I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a former UBS banker who recently started a wine fund. According to the article about former Wall St. banker Jorge Mora,
Mora joined with several former friends and clients to buy Italian Wine Merchants, an upscale New York wine retailer. He also is part of a new, four-man group that founded a $50 million investment fund, The Bottled Asset Fund, which will invest in “‘blue chip’ wines in inefficient markets,'” around 75% of which will be in Italy.
To me, the most interesting part of the article was the strategy of investing in inefficient markets. When I was in Italy, I saw first hand these inefficient markets. There are a ton of vineyards with great wines, but for someone (like myself) who likes wine but isn’t familiar with the different vineyards and various differences in the wine production, distinguishing a great wine from a good wine can be extremely difficult. I probably couldn’t tell the difference between a $40 bottle of wine and a $500 bottle.
This is very similar to the domain industry. There isn’t an MLS like in the real estate world, so the market is very inefficient. Unless you know the marketplace, it can be tough to tell the difference between a $5,000 domain name and a $50,000 domain name. Oftentimes, the main difference is how badly the buyer wants the name for a company or specific project. The wiser investor would own the more valuable domain name, while others would own the lesser valued domain name. This takes experience and deep pockets to make smart investments in various verticals.
Other companies have tried to create something like a domain fund, but more often than not, the domain names that were purchased were bought based on revenues that were generated from parking, and as parking decreases, the value of the domains and funds decrease, as there isn’t always value in the domain names beyond the revenue generated. Also, many large purchases have been riddled with domain names that have trademark issues. These are huge liabilities, as trademark holders see a company with deep pockets as a very large target.
If someone decides to start a domain fund like a wine fund, it won’t be based on PPC revenue. Like the wine fund, the value is in the actual assets rather than interest the assets are earning passively. Wines aren’t earning money as they sit unopened. They increase in value as people realize the value in the particular vintage. Domain names increase in value as people realize how important they are to businesses. Wines need to be marketed for people to realize the value, just as domain names need to be marketed or developed so people can see how they would help their business.
I see significant value in domain names, and this inefficient market could really be exploited if someone had the finances and time to wait to capitalize. It’s just a matter of time before an “under the radar” company buys the best domain names in the world for tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps that is already happening 😉