In 2015, China was put in the spotlight when a Chinese investor introduced the idea of bulk trading — buying or selling hundreds or thousands of domain names in a lot. This triggered the China boom which lasted for a few months. Today I want to talk about another innovative idea in domaining that I have not come across in the west yet: (domain) investor cafe.
In January this year, veteran domain investor Yue DAI opened a themed cafe called Investor Cafe (投资家咖啡). It’s located on the Entrepreneurial Avenue of the Zhongguancun district in Beijing, which is China’s version of Silicon Valley.
The idea of a themed cafe on the Entrepreneurial Avenue is not new. In 2011, Garage Cafe (chekucafe.com) opened as the first entrepreneurship-themed cafe in the world to assist aspiring entrepreneurs who have ideas but not much money. You can walk into the cafe, pay for a cup of coffee, and then use its office facilities for the rest of the day. You can also obtain advice on financing, legal, and management issues. There is also a community to share knowledge and skills. Basically, the cafe serves as an incubator for startups.
For Dai, he wants to have a place which caters specially to domain investors, angel investors, as well as entrepreneurs. Dai himself is a veteran domain investor. He started domain investment in 2004, and still owns 300 to 500 premium names (such as HN.com), 10,000 to 20,000 long numbers, and 5,000 .vc domain names.
The cafe provides two services: (1) As an offline meeting place. With the amount involved in a domain transaction growing larger and larger (6 figures in USD or even more), a physical place where buyers and sellers can meet will facilitate such trades. (2) As a place for companies having acquired a domain name for branding, to do press release, which is still best done offline. Dai plans to expand the cafe to 5 to 8 cities during this year. He also wants to add trademark, Weixin public numbers, and angel fund to the services.
The cafe operates on the domain name China.vc, which is appropriate semantically. The website provides certain functions not available offline: auction, lending, and resources for entrepreneurs. Dai is very positive on .vc and thinks it has a clear identity and great future.
Finally, let Dai’s personal experience remind us that tough times never last. After a steady growth between 2005 and 2010, the following few years entered a bear market when well-known internet entrepreneurs such as Huateng MA considered domain names no longer useful or important. Dai sold off all his .cc domain names in 2014, only to find them spike in price by 5 times twelve months later.