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Braden Pollock is a well-known domainer and serial entrepreneur who owns several companies, both online and off. Among his businesses is Legal Brand Marketing, LLC, (LegalBrandMarketing.com) which focuses primarily on lead generation for lawyers. Braden also owns ScienceFiction.com and several franchises of Smart Start, an ignition interlock provider with service locations throughout the US (IgnitionInterlock.com, SmartStartofCalifornia.com, etc). He has an equity interest in several other businesses including The Grooming Network (StraightRazors.com, etc),FashionMetric.com and Epik.com. His domain portfolio includes thousands of names with a current focus on premium one-word .com names. Braden’s newest venture is a data-driven ad network that will apply predictive behavioral analytics to lead generation to better monetize domains, developed sites, search and social. He also serves on the Board of the non-profit, Benevolent.net. He is a frequent moderator and speaker at domain conferences domestically and internationally.
We originally interviewed Braden in September 2012 on RobbiesBlog.com – You can read this interview here.
1)What are your current thoughts on the Domain Aftermarket? i.e. Sales and
Enquiries etc – General Mood of Domainers / End users?
With my premium portfolio, I receive many inquiries every day. The problem is that 99.9% are a waste of time. But every so often I receive serious offers – I suppose, not unlike every other domainer. Needless to say, I receive enough serious offers to make domaining a worthwhile endeavour. I think that some domainers are concerned about FOMO (fear of missing out) so they’re selling their high-value names on the wholesale market and buying nTLD’s. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this strategy but it does show some lack of patience on the sellers part. I’ve purchased many premium names from other investors and resold them to end users for multiples of what I paid in a matter of months. I’ve picked up some nTLD’s as well but I probably own only about 400-500 total in nTLD names.
Chinese inquiries have increased several fold over the last year – as have their offers. End-user inquiries continually increase but they still don’t understand the values yet.
Over the last few years I’ve shifted my focus on quality over quantity. I buy much fewer legal names and instead concentrate on generic one-word .coms. Between sales and drops, I’ve whittled my portfolio down to about 5000 names as opposed to the 13,000 I had a few years ago.
2) You recently sold the following domain names Returns.com, CoWorker.com & FareApp.com, Can you tell us more about why / when you purchased these domain names and how you got to the price points that they sold for recently?
I owned Returns.com for about 2 years and sold it for a 7x multiple. I was asking a higher price but I wasn’t receiving many inquiries so I decided to lower the price since I had a serious buyer (who had previously rejected my 6-figure price). I was planning on asking $50k for CoWorker.com but I couldn’t resist doubling my money on an offer that came in the day after I bought it. FareApp.com, while not a large sale, was certainly a great ROI. I owned it for just 4 months and received 100x my purchase price. Not bad!
3) Where do you see gTLDs in 3 years’ time? In 2012 you stated the following “This is anyone’s guess. There are many gTLDs now and the general public still focuses on .com. The .com will always reign supreme but I believe all the new extensions will have a value impact on the existing extensions.” Would you still agree with your answer or do you feel differently now?
I still agree with what I said 3 years ago. The new TLD’s are impacting long-tail .com values, particularly when the extension matches a keyword in the domain. E.g. LosAngelesDivorceAttorney.com vs LosAngelesDivorce.Attorney. The end-users, for the most part, still want the .com as their first choice. They may opt for a new TLD depending on two primary factors: availability and budget. Why spend thousands of dollars on the .com when the same keywords are available for registration pricing? That said, I think that budget is what often drives the decision.
4) What is your favourite domain personally or company owned?
Despite inquiry volume and value, some of my favorites are: Thirsty.com, Pleasure.com, Playback.com, Narrate.com, Describe.com, Vaccinate.com, Leash.com, Crawl.com, Configure.com, Extravagant.com, Left.com, Thick.com, Stamina.com and Pineapple.com. I had to look at my portfolio… There are lots of names I particularly like but not enough to refuse a fair offer.
5) If you were starting out in the domain space today what are your 3 top
tips? Would you still stick with Dot Com or venture into Dot Gtld?
Stop buying names. Read the blogs and DNJournal.com. Understand what kinds of names are selling and for what values. Choose a niche and study it. Once you understand where the opportunities are, buy a few names that you think will provide an ROI and then sell them. Do this before you get too deep building a portfolio of names you can’t move.
There’s definitely opportunity in the gTLD space. The trick is to find a string you understand e.g. .horse, .photography, etc. In my case, I’m buying primarily legal extensions such as .lawyer and .attorney since I have access to end-users. This will give you a leg-up on the registries that miss opportunities because they don’t fully understand the industry for which their TLD relates. Otherwise, if you feel the generics are a good value (.link, .guru, .club, .xyz, etc) choose domain keywords that you understand. By doing this you can more easily find good names and then the buyers that would be willing to give you their hard-earned dollars.
6) What’s the next big thing that your companies are working on? In 2012 you had stated that “We’ve been working on an entirely new Leadgen platform. The platform will allow anyone to place our widget on their site, parked page, blog, etc and dynamically generate an appropriate lead form or other ad unit. We anticipate this being a game-changer.” Has this ever come into fruition and if yes has it been working well? If no was there a particular reason why it didn’t take off?
Unfortunately, the coding has taken longer than I had anticipated. The upside is that we’ve found technology that is far superior than what we were initially using which gives much faster loading times. We’ve got a great team building the platform which we expect to be ready at some point before I die of old age….
7) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I’ve been investing in and acquiring more businesses over the last few years. I would expect to have a couple large liquidity events and then maintain a much smaller staff. I suspect in 10 years I would simply be an investor and spend much less time at the office.
8) What has been your biggest challenge in the domain business? Is it still outbound sales that you found difficult, could you not offer them out exclusively to a broker such as eNaming.com or DomainHoldings.com to work on this side of the business for you?
The biggest challenge is finding good inventory at the right prices. I find that I’m bidding against the same handful of investors every time a good name comes on the market. Most of us are friends but we don’t work together – so the premium names continually get bid up to higher and higher sale prices.
I do zero outbound sales on my premiums. We do however run some campaigns with our legal portfolio. I’m not a motivated seller so I basically just wait until the buyer reaches out to us.
A massive thank you to Braden on taking the time to complete this interview for RobbiesBlog.com – We greatly appreciate it and look forward to bringing you some more interviews in the coming weeks.