Developing a Brand: My Latest Domain Investment

Feb 04 2016

Since the time I’ve been in domain investing I’ve always wanted to be involved in the branding of a TLD.  I understand that dot com is king, dot net and org are queens, but after that was up for grabs.   I watched in envy the growth of dot co, dot club, and dot xyz.  I loved dot CC from day one but once Verisign bought it,  they left it alone for dead.  They had no desire to build it up.  Talking to the original marketing people who worked in the early days of dot CC, the only reason Verisign purchased dot CC was to eliminate competition for the other brands they owned.  And it showed.  Yet despite the lack of marketing, it still caught on in the Chinese market.  Because it was short, easy to type, could mean Chinese Company, and had a low holding/renewal cost.  I bought some names, sold some names, and made a little money in the dot CC market, but I had no control or voice in the brand. Every day I said, “I wish I owned this tld, I could make it HUGE”

imageThen comes along the new Gs.  I love the idea, wanted to be involved. Even had a few strings picked out.  Problem was the cash. Didn’t have it and nobody wanted or needed me on their team.  I saw Daniel Negari and what he was doing was fantastic. At times I wasn’t sure everything he was doing was legit but the more I looked into it, the more I could see that he absolutely knows how to market. He simply was out marketing everyone and thus the success of XYZ.  It was something I wish I could do as well.

Then one day I get an email from a friend.  There is an older TLD, Dot WS,  is looking to “rebrand”, to become favored by the Chinese market. Actually it was another domain investor that came up with the idea and brought it to the table.  My first thoughts were “Of course they want to make a push for the Chinese market, who doesn’t want to be a favorite of the Chinese market right now?”  But I wanted to learn more.  At NamesCon I sat down with the owner of .WS  Alan Ezeir.   It was pretty obvious that Alan is a business person.  And a good one at that. He came from the success of the telecom market to purchase the .WS from Western Samoa.  He has had a lot of success.   At dot WS and pretty much everything he has done.  Most people don’t realize that even a smaller TLD can be very profitable.  But there was a bonus layer to the story.  Alan had held back all the numeric domains from 5 Numbers to 20 numbers.  Coming from the telecom business he felt that numbers were some of the most valuable in his portfolio.  Numbers were how people reached each other.  Now, Alan would admit he had no idea that the Chinese market would become what it has,  but it doesn’t matter.  He has the numbers and they hadn’t seen the light of day.   The other bonus was many of the LL, LLL, and NNNs were still left due to the high renewal rates.   The four numbers went quickly last fall when the Chinese market found them but there are still most of the names with a zero and four in them.

In my opinion there were a few keys to dot WS entering into the Chinese market, and/or create an aftermarket.  1.  The cost of renewal aka holding costs have to be low.  Success takes time and you have to allow the people that are willing to invest in domains be able to hold and wait.  2.  Major Chinese registries have to offer the domains for sale. 3.  The good names can’t all be swiped up by the guy with the fastest computer or own a registry.   4. There needs to be a showcase of people using the name and a stronger push to actual use of the name.

It already meets the other criteria that I think a string needs to be successful.   Dot WS is short, is easy to type on a keyboard (the W and S are right next to each other), and for the Chinese it is two consonants.   What .WS means to the Chinese or anyone doesn’t matter.  They will make it want they want it to be.  Maybe it will mean website.  Maybe something else.  Leave that to users.  It used to mean Western Samoa. It can mean anything the world wants it to mean.   That is for users to decide in my opinion.

Let me state, I am not the driver in the above.  I am merely one of the advisers.  There are some of the biggest and best domain investors and business people in the industry involved. I will let them tell you who they are if they so choose.  I will only say that I am very comfortable in the company I am with.  And I am in with people that actually listen to my opinions and thoughts. That is a first for me in this industry besides the my friends .  You don’t see me in DnJournal because I really haven’t been involved in the business side.  I am just a blogger to most and I hope to change that with time.  There were a few things I hoped to change before I would invest my money and more importantly my time,  before I would jump in. The first move was to drop the huge renewal price on the short LL, NN, NNN, and LLL names from $500ish a year to regular price.  In the $25 range.  That happened and is official.  The second was to lower the holding cost/renewal price on the other names.  It’s already very reasonable but the lower the better.  I have already worked with Nick at Nicked.net and he has the best rates in the business for .ws.  He has been selling dot .ws for quite a while and has always had been, and wants to continue, to give the lowest registration and renewal rates.  Especially if you are doing quantity  (if you are doing bulk registration you should always ask for better rates).  And The Big Dog,  Godaddy has started offering .WS registration at $4.75 but their bulk registration hasn’t been working too well and that’s how we met Nick.    Cheap pricing needs to happen around the world.  A major Chinese registry need to offer it as well to insure a low cost to entry and holding.

So what’s in it for me?    Of course money is a big one.  Having a voice is the other.  I get to participate in the regrowth of a tld. I get to learn things I didn’t know.  I cherish these types of things.  I become a better business person by being a part.  I invested in a little startup called WallStrip (sold for $4.5 million).  I invested not to just make money but because I was investing with the group of Fred Wilson, Mark Pincus, Howard Lindzon and a half dozen of some of the biggest startup people in the US.  I talked with those guys every week.  People would pay $10K to work with Fred Wilson on a weekly basis.  This is no different.  I get to learn about a TLD.   The bonus is there is money to be made.  Like all investments I put my money in something I believe in.  I purchased with Travis (one of teammates here at DomainShane) 1400 5N.ws .  We got them on opening night just like everyone else.  Not before anyone, just right after they opened.  I have purchased some other names in the TLD in advance at regular prices.  I was not given names for free but give “IPO like” offerings.  Actually the same price that they will be offered at on the release date of 2-22-16. I did this because I think that this ccTLD will grow.  I am going to be a part of making that grow.  There are a lot of things that need to be done to have that growth.  It won’t be overnight but I think it can be done.

This will take time and has to be more than just getting the Chinese aboard.  Most “liquid” names aren’t even taken yet. There are still 4Ns and most 5Ns left to be had.  Almost all the non pattern LLLL.ws are left.  Many the LLLs will be released to the general public. They will be around $500 but again will be a normal renewal.   And we will see auction of the NN, NNN, and even some NN LL as well. .   The aftermarket for .WS is small right now.  The good number 4N seem to fetching $100 plus right now according to a few of the people that own portfolios of NNNN.ws. Dot WS is being used successfully and I think it would benefit the tld if people saw how its being used.  And we all know a major player using it wouldn’t hurt either.  One step at a time.   Dot .ws has been around a long time but has silently sat in the background for a number of years.  We feel its time to dust it off.   For every new G that comes across and is specifically designed for a category, there is a need for a generic in my opinion.   What are the top new Gs (from a registration and aftermarket perspective) ?  Dot top and dot xyz.  There is a reason behind their success.

So thank you Alan for the opportunity to join the dot WS team.  Like everything I do I will be sharing the journey and all that is good or bad.  And regardless of outcome I will learn and I am honored to just be a part

 

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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40 comments

  1. Andrew

    The two biggest issues I had with .ws were:

    1. Registrar, not owner, had to be listed in whois
    2. Domains couldn’t be transferred between registrars

    Have these been fixed?


    1. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Andrew,

      Yes, this is all being fixed. It used to be $100 to transfer as well. It will all take a little time to change but it is my understanding that it will become the same as other names.


    2. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Andrew. I reached out to .WS and seems all your info is ancient

      > 1. Registrar, not owner, had to be listed in whois

      This has never been true. For domains reg’d through other registrars they give basic info and refer them to the registrar were the whois must be performed since EPP is a thin whois (meaning registrars don’t transmit their customer details to registries). Domains registered directly through us list the true and full registrant details and are 100% compliant with all established whois protocol. The whois gives all details and is 100% compliant with established whois protocol. It wouldn’t be compliant if it didn’t

      > 2. Domains couldn’t be transferred between registrars

      This was true until 2007 before the switch to EPP. The transfer process is now identical to other gTLDs and nTLDs and has been since that time.

      1. Andrew

        Shane, I am ancient 🙂

        Indeed, it looks like the switch from the registrar’s info in whois to my info occurred in 2013, at least at GoDaddy.

        I let a lot of good keyword .ws domains expire over the years, but held on to a few. Glad to hear they will put some marketing behind it.

        Good luck with your venture.


      2. Post author
        ShaneCultra

        Andrew A,

        As long as some of your names are ancient as well you’ll be just fine.

        Braden,
        People like you are one of the reasons I think this team can make things happen. 🙂

  2. Mike

    WIth so many GTLD’s, really the US market has 1% need for Numerics ie) NNNN.XXX, NNNNN.XXX, this is a Chinese pump, and dump game, do you want to see innocent people lose money.

    I don’t see your end objective in numeric.ws, other than dumping it onto a guy in China who is sipping the kool aid, it makes no business sense. You are not representing any product other than hype?


    1. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Mike,

      The entire domain sphere has been selling numerics. Wanting to sell them as well doesn’t make .WS a pumper and a dumper. If dot WS were open they probably would have already been registered. The beauty of domains is they can be anything they want to be to the user. All registries are selling hype. Selling that just because having an ending X makes it more appealing to crowd X, that it gives more trust, that Google loves it. All words until proven differently. Domains are marketing until users decide whether they are viable or not. I appreciate your opinions. And I heard the EXACT comments when I told everyone to buy numerics and NNNN.coms back in 2010. They told me I was an idiot and that nobody uses numbers. They have, they do, and they will continue. Why not .WS? But it’s not all about numbers. It’s all forms of words, numbers, and characters. Whatever people want to use to communicate to show off their product. The goal of this is to make it easier to use. It was not

  3. Nuno Oliveira

    I would really like .ws to get traction… I have very aged .ws domains like Apartment or Tutorial (I am developing a lot and these are a priority) and I got some 4L as well.

    Best Regards: Nuno

  4. Thomas

    I remember back in the days around 2005 or so .ws actually had a very bad reputation because it was marketed via a MLM sheme, and the CEO´s were somewhat braindead posing with their Ferraris in front of the HQ. I think it was Michael Reed. Anyway good luck with that venture Shane!

  5. YIPPEE

    Good luck, man! If ever there was a chance and opportunity to resurrect an old Dot then that time is now. You will never get a better chance at success. I know you will do well.

  6. Samit

    How does one register nnn.ws and lll.ws? Or do we wait till the 22nd? And I see renewals around $20, how is that ‘cheap’?

    Also, what do you think will happen to the market on single word .ws domains, will that be affected at all?

    Have dropped / sold most, have about a dozen premium terms left in .ws:
    tees.ws
    asset.ws
    joker.ws
    prices.ws
    public.ws
    contest.ws
    scooter.ws
    artgallery.ws
    hospitality.ws
    loseweight.ws
    exhibitions.ws
    photographer.ws

  7. Mike Maillet

    Congrats Shane. Keep in mind, there is big money in the other extensions like this, even if they dont come close to the popularity of dot com. I remember back in the day when I first saw .WS, I immediately thought of Website.

  8. Chad

    People tend to think in terms of what they like or what they think makes for a good domain. The job of a salesperson, in this case a domainer, is to sell what the customer likes and thinks is a good domain.

    I currently have dozens of customers contacting me daily wanting to buy numeric domains so I acquire numeric domains to sell them.

    I was told my .xyz domains were worthless (I personally don’t like the extension) but now my portfolio is worth 6 figures.

    My NNN.online’s are about ready to pop too. I don’t like them but my customers do.

    Had a 2K offer for a NNN.click the other day. I personally wouldn’t want to use it but my customers love the thing. Apparently, “888” means something to them although I find it useless. If they want to pump and dump it or roll it up and smoke it, that’s their business.

    There’s a major opportunity to make some serious money with domains right now, albeit, getting the good stuff is now once again getting harder to obtain.

    People should be focusing on what the buyers want. The demand. Not saying there’s no market other than the Chinese market but the demand from these buyers greatly outweighs everything else right now.

    Personally, I’m a dotcom guy but if they want .xyz or .wtf I will have a new fleet of them lined up and ready to go ASAP.

    The customers always right.

  9. @domains

    Why not, compared to a lot of new gtld’s the .WS is short, generic, and easy to type. ‘W’ has the meaning of web or website China, and like you said there could be other meanings for WS. We have seen so many domain extensions get bought up in short number and letter strings, I don’t see why .WS can’t make it too, expecially if they are working to make it affordable, easy to buy, easy to transfer/push, and especially important these days – getting the word out to the Chinese market. Unfortunately I missed out on the NNNN.ws chips when they were available, but I have picked up some NNNN ending in 0, and some 5N chips the night it opened. If there is more time left in this domain bull market then I’m sure .WS can ride the wave too.

  10. Stan

    Why .WS and not .SU?

    The latter has an emotional association with the Chinese ideology – Communism.
    Besides, “Su” is a common Chinese surname.

    Just saying…

  11. john Harrison

    Good for you Shane. If Rick is the Domain King™ then you will be the Domain Prophet™ If you’re invested then I’m just going to follow suit and put my chips behind your chips! Wish you all the luck with the venture 🙂

  12. Don W

    I though for sure you were going to start a futures market to help us leverage our positions, protect against swings, and bet on the future of the 4l market.

  13. Jim Holleran

    I bought a bunch of .ws around 2000, best keywords, dropped them all worst extension ever. I did this after they invited to have lunch at there offices in Carlsbad, CA which is near me, so I know these dudes very well.

    .WS, I am going to pass, money better spent elsewhere. Hell, .pw you can hand reg at Ghandi.net for 99 cents in Feb, (no I don’t own any .pw(lol), but it basically the same as .ws, same shit type extension. ALL these are dependent on the Chinese, except for .tv which does have an end-user base. Listen to Rick Swartz you guys, don’t fall for the BS hype.


    1. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Thanks Jim for the vote of confidence. Ironic coming from the guy that has all his money in 6n .com which is 100% dependent on the Chinese . You think Rick would tell you to buy those 4000 6N that you brag about every ….single… day..on Namepros. No he wouldn’t . The past is over. Trying to change the future.

  14. Jim Holleran

    Shane,

    So now your my accountant(lol) All my money in 6n, all my money(lol), just 45K buddy:-)) That is just a small % I put into domain investing. Shane we love you buddy, except for the people at DomainBoardroom, they don’t like you so they kicked you out, but it’s all good my man:-)) Roll Tide!


    1. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Jim,
      I’m not going to stray off topic. Just say some of the best people I know have been kicked out of Domain Boardroom. And there is no “WE”, it’s Donna. And she and I have made peace.


    1. Post author
      ShaneCultra

      Andrea,

      You obviously don’t have any NNN.xyz I get offers for them over $1000 every week. I’ll take that junk. And again, we are trying to make it “not junk”

      1. Andrea Paladini

        Shane,
        You’re right, we don’t have any, and you can keep them all those NNN.xyz as well … 🙂
        Making .ws not junk? lol, no offense, but good luck with it!


      2. Post author
        ShaneCultra

        Andrea,

        So you’re telling me you wouldn’t rather have a NNN.ws or NNN.xyz than cheepboutique.com, umbrellacompanyservices.com and jobsforschoolleavers.com that you are paying $8 a year for. I think you’re doing it wrong 🙂

      3. Andrea Paladini

        Shane,
        We don’t own any of the domains you have mentioned.
        And no, we don’t invest in NNN.xyz, NNN.ws or other junk like that.
        IMHO you’re gonna lose more money with .ws, as with your AAPL … 😀
        Regards! 🙂

  15. fuzzy

    Interesting post thank you Shane. I hold a few .ws I purchased on spec, nothing special. It would be nice to see the extension ‘pop’ however. Thanks for the heads-up.
    PS:
    .ws = 网上 = wangshang = online

  16. John

    dadu.ws (bet/make a bet) in Chinese. We’ll see how it plays out. If .ws hits,and I think it will,-this is a serious name for China.

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