After writing a post yesterday about a new development case study I will be sharing with my readers I got some confusing comments which made me realize that not all of my readers are clear on where my focus is now or how I built my company, Linton Investments, and what it has become today. It also made me realize something I’ve known for quite a while as a blogger and is important for all bloggers to realize, all of your readers don’t read all of your posts. This should be no surprise and I think you have to be insanely egotistical to expect people to read everything you write, everyone else has lives and I am incredibly appreciative of anyone who reads my blog whether they read it every day, once a week, or once a month.
Four days ago I wrote a post called Full Time Startup Life about how my focus has changed and where it is now.
To summarize in three sentences – I built my Domaining business as a business which means that as it grew I hired more people and was able to pull myself further and further away from day-to-day operation of the company. Now I have stepped away from the day-to-day operations completely to run Fashion Metric, a tech startup my wife founded in Los Angeles. Linton Investments still develops domains (not for other people but for ourselves), still sells domains, and is still growing at a clip of over 2x profit y/y, I have now quit my day job at Sonos and am working full time on Fashion Metric as our COO but still drive the strategic direction at Linton Investments and am still responsible for the hiring and firing (less fun than hiring) and the domain acquisitions that we make.
After seeing some of the comments on my post yesterday I realized if you missed this post, you may have misunderstood my post yesterday. So I thought I’d cover in detail how I went from creating a job for myself to building a business and how my focus has changed as I am now the founder of an LA-based tech startup. To make this more digestible I’ve decided to summarize this in bullet-points rather than my usual epically-long narrative form, although it is still long hopefully this makes it a bit easier to read!
- I started Linton Investments in 2007 after I came-into some money (actually more money than I had ever had at one time in my bank account) and wanted to invest it in something other than stocks, mutual funds, or real estate. I discovered Domaining and thought it looked like an interesting way to invest my money and make a few hundred dollars a month on the side. At this time I was working 10+ hour days at Sonos where I had worked since college.
- Incredibly recklessly I put my entire nest egg into domain names only to find that much of what I bought was pigeon droppings. It was terrifying, I thought I had literally gambled away my life savings. I tried parking the names and ended-up with about ten cents a month, I tried listing the names for sale everywhere I could only to find that nobody wanted to buy them.
- It was crushing but for those who know me you know I’m a very stubborn person. So I started putting websites on some of my domains. I know HTML and CSS and am an okay writer (although a bit colloquial at times but hey, my background is Engineering and Computer Science, not Journalism!) and used my own time and knowledge to build these sites.
- One of the sites I built made over $3,000 it’s first month, this was a site that took me less than a day to build, I was officially hooked. This site alone paid for all the crappy domains I had bought in its first six months and I re-invested the money into my business. I kept building sites and sold six of them to an investor in Asia my first year which turned my little Domaining hobby into something real.
- Remember though, I’m working for Sonos with a very demanding job setting up our international business in Asia, Australia, Latin American and Canada. As the business was growing, I was running out of time at night and during the weekend and soon realized I had to give away some of the money Linton Investments was generating to pay other people to do the work.
- As the business continued to make more money, I continued to hire more people (all contractors as I didn’t have an office then and still don’t now, I’m not much of an office person since I love working from home). As I added more people I did less day-to-day work in the business, however this also meant more work could be done since more people were working and revenue and profit continued to grow.
- Two years ago the unimaginable happened and my Domaining income exceeded what I was making at my day job. My friends and family said, “cool – quit your job!” But my problem was I loved what I was doing and actually had never had any dreams of being a full time Domainer, also I had build my company as a business so the more money we made, the more people we hired and the less I did on a daily basis. My dream was to run a tech startup and I wasn’t going to leave the day job until this was a reality.
- I started attending every startup event I could and networking with as many people as I could. After an event in New York I founded a startup called Employeo to create a platform for companies to qualify and hire software developers. We were all working on the startup during nights and weekends and that is where I learned a very valuable lesson, you can’t build a startup part time, it has to be a full time thing. I also learned that building a startup was incredibly hard and incredibly different from Domaining.
- Then in July of this year, Daina (my wife) attended Lean Startup Machine, a weekend event focused on the Lean Startup Process and ended up getting first place for a fashion tech idea she had. I loved the idea and we already knew we loved working together so I told the team at Employeo that I would have to leave and joined Fashion Metric following week.
- For those who don’t know my wife I’ll give you a quick intro – Daina’s background is Engineering and after graduating at the top of her class at a University in Canada she went on to do research at Harvard and MIT doing things that to this day I still don’t understand completely, suffice it to say she is incredibly bright and I learn from her every single day. She started her PhD at UCLA and recently left it to run Fashion Metric as our CEO and fearless leader.
- We went on to attend a national hackathon called AngelHack in Silicon Valley the following week and ended-up making it into the finals. From here we able to get the company funded (investor and amount confidential at this point but that could change in the future) and quit our day jobs (or PhD in Daina’s case!) and began working on Fashion Metric full time starting October 1st. Now all day, every day is dedicated to Fashion Metric and we’re loving every minute of it, it’s not easy but we’re doing something big in a big market (the clothing market is a 48 billion dollar space) and only 7% of clothing sales happen online, we’re going to change that.
- Linton Investments is continuing to hire and I mentioned the positions that are currently open in my Weekend Musings post last weekend.
- I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of Linton Investments anymore but do still deal with hiring people, firing people, and deciding how we invest the profits the company makes which is split between paying staff, buying domains, paying for me and Daina’s rent, groceries, car, nightlife, vacations, and continuing to build-up our savings. We still buy over $10,000 in domains a month in a typical month and I still love picking the investments me make.
- The company still builds out domains, still manages the web properties we own and operate, and still sells domains from our portfolio to end-users. I don’t do any of this but I do pick which domains the team develops, which they sell, and which we hang-onto. In all I think I spent about five hours a week on the business and about five hours a week writing this blog which I love every minute of.
So when you see a post like I wrote yesterday about one of our latest development projects understand that this is one of many that are going on but that this is not some new project that I myself am taking on. I don’t do anything besides deciding who works on the project and how much money the company will be investing in the development. Right now the team is working-away on the site while I’ll be spending all day working on Fashion Metric, that is where my focus is now. When I saw a comment on my post yesterday like this:
Do you have time for another project? I thought FashonMetric.com was 100% of your focus right now? Will splitting your time end up in a net positive?
I realized that not all of my readers had followed along with how I built my business and how I spend my time. Linton Investments will take on more development projects and sell more domains. Like any business I keep a monthly forecast and every month look to make sure that we are still on track, otherwise I get out of the way and let the team do what I’m paying them to do so I can do what I love to do which is build a fashion tech startup with my wife and James, our CTO. This is the difference between building a business and being self-employed. If you are self-employed then every project you take on requires more and more of your time. If you build a business than every project takes more of your money, but hopefully in building your business you’ve learned how to invest your money so that you make a profit, if not then you’re not really running a business.
I look forward to sharing the development projects my company works on as well as some of the domains that we sell and can make public. As my domain sales business has grown I’ve also learned that many buyers aren’t too keen on a blogger publishing how much they paid for a domain, no surprises there right? To quantify it a bit though, this year we have been involved in over $2.5 million in domain sales between our own sales and domains that we have acquired for other companies (I’m not a broker but we do help startups and venture-funded companies acquire domains). Linton Investments still makes good money developing and monetizing domains but for the first time in the history of our company we now make over 50% of our income selling domains.
And there you have it, for those who have made it this far you now know the full story and the incredibly journey I have been on for the last five years. If you saw me at TRAFFIC this year you saw that I bought a ton of domains, I believe in this industry more than ever and continue to invest in it rather than in the stock market or real estate. It wasn’t easy building the business and my friends know from weekend after weekend of my turning them down on offers to go get drinks or go to a movie that I sacrificed just about all of my free time to do it. I am fairly certain that if I had a wife and kids at that point there was no way I could have done what I did, but I was in my 20’s (yes now I’m over the hill at 31) and had a lot of time on the nights and weekends to do it, albeit while sacrificing leisure time but since I loved what I did, it was worth it.
As for this blog, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I plan on writing this blog well into my hundreds. Since over 50% of my readers are Domain Investors I am going to continue to keep that the focus, however since my daily focus is on running a tech startup you can expect to find content about this in here as well. I still get great emails from my readers and respond to every single one of them, I love giving advice to new Domainers and helping them avoid some of the very costly mistakes I made when starting my business. While I might not respond to your email the day you send it I typically respond within a week and don’t limit anyone to the number of emails they can send me so send away!
Thanks for reading and following my adventures, it’s been a wild ride the last five years and something tells me the next five is going to be even crazier! Stay-tuned, there’s a lot more to come.