|Imagine the domain headline 52 years from today?|
“The real thrill comes from the chase rather than the reward at the end." ~~ Monte Cahn
2015 was a banner year for Domain Names. More money is coming into the industry then ever before. You need only look at the success of NamesCon where 1000 attendees and hundreds of vendors will converge on Las Vegas next month where history will be made again by the man who brought the first auction to a domain conference decades before, Monte Cahn. He and his Right-of-the-Dot co-founder Mike Berkens expect to break more records with over $25 million in auction sales. Looking at the inventory, it’s easy to see that the foundation of their success is “they know how to pick them.” To all of those who know how to pick them, in 2016, the world is going to be your oyster.
It's because 2015 brought the simplicity of Apple to domain registration and management via Uniregistry. And the launch of hundreds new extensions, some of which already have had massive appeal and success.
It was the year when Domain King and mentor, Rick Schwartz, realized his 20-year plan, recently selling $12 million worth of just a half dozen domains he acquired for $700, 18 years ago, would prove his point. A seventh Schwartz sale, Porno.com at $8,888,888.88, was the 4th largest recorded cash domain sale ever! (Purchased for $42,000 in 1997). It is important to note that this ONE domain alone had career earnings in excess of $15 Million via pay per click earnings and never had adult content.
2015 was also a year when Go Daddy brought back the bygone dream days of portfolio acquisition with the massive Marchex deal, and recently, the Worldwide Media acquisition. Both bring the kind of market correction to the domain industry that the stock and real estate asset class has always known— where assets get re-priced to sell, all made possible because the gains to the former owner over decades of dividends (like Schwartz's career earnings own just one domain mentioned above)— and the allure of freeing them to move on to new life chapters. It means that more is left on the table for the next owners to open possibilities that hadn’t existed before.
As Rick Schwartz predicted there is a lot of merger, acquisition and industry consolidation. There are now a lot of domain brokers who, like Sotheby’s-level Realtors, have really become expert at what they do. Then there is the unexpected turn of the Chinese market for CHiPS, a movement that even Rick Schwartz didn’t see coming.
But the Chinese are not the only outside investors coming in. From Denmark to Japan— to Chile to the UK to Germany— successful global businesses realize that in order to own the world they need to own the dotCOM extension of their mark. A lion’s share of the sales I’ve reported this year on these posts (thread back), can be attributed to this. Some of these sales include FindJapan.com to Find-Japan.co.jp ($18K), TheParisGallery.com to MobileShop.ae; FullertonHotels.com to The Fullerton Hotel Singapore; IceSculptures.com to SculptureFestival.be ($22K); SandSculptures.com to SculptureFestival.be ($19K); CapitolCards.com to Catella Bank S.A; MegaMaster.com to MegaGroup.co.za ($18K) and VisitCayman.Com to Caymanislands.Ky. All of these increasing sales cited above demand escrow agents across geographies and currencies, a boom to Escrow.com (more about that later).
The unstoppable force driving all of this? End-users have finally embraced the necessity and power of a strong domain brand as a matter of flourish or perish. Tech Crunch wrote years before the market caught up, "Domain names are important, and some might even say that a premium, memorable domain name is priceless. It’s become increasingly difficult to argue against businesses scooping up those short, relevant, easy-to-remember domain names when they’re available. Doing so can give your business, customers, and search engines a simple and quick way to find your business. "
With domains sought both by end users and commodity investors, the industry has grown by leaps and bounds and is poised to take off as never before. As goes the domain industry, first-mover and most-trusted industry partner, Escrow.com goes even further. Because doing all this increased business increases the need to make transactions both global and secure.
Escrow.com: Engineered For Future Growth
Escrow.com has had a banner year. Since acquired in April by Australia's Freelancer.com (the world’s largest freelancing, outsourcing and crowd sourcing marketplace with 17.5 million users in 247 countries around the world), the company has surged with the domain market itself.
|(R) Matt Barrie|
To realize those ambitions following the retirement of President Brandon Abbey last month after 11 years at the helm of steady growth, a new management team is headed up by General Manager Jackson Elsegood and some familiar faces. California-based Keith Gettle moves up to Operations Manager. Mauli Fry has been promoted to Partnership Manager (and has several exciting new partnerships in the works that may be revealed at NamesCon), and Sandra Gordon will stay on as one of the company's top Escrow Managers.
I caught up with Elsegood to see how Escrow.com is evolving. He told me that they are reinvesting the added revenues from booming domain sales into their team, especially by doubling engineering talent with an eye on the lucrative emerging payments space. “We have added new support personnel,” Elsegood advises. “We’ve added a Chinese language team, made the website easier to use, and shored up our ability to handle large transactions as well as usability of PayPal and Stripe.”
“Today’s serious investors have redirected investments on real property to digital, Elsegood continues. “High-quality domains are not just held by western sellers, but by the Chinese, Europeans, and Aussies. As a publicly traded company on the Australian stock exchange (ASX: FLN), Freelancer.com has offices all over the world that will expand the reach of Escrow.com in all time zones and languages.”
While Escrow.com will leverage the core competencies of Freelancer.com, it will remain independent. It prides itself in data integrity and privacy. “While domains are our strong suit, we continue to be big in cars, jewelry, comics, antiques and general merchandise,” Elsegood advises. No surprise that many of the wealthiest domain investors are also collectors who appreciate fine wine, diamonds, fine arts, watches and cars. These high net-worth individuals already know and trust Escrow.com from domains, and have come to rely on them for all of their other investments as well.
Perhaps the most interesting part of my conversation with Elsegood was learning something I never knew before: That Escrow.com’s long –time banking partner behind the scenes has been Bank of America. Though most Chinese transactions are done in US Dollars, Elsegood says proudly, “This gives us great global strength whether the seller wants dollars or Euros.”
Elsegood thinks that Escrow.com’s best days lie ahead. “Consider Africa and Brazil,” he tells me. “Only one third of the world is even online yet. Two-thirds are on the way!”
Recently I read that an apartment in New York City purchased for $102K just sold for $52 million, 42 years later. I wonder what they will be saying about domain names, 42 years from today? Like in real property, one can't imagine doing a deal with an an escrow agent. As domain prices rises, Escrow.com is well-positioned to own the future.
To fathom the synergies with Freelancer.com, consider just one of their projects this year: "NASA partners with Freelancer.com to crowdsource designs for the Astronaut Smartwatch App." Hopefully they will bring a lot of new blood into domaining.
For those on the sidelines who thought the 90’s were the first and last domain mining opportunity, stay tuned.
More with Jackson Elsegood:
Name Pros Interview
Michael Gilmour Interview (video)
Additional Sources Contributing To This Report: DNJournal.com and DomainInvesting.com