do a Google search for the domain:

health-atlast-now

Going a step further, when you go to the site…there’s a full fledged site there. So what happened here and is one of the owners (or previous owners) bidding on the domain in auction? If not, is someone trying to grab this domain that clearly belongs to a relatively lucrative business in hopes of getting big bucks out of them to get the name back?

Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens here. What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

 

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Startup Advisors

One of the questions we had in the early days of our startup was, first – should we bring on advisors? And second, if we do, how much equity should we give them? Like most things in life, we learned by doing and made some mistakes along the way. Going through Techstars was incredibly valuable because it allowed us to talk with other founders, all going through the same experience and often asking the same questions.

The first lesson I learned is that, yes, advisors can be incredibly helpful but it isn’t a title you just extend to anyone that helps you out once or twice. Instead, an advisor should be someone that you think has some expertise, maybe it’s in sales in the market you’re in, maybe it’s with hiring your first few developers. Whatever it is, make sure you can easily say – we brought on advisor ________ because she has expertise in________ which is valuable for our startup.

It can be all too easy to hand out advisor roles to everyone who helps you early on, you figure – it looks good on the team slide and they’ve been helpful so why not! The challenge here is that you need to be incredibly diligent with your time as a founder. Honestly, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do. This means that you should only be adding on advisors when you see a clear need, somewhere they can fill in and help out right away, and then set expectations for what you’d like them to do.

One of our most helpful advisors to-date has been someone that we knew had experience selling software like ours, into the market we sell into. Not only were they able to provide us with very useful tips when it came to structuring our sales process, they also made intros and helped us land some of our earliest clients. We were clear from the beginning on what we were looking for, they delivered, and it made a huge difference for us.

Conversely. Early on we brought on an advisor that our lawyer had recommended. We didn’t know the person but had lunch with him, he bragged about how connected and successful he was, and so we made him an advisor. He told us that he could introduce us to tons of potential customers and help us navigate the complex and often never-ended Enterprise sales cycle. In the end, he wasn’t able to deliver and we wasted many a phone call and coffee meeting with someone that turned out to be just really good at walking the walk.

The point is – advisors can be great, just do your homework and make sure you’re bringing on someone that can truly add value to your company. Avoid the common early-founder tendency to bring on an advisor that just looks good on a slide – trust me on that one.

Now for the burning question that we had in the early days – how much equity should you give an advisor? 

We found a number of different articles online and a pretty wide range going from 0.25% all the way up to 2%. So we decided to ask other founders, both in Techstars and that we knew through our own network. We got a much better range.

The typical equity you’ll give an advisor is 0.25% – 0.5% and there usually isn’t a vesting cliff, but there is a vesting period, it’s just typically two or three years rather than the four years you see with employees.

Did you have a great advisor that really came through for you? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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clash-city-championships

Last week I attended and competed in my first live local eSports tournament. First things first, I am pretty terrible at all video games across-the-board. I’m not much of a gamer but I am really interested in gaming and eSports but more as a spectator than a player. That being said, if there’s one game that I’m “okay” at – it’s Clash Royal made by one of my favorite game studios on the planet, Supercell.

I got into Clash Royale because I was previous a Clash of Clans player who had to stop because after investing close to $1,000 into the game I realized that I was competing against players that were happy to throw thousands of dollars into it. What I like about Clash Royal is that there’s a much more even playing field and it reminds me a bit of Magic the Gathering which has long been a favorite of mine.

I’ve been playing Clash Royale for about two years now and finally reached a point where I’m a high enough level that I can compete in tournaments. Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean I’m good at the game. In fact, at the tournament that I attended, I was the lowest ranked player there. That being said, I still had a blast and managed to eek out one win during the tournament but of course lost overall.

The tournaments that are taking place in cities across the US are part of what Supercell is calling Clash Nights: City Championships. Clash Nights have been going on for a while now but they recently added a Tournament-style competition element to the mix. If you want to understand a bit more about Clash Nights, there’s a pretty kick ass video on You Tube that you might dig:


For me, the entire experience was really interesting, I learned a lot, and yes – it was very humbling to be around an entire group of people that were much better than me at the game. That being said, I found everyone to be very welcoming and more than happy to share strategies, tips, common pitfalls, etc. I also got invited to join a local Clan so now I’m playing on a team with people I’ve actually had the chance to meet in real life which is pretty neat.

In two weeks there will be another tournament here in San Francisco and I’m looking to redeem myself so I’ll be there and hopefully can bring my A game this time! If you haven’t played Clash Royale before I’d say give it a shot, as someone who grew up playing chess, I really like the strategic thinking involved in games like this where you have to pick which pieces to move and when to move them based on a balancing of abilities.

Have you ever participated in a eSports tournament? If so I’d love to hear about it. As usual, I love to hear from you – my reader, comment and let your voice be heard!

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bitcoin cash

Recently there has been a new controversy over the domain name Bitcoin.org. For those who don’t know much about this domain – it’s kinda a big deal since it has long served as the core website for Bitcoin. Now the current owner is seeing the community turn against him, and it could cost him one of the most valuable domains in the world.

Bitcoin.org, the first bitcoin website ever created, is at the center of a new dispute. Since being established by Satoshi Nakamoto and Martti Malmi, long before the world had ever heard of bitcoin, the site has changed hands and roles a number of times, whilst still serving as a primer on bitcoin core. Now, moves are afoot to dethrone Cobra Bitcoin, one of the site’s pseudonymous owners, amidst claims that his support for bitcoin cash makes his position untenable. (Source – news.bitcoin.com)

The problem that some people have with Cobra is that he has shown support for Bitcoin Cash…and in yes, hardcore Bitcoin fans really don’t like Bitcoin Cash. So why do Bitcoin fans hate Bitcoin Cash so much? In short – they feel like it was riding their coat tails a little too much for everyone’s liking..and there’s a whole Quora thread dedicated it where one Bitcoin fan lays it down:

“I can give you loads of reasons. The reasons I hate them?

  1. Bitcoin cash was a Cash-Grab from the miners. They have loads of bitcoins and decided that they wanted mining to be easier while maximizing profits. They make more money, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.

  2. It was also a cash grab for the people that use Bitcoins… Say for example I have 1000 BTC and the hard-fork happens… Now I have 1000 BTC and 1000 BCC. BCC is $700 a pop so now I made 700,000 dollars without doing anything. I also have my original 1000 BTC.

  3. Why fix something that is working? BTC is getting harder to mine… That was it’s purpose! There are 100’s of good reasons to make BCH and they did it for the right reasons but seriously… MONEY GRAB.”

    (Source – Quora)

In many cases I have to say that I do agree with the Bitcoin community in general. Bitcoin Cash was confusing for the average person, and when Coinbase added Bitcoin Cash a lot of people bought it just because it had the word “Bitcoin” in the name. That being said, it was good for miners and since they’re the ones doing all the work so the crypto market can continue to run I guess that’s really not too bad is it?

All that being said, I don’t think that Cobra has really done anything so offensive that he should suddenly surrender the name. What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!

Special thanks to Braden Pollock who shared this story with me!

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While new gTLDs like .APP, .CLUB, and .XYZ have been in the spotlight for some time now, it’s easy to forget about some of the other new gTLDs that have been in the market for a while…just without much fanfare. One of those is .BIKE, a new gTLD that honestly felt like a bit of a head-scratcher to me, I think there are a lot of new gTLDs that fall into this category, just not generic enough to likely ever see a critical mass of registrations.

Well based on both the registration data and the public sales data it looks like .BIKE has struggled quite a bit. They started 2018 with around 16,500 registrations, and now they’re at just about the same place that they started:

dot-bike-registrations

(Source – nTLDStats.com)

It’s weird, they started the year and seemed to be seeing a nice little uptick in registrations month after month, and, boom – all the gains were wiped out and everything seemed to just about reset. The sale data tells an even less exciting story, with only 7 total reported sales since 2014 totaling less than $15,000.

dot-bike

(Source – NameBio)

Well I’m pretty glad I never invested in .BIKE myself, I guess I wasn’t the only person that didn’t get it. Did you ever buy any .BIKE names? If so are you still holding on to them?

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So I’ve been blogging for almost 11 years and the last eight of it has been on WordPress. For those who have been reading my blog since the early days, you might remember when I used Typepad for the first few years. Switching to WordPress turned out to be a good mood and after spending quite a bit of time researching themes I found Thesis and boom – I was in love.

I think the best way to describe the Thesis theme for WordPress is – it really is the kitchen sink. You can completely customize every aspect of your design in Thesis, it’s a geeky developer-friendly way to build your masterpiece. At the same time…it can be a pain to make small changes in, and there are likely a zillion and one different features/options that you’ll never use.

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for a new theme that still has plenty of bells and whistles to make it customizable, but that offers a lot more simplicity. I’ve also found myself gravitating towards more clean, minimal design vs. the traditional busy blog feel. WooThemes used to be my source for well-designed themes but they’ve become pretty focused on WooCommerce so I find the personal blog themes aren’t as high on their list any more.

rich-tabor-themebeans

So I was excited to find a new theme designer who runs a site called ThemeBeans. How I found out about ThemeBeans is pretty unique. A little bit ago I sold the domain name Rus.io to someone who wanted to use it for a personal site. When I went to see if they had put anything up a few weeks later, I found a really clean-looking WordPress theme. I went to the About page and read all about this guy, Rich Tabor who runs ThemeBeans.

It was a little confusing…I thought the guy’s name was Rus or Russel which is why he bought Rus.io, why would someone name Rich want the site? Still, there it was, sitting in his About page, a bio and his email address. I ended up spending about ten minutes looking at themes on ThemeBeans and I was really impressed, it had that crisp, clean, simple design I had been looking for.

I emailed Rich Tabor and he got back to me and said he isn’t the owner of Rus.io. It turns out the owner bought his theme and kept the default content in there, which in the end made it look like I was visiting Rich’s personal site. It’s one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made because it led me to a selection of really solid WordPress themes that match the aesthetic that I’ve been looking for.

Who knew selling a three character .IO name would lead me to a new source for WordPress themes? Oh and ThemeBeans isn’t a sponsor, although I’m not going to stop them if Rich reads this and wants to! Instead this just a case of random serendipity and a site that I genuinely find to be exactly what I’ve been looking for. Pretty crazy when that happens isn’t it?

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Well whoever owned 6397.com is likely kicking themselves right now, or if they’re reading this article, they are emailing Go Daddy to pay their $10 renewal fee. The domain has already exceeded $24,000 and there are more than five days left in the auction.

This is also a case where Estibot certainly seems to have a better handle on their pricing algorithms than Go Daddy. According to Go Daddy’s algorithms the domain is worth $9,844, Estibot thinks the fair market value is $37,000 which feels a lot closer to what we’ll see this go for.

6397-auction

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t know much about numeric domain names, they’ve never been a focus of mine and I’m honestly pretty shocked at how much attention this domain is seeing. Maybe I’m missing something but I would expect to see an 8 somewhere in this name to justify a price tag like this but hey, maybe the 4N .COM market is hotter than I thought.

I thought I’d do a bit of research to better understand who owned this domain. It has been under privacy protection at Go Daddy for around four years now, before that it was registered at eName by someone in China named Fan Shuini. I looked up other domains owned by Fan and he/she only had three other domains registered under than email address, none that jumped out at me.

Prior to Fan, someone named David Zuo owned the domain and taking a quick look on Whoisology I could see that David had/has a pretty nice portfolio of numeric domains. So it’s a bit puzzling when you dig deeper here. Clearly David knew what he was doing and saw this as a valuable name, possibly one of the more valuable names in his portfolio. He then sold it (or maybe donated it) to someone who seemingly knew very little about the value of the name.

Then, mysteriously, the name was transferred from eName to Go Daddy and immediately went under privacy protection. Is it just me or does it feel like this domain has some interesting history that has yet to be unraveled? I’m no detective…but if I was, I’d like to dig into this one a bit deeper.

What do you think? How did a valuable name like this end up expiring? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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