When doing business in an industry like domaining you may run into conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts of interest more often than other industries. For the most part the companies you do business with all started out small and may still be in direct competition with their customers. I am not in competition with Comcast or in with AT & T. I am in competition with certain divisions of registrars and registries and marketplaces.
BrandBucket has risen to the top spot of the brandable boutiques, hell they were the first and their two biggest competitors were once sellers on their platform.
Some people love BrandBucket others loathe them. I have always been in the middle with the terms and conditions. I have always had good conversations with Margot Bushnaq and Michael Krell and my interactions with them have been professional and pleasant.
Michael is the most prolific seller on the website and every time one of his successes comes to light it seems others believe there is an unfair advantage.
I interviewed Michael a little while back and asked him about special treatment.
5) Some think that you get special perks for your own names on BrandBucket, can you put those rumors to bed ?
MK) I would love to! When I first joined BrandBucket as a seller, I was fortunate enough to have a very high sales rate which was a major reason Margot reached out to me to become a Brand Ambassador and which ultimately led to my current position as Managing Director. As my personal portfolio has increased my sales rate has stayed fairly constant.
None of my names receive any special treatment in any search results or category listings.
My names are also not disproportionately suggested to potential buyers if they contact us directly about helping them choose a name. I am completely separated from the sales team and the sales process. My names are treated exactly the same as every other name on the marketplace.
In a recent post that highlighted Michael’s recent sale of Fondly.com, Joseph Peterson replied to a well wisher with this comment:
You mean: Damn, this guy gets a salary, disproportionate listing privileges, and a big marketing budget supplied by other domainers!
When another commenter called Peterson out, he replied,
What accusations? This is self-evident, as far as I can see. I think even Michael Krell would concede that
(1) He’s paid by BrandBucket, since he’s the Managing Director;
(2) He gets his own inventory listed on BrandBucket without the same hurdles faced by customers (i.e. submission, rejection, and listing fees);
(3) He owns a very large share of domains listed at BrandBucket;
(4) He contributes commissions and listing fees that are (in percentage terms) lower than the percentage of BrandBucket domains he owns. That means his inventory benefits from BrandBucket marketing to a disproportionate extent;
(5) He’s ultimately in charge of BrandBucket marketing campaigns, which spend money provided by other domainers;
(6) He is more likely to interact with BrandBucket buyer customers personally than BrandBucket sellers (who don’t get emails and phone calls);
(7) He will naturally think of his own names first because he remembers them, which naturally causes him to recommend his own names to buyers who approach him via BrandBucket.
Is any of this disputed? If I’m wrong on any of these points, I’ll cheerfully admit it.
How BrandBucket prioritizes the inventory showcased on its website isn’t something I can talk about with any certainty. Maybe it’s entirely owner-agnostic and doesn’t favor Krell’s domains at all. In that case, he’s a saint. Most people would prefer a system that features their own names. And Michael Krell would be able to influence BrandBucket’s algorithm in subtle ways to bias it toward his own domains if he chose to do so. Does he? I have no idea. Quite possibly not.
But the other points seem non-controversial. And they do give Michael Krell an advantage. Does that mean he’s “evil”? No. Of course not! But I don’t think domainers ought to be quite so easily impressed by people in an advantaged position that other domainers cannot replicate.
Fondly.com is a good name. Many of Krell’s names are good. But they wouldn’t sell with the same velocity if he weren’t BrandBucket’s managing director. That seems quite obvious.
This kind of conversation plays out on Namepros as well, where Krell has stated before that he gets no special privileges.
I think it’s time that BrandBucket comes out and makes some kind of statement to either back Krell up or they should have an understanding that the silence is hurting their brand with sellers.
The distrust in the marketplace is causing more and more listings put up on Namepros at wholesale, (those prices are down there as well) as some members believe they are at a minimum in a disadvantaged position, while others have abandoned all hope of making a sale.
Michael has always seemed like a straight up guy to me in the conversations I have had with him. I have asked in private about special perks and the answer was the same as the interview. To be fair I have never met him and have no info on whether he does or doesn’t get special benefits.
Disclosure on my part, I have 26 names listed on BrandBucket that was a portfolio purchase on Namepros at a wholesale pricing level. I have sold a few brandable names to Michael Krell at wholesale for a sum less than $150. BrandBucket has never advertised on any blog I own or manage advertising.