Buying Domain Names

Going All Out in Bankruptcy Auction

Several weeks ago, Hilco Streambank emailed me to notify my that several domain names were coming up for sale in a bankruptcy auction. One of the domain names in the list stood out to me – AllOut.com. When I played sports as a kid – and even when I play tennis today, I tend to go all out. I like the business and marketing connotations of “all out,” and I have been buying similar types of domain names when I can (SparkPlug.com is another one I recently acquired).

Shortly after receiving and seeing the notifications about the auction, I was in touch with representatives from Hilco Streambank to understand the bankruptcy auction process and learn how I could participate. I started by submitting a bid, and that qualified me to participate in the auction. The domain name was sold in a package with AllOut.net, so my bid would be for both AllOut.com and AllOut.net.

Time to Buy or Time to Hold?

The domain name aftermarket has been performing strongly for nearly a full year now. The last six months have been particularly strong. A look at the DNJournal year to date sales chart proves that, and the publicly reported sales are just the tip of the iceberg considering the volume and value of private sales that are unlikely to ever be reported.

With the considerable movement in the aftermarket, it has become very challenging to buy valuable domain names. When good domain names are available to purchase, the price to buy new inventory is getting much higher as well. My focus is on one and two word .com domain names, but I have seen and heard that other areas (.IO and .CO for example) are also becoming much more difficult to buy at wholesale level pricing.

Finding Domain Names of Interest

Aside from my daily lists of upcoming domain name expiry auctions, I don’t spend a whole lot of time analyzing lists of keywords and phrases to find domain names to buy. Most often, I find domain names that would be of interest to me by doing ordinary things in life – reading the news, reading books to my kids, and just reading things in general.

Oftentimes, I will see a word or phrase while doing something and pay a quick visit to the website to see what is there. If the domain name is developed, I will quickly assess how important the domain name is to that business. This will help me determine whether or not to send an offer or inquiry email. For instance, I will be much more inclined to email a registrant if the domain name is simply used for forwarding as opposed to a website that clearly utilizes the domain name for its branding.

If the domain name looks like it could be available for the right offer, I do a quick Whois lookup on the spot. I typically either use the standard DomainTools Whois search or I use the GoDaddy Whois search. If I don’t have enough time to do a Whois lookup, I will either note the domain name in my head or send a brief email to myself so I can remember to do a Whois search later on when I have more time.

Once I have done a Whois search, I will check my records to see if I have emailed the registrant in the past. This will give me some idea about whether or not I should proceed with an inquiry or offer, and it will also tell me where I need to start if I made an offer in the past.

Previously, I spent a fair amount of my time doing keyword searches using dictionaries and thesaurus tools. These days, I have found more names to inquire about as I go about my daily activities.

Maven Co-Founder Details Maven.com Acquisition

Gagan Biyani, a Co-Founder of Udemy, Advisor at Lyft, and former CEO of Sprig, announced the name of his newest startup: Maven. The thing that caught my attention is the domain name that the company is using – Maven.com. The domain name has been owned by General Motors, and in fact, Whois records show the domain name is still registered to GM.

With that in mind, I asked Gagan and his two Co-Founders (Wes Kao and Shreyans Bhansali) if they bought the Maven.com domain name from GM. Gagan replied with a link to a tweet thread he previously posted sharing the startup naming process his team undertook. He also shared insight into the process of securing the domain name. I think this is a great thread for investors to read for additional insight into the mind of a startup founder seeking a great brand and corresponding domain name.

Here’s the thread:

How to Get the Most Valuable .com Domain Names Today

I spend much more time focused on acquiring good domain names than selling them. I might make one or two efforts to sell domain names each week, but I am sending perhaps dozens of purchase offers each week for significant amounts of money.

At this point in time, nearly all of the best (one and some two word .com) domain names that are unused are in very strong hands. In many cases, the owners have turned down serious offers over the years. Some of these owners include Fortune 100 companies, well-funded startups, and other entities that don’t have a desire or need to sell any domain name assets unless they are blown away by an offer.

The Toughest Domain Deal to Pass On

These days, I have been spending quite a bit of time seeking out domain names to buy. It’s relatively easy to buy inventory-quality domain names, but I am almost always looking for good deals on excellent one word .com domain names. The toughest deal for me to pass on is a great one word .com domain name priced at a very reasonable (but) end user price point.

In most cases, these domain names are priced fairly for someone to purchase it to use, but they are too expensive for me to purchase as an investment. I would be asking around the same amount or more if I owned the asset, but there is not enough margin for me to risk my capital.

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