I was reading the Financial Times online and seen an article about the company named Wine Buyers using the domain name WineBuyers.com, it was founded by Ben Revell who earlier this year sold a 10% stake in his company for £1.2 Million GBP, valuing the business at £12 Million GBP or $1.5 Million US Dollars / $15.5 Million US Dollars.
What was interesting when reading the story which I have shared below, Ben revealed that he paid £4,000 GBP or $5,179 USD to acquire the domain name, I naturally wanted to know who owned the domain name before him and I can see the domain name was sold by NameFind.com a subsidiary of GoDaddy.com, they acquired the domain name as part of the portfolio acquisition from Marchex and I can see the domain name was registered way back in 2002, I can’t say a 100% but there is a probability that this could have been an ULT Search / Yun Ye domain name that Marchex acquired.
So did the buyer get a good deal at £4K – I would say yes, but ultimately NameFind needs to turn the domain name portfolio that they have so this price point around $5K USD does seem to continue to be a sweet spot for End Users to acquire domain names even if it means selling your clothes on eBay to acquire it.
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Ben Revell, 31, launched Winebuyers.com in May 2018, combining his passions for wine and technology in a business that connects wine producers and specialist merchants directly to the end consumer. Winebuyers does not charge commission — the wine costs the same as if customers bought directly from the source — but the makers pay the company a monthly fee to list their wines. Based in Soho, London, the company has 41 employees, and 13 of these positions were created since the start of lockdown. From March to June this year Mr Revell saw turnover increase by 800 per cent. The platform lists 100,000 wines from 45 countries. In early August Mr Revell sold 10 per cent of the company to a private investor for £1.2m, reinvesting the money in the business.
Did you think you would get to where you are?
I had no idea I would end up in an ecommerce business, but I knew I would do something creative, possibly involving technology, as I used to like taking computers apart. My mother’s side of the family is very musical and most of them can pick up any instrument and play it, and I have inherited that ability. All my childhood I wanted to be a composer, particularly for film soundtracks. I found the music syllabus at Royal Holloway was too methodical and scientific. I had no freedom to create. I didn’t particularly like playing by the rules, so I switched my degree course to media arts.
When you made your first £1m did you want to slow down?
This summer 2020 marks our first £1m profit. I have aimed to scale up rather than focus on increasing profitability. Our turnover has gone up 49 per cent month on month since 2018, leading to our current milestone, which is just the beginning for me. I cannot slow down. I believe we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. The business mainly comes down to customer retention. We have 528,000 customers and just over 570 suppliers.
Has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
It affected us massively from day one. We were growing quickly before the virus took hold, but since March sales have soared. For the month of May 2019 turnover was £56,000, against over £900,000 this April. The day after Boris Johnson announced the lockdown we had record sales, and have gone on to beat that every day since. Thousands fewer people were going into wine shops and supermarkets. The industry was moving towards online anyway, but the pandemic fast-tracked this trend. People were buying in much larger quantities. Before the lockdown many people would buy one, two or three bottles. They were just browsing, with no sense of urgency. Usually a customer makes between seven to nine touch points before an actual purchase. Now many people make an immediate purchase, often 12 bottles at a time. Our average order value went up 38 per cent from £98 to £136.
Did you need to diversify in order to survive? No, because of people’s constant need for hygiene products. We have found that sales of vodka have gone up 180 per cent. One vodka is particularly high proof, 79.9 per cent alcohol — that sold out within 10 minutes of going live on the platform, which we can only assume people are using as hand sanitiser. From selling two bottles a year we went to 50 bottles in a matter of minutes. We have had hundreds of orders for grain neutral spirit in bottles from one litre to 10 litres. These are not drinkable. This is essentially raw alcohol, typically 85 per cent, which we believe people are also using as hand sanitiser.
What did you have to sacrifice to start the business? I had to sacrifice absolutely everything, except my friends. I liquidated all the stock [of wine] I had in Prestigious Wine, my previous online business, and that raised £300,000. I sold my sports car, a Lotus Elite that I had wanted for a long time, for £15,000. I sold most of my clothes on eBay to buy the domain name, Winebuyers.com, for £4,000. I sold leather jackets, shoes, jeans, everything. I moved back in with my parents in Harlow, which at the age of 28 was not ideal. I even sold my laptop. For the first 18 months I was alone, working with just a phone, out of coffee shops. That was tough. Everything I have is invested in the company. I don’t own a property.
What is the secret of your success?
Resilience and determination are the two standalone words over everything else. There is no secret formula. Just be prepared to work harder and longer than anyone else. We are always looking to invest in people and acquire good talent.
Do you believe in leaving everything to your family?
I believe in leaving one’s wealth to people who truly need money and people that mean a lot to me and who have helped me. In my case that is my family. I plan to write a will in the near future. What do you consider as an indulgence? Sometimes I buy musical instruments on impulse. I own a few antique violins and I have just bought a new electric blue saxophone for £700. Five years ago I went into a music shop to buy some guitar strings and came out with a £3,500 baby grand piano. The instrument is part electric and white. I installed it in my office because my flat is too small, and I have actually had a few business meetings around the piano.
What is your basic business philosophy?
I would like to think that we are helping customers and producers. The customer is buying direct from the source, cutting out middlemen and our suppliers are dealing with the actual people who are buying the wine. We charge our suppliers a small monthly fee to list their products and advertise. We have flipped the subscription model on its head. I suppose you could say I have disrupted the industry. I never understood the opposite rationale of customers paying a monthly subscription. It can be a costly, uphill battle for small wine producers to get any promotion online. We have given such suppliers a new voice, in particular those from the UK, Croatia, Spain, France and Portugal.
Are you planning for a possible recession this autumn?
I think we would be unwise not to prepare for it, but by design our model is somewhat recession and Brexit proof. After the fluctuation in foreign exchange rates in October last year we had more customers from Denmark and Germany, markets that we had not actively sought before. The British were buying more wines from Spain than France because they were cheaper.
What was your best preparation for business?
It would be Prestigious Wine. In 2012 I was at an auction, and ended up buying 12 bottles of 1959 Château Margaux for £3,000. With fees I paid £3,200, but the auction estimate was £7,200. I sold the case a few days later for more than £7,000, and I felt myself drawn to this different world. I realised that there was a whole untapped market out there. A lot of bottles are all over the place, not necessarily at specialist wine auctions, just hidden gems. I saw wine as a tangible asset that I could buy and sell. I began to research the subject, looking for value that others have missed. Six months on, I had amassed 500 bottles of predominantly French wine from auctions and I was still buying more. I needed to start selling them, but there was no viable route. You could not sell on Amazon because their fees were so high, and it was illegal to sell alcohol on eBay. I had to use a very crude UK website. I turned my initial £3,000 capital into £300,000 worth of stock, just by buying and selling First Growth wines over the next three years. I made 10 to 40 per cent profit each time. It then occurred to me: why not connect the buyers with the people making the wine?
Do you want to carry on till you drop?
For me, Winebuyers is not a lifestyle but definitely a business that I am very passionate about. I am resolute in making the best product possible. I prefer not to look more than 10 years ahead, but I know I will still be in the business. Have you made any pension provision? I don’t personally have a proper salary or pension, but we have a company pension for our staff. I live and breathe the business, up to 18 hours a day, so my needs are modest. I pay myself just enough for food and bills, and our flat is tiny.
Picasso or Art Deco as an investment?
I plan to invest in more physical assets, such as watches. I believe there are few things on the planet that have such high-end residual value as watches, diamonds and fine wine. I would focus on acquiring limited production pieces of high quality.
Do you believe in giving something back to the community?
We have made a point of taking on teenage apprentices who have faced their own personal challenges. We wanted to give them opportunities that they might not have had anywhere else. There are three apprentices in web development, one in marketing, three in sales, one in the accounts department and two in customer services. The three people who have completed their apprenticeships now have jobs with us.