1) How did you get involved in domaining ?
I co-founded an employment website for the Greater China region in 2006. That company didn’t make it and was shut down four years later.
The domain, which was administered by a web development company, was neglected and ultimately expired from Network Solutions around 3.5 years ago. I wanted to relaunch the site so I did some research to find out how to gain ownership of the domain again once it would drop.
This led me to NameJet where all the expired inventory from NetSol is being auctioned. At NameJet I learned about the domain name aftermarket, drops and auctions. That month I won the auction for the NewChinaCareer.com domain name but also started bidding on several others that caught my eye. I was hooked right away.
2) What were you doing before you started in the industry ?
I mainly worked for internet startups related to the recruitment industry. First in the Netherlands for a site which grew into the country’s largest employment website and since 2006 in Hong Kong where I first ran my own employment website (NewChinaCareer.com), followed by a job with an executive search firm where I headhunted senior staff for media companies.
Most recently I’ve been responsible for global business development at Recruit.net which is one of Asia’s leading job-search engines powering more than 2 million job searches per day.
3) How did Efty come about ?
When I was investing in domain names for about a year I noticed that it was getting more and more difficult to stay organized, track renewals, expenses and calculate my P&L.
At the same time, I also started looking for a platform to help me better showcase and sell my names by use of good looking For-Sale landing pages rather them populating them with pay-per-click ads that hardly made me any money.
I also felt it was insane to pay commissions on sales when they happened through direct navigation (when a buyer types in your domain name directly in their browser). When I found there was no solution on the market to help you manage, track AND sell your domains without paying commissions I knew there was an opportunity and the idea for Efty was born.
I reached out to long-time friend Lionel Petitiaux and we started working on Efty in November 2013. Six months later we rolled out our beta and about one year ago we announced paid plans.
4) How are things going with Efty ?
Like a rocket. We’ve had thousands of domain name investors sign up for the service since we launched our beta and we currently see 1 out of 3 new users that signs up for a free trial subscribe to one of our affordable plans.
We constantly keep improving and adding new features based on user feedback such as Google Analytics integration and your own custom marketplace and we have a ton of cool stuff in the pipeline for the coming months.
5) What kind of domains do you invest in ?
Brandables! I love to buy domains with the end-user in mind and envision how a start-up, product or service can be built and branded around a name.
During the first couple of years I invested a lot in invented names (or made-up pronounceables as you like to call them) but the last year or so I have shifted my focus almost exclusively to keyword brandables.
Some of my favourite names in my portfolio (which can be found at www.namerockstar.com) include MovingUp.com, StarTalent.com and BadMonkey.com. I also own a large number of domains related to the recruitment and staffing industries and speculated a bit on the Chinese market last year by buying and selling 4L, 5N and 6N.
6) You detail your sales and display a level of transparency that most don’t. Do you find that helps you build your brand at DNGeek.com ?
I do. When Lionel first came to Hong Kong to work with me on Efty he brought me a copy of Rework by Basecamp founder Jason Fried as a gift. This book has had a great influence on how I approach work and run my companies.
In his book, Jason writes “All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have audiences”.
Jason Fried and other entrepreneurs such as Joel Gascoigne (CEO @ Buffer) both managed to build a large following, grow their audience and promote their companies by sharing their journey and being very transparent with their readers/customers.
7) You have had some success with BrandBucket but recently decided to sell the majority in one lot on Namepros. Why?
The names I sold on NamePros were mostly invented names that I bought when I started out in domaining. I felt like I had to add a few keyword domains in the mix to make the auction more attractive and it happened that one of those keyword names sold during the auction.
I have another 40 names listed with BrandBucket, mostly two-keyword ones and some stronger invented names that I will keep in my portfolio but not list with BrandBucket anymore.
I sold 17 names on BrandBucket on a portfolio of ~ 120 names over the course of 3+ years so I think it’s fair to say I’ve had success selling on their platform. I believe however that the reason for my success has more to do with the quality of my domain names than with the marketplace itself.
What I have learned over the years is that when you have great domains they will often attract offers on their own through direct navigation. I do however believe there’s lots of added value in presenting a (brandable) domain with a great For-Sale landing page and a short pitch + logo to help potential buyers envision their future brand.
BrandBucket deserves a lot of credit as they have pioneered this business model but I don’t think a 30% commission is justified, especially not when a name sells via direct navigation.
It’s a very personal decision and has a lot to do with my portfolio holding higher value domains these days and the fact that I like to negotiate directly with buyers on a Make Offer basis to maximize the deal size.
Not everyone has the time or skills to do that however and if you’ve paid close to the registration fee for your domains you might be more than happy paying a 30% commission on a $2,500 sale.
I know BrandBucket works with many successful sellers that are comfortable with the marketplace terms and I will continue to follow the company and its leadership team with great interest and a healthy dose of respect.
8) Do you see more brandable domainers starting their own marketplaces ?
Absolutely. And not just brandable domainers. At Efty alone we now power hundreds of marketplaces within just two months after making the feature available to our users.
9) Do you spend any time or money on new gtld domains ?
Not really. I own exactly 44 of them which means they take up less than 5% of my portfolio. I do keep an eye on them and track their adoption among startup companies closely via my weekly ‘Newly funded startups and their domains” series on DNgeek.com.
My take on the new gtlds is that if any of the new extensions starts to take off by showing solid end-user adoption and aftermarket sales I can jump in right at that point just like I did 3.5 years ago when I started buying .com domains.
So far none of the new gtlds has shown decent end-user adoption yet and I’m afraid the majority of investors with large portfolios of them will lose money on their investment because of the often high renewal costs. You CAN get in too early but it’s never too late to get in IMO.
10) Where do you see the Chinese market heading ?
I think the Chinese market will slowly become more mature as Chinese investors become better educated and realize the domain name aftermarket is driven by end-user sales instead of speculation and trade among other investors.
A correction was well needed after the frenzy we saw in 2015 when prices skyrocketed due to the huge influx of newbie investors in China and fueled by more experienced investors in the west who were trying to ride the wave.
I predict we will see millions of low-quality domains drop within the next 5 to 6 months (especially in new gtlds and funky extensions such as .ws and .cc) but China will remain to play a huge and important role within our industry for the years to come.
Thank you for your time Doron