|How is everything? Hope this first part of 2016 has been treating you well! On my end, I finally managed to get back to my beloved Lisbon after an odissey trip back from Vegas for Namescon, the largest industry event organized by Richard Lau & Jothan Frakes. While it is true that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas“, I love to share what I learn and here below are the top 8 lessons & insights learned from the show in Vegas:
1. Which are the new hot extensions?. Remember the times when .cc was the new big thing in the China horizon? Shane Cultra talked about it profusely on his blog. Well, it seems like the .biz, .info and .ws might repeat the story. These were some of the topics discussed at the China BootCamp targeted to domainers, which Simon Cousins, the founder of Allegravita.com, kindly invited me to join. One word of caution – I have never been a fan of any of the non .com extensions, simply because they seem a little bit too speculative and therefore I’d advice you to invest in them only of you are comfortable losing the sum you invest and you have the time to go quickly in & out of the market.
2. If you are flying from Europe, Asia or Australia, arrive a couple of days prior to the conference. Unless you always dreamed to join the 5 AM club, beware – the first days after arriving will be brutal. You’d wake up rested, open your eyes and the alarm clock shows 4:30 AM. I feel the added value of these conferences are the afterparties, where most meaningful connections are made and the biggest insights are shared – you want to be in shape for those. Also, add a couple of days at the end of the trip, so you can make sure to enjoy the city and not just the hotel room and airport lounge.
3. China & US domain investors are still 2 separate worlds. If you want to meet Chinese buyers, go to China. While around 10 Chinese investors and brokers attended Namescon and few Chinese companies like 4.cn sponsored the event, most of the large buyers did not attend the show nor I believe they will in the future – the West is simply piggy backing on the domain aftermarket in China and there are not many incentives for Chinese investors to come visit the show. On another note, we finally demistified the story of 4.cn (courtesy of Simon). Mike Cyger once asked me during my first DomainSherpa interview why did 4.cn branded with such an unlucky number. Apparently John Xu, the founder of 4.cn, loved music as a teenager, and he recalls the notes succession going like this: 1. DO, 2. RE, 3. MI, 4. FA – which is the word that stands for wealth or prosperity in Chinese, which is typically associated to the luckier number 8 (pronounced “ba”).
4. The best people are the humblest. One of the people I respect the most in this industry goes under the name of Morgan Linton. Morgan is a well respected blogger and investor, who recently co-founded Fashionmetric.com, a company that received funding from the likes of Mark Cuban, and I had the luck of sitting next to him at a dinner organized by Braden Pollock. Morgan is one of the very few people who succesfully transitioned from domain names to actually building a real business. During our conversation he noted how people in our industry underestimate how hard it is to run a business: renting a warehouse, shipping and all the other costs associated to run a brick & mortar business are something that domain investors are simply not used to. What I loved the most though about Morgan is how open and trasparent he is about his story – theFashionMetric.com idea was born through interviewing customers outisde of shops in LA and then participating to Startup Weekend. Make sure to check Morgan’s blog.
5. If Andy Booth calls you to play soccer, say that you have already been invited to a cocktail. About a week before the trip, Andy sent an innocous email asking if I wanted to join an indoor soccer game, which, being Italian, I simply could not turn down. The match was absolutely epic, with the two teams alternating the lead of the scoreboard for a final result of 20-19. But the injuries to the players were devastating – even the superfit Shane Cultra had to take a break mid-game. Andy, next time let’s also bring a doctor 😉
6. The industry is revamping for the better both in terms of design and language. Two of the tools I could not live without are Estibot.com and Escrow.com, and they are both going for major revamps in their websites. While escrow.com is finally launching a new website in Mandarin, for Estibot.com, founders Luc and Ivan (who I had the pleasure of meeting) are working on a redesign and a couple of tools that promise to make the life of investors in Chinese domains a lot easier. Michael Cyger is also testing with his new DNAcademy.com what looks like will be a great product.
7. It is great to associate names to faces. In this industry we are so used to communicate via email or IM that we end up talking for hours to the same people without ever having met them in person. For example, who knew that Mychael Cyger, Andrew Rosener and Ken O’Brien were so tall? Or what about Theo from DomainGang.com, who knew that he was born and raised in Greece? At least once a year it is totally worth to travel long distances just to know people in person. It’s a different kind of relationship.
8. Outlook for 2016. There are mixed feelings about the Chinese market continuing to go up. Some of the investors I talked to, swear that the levels that we are seeing now are simply the new normal and are here to stay. Others (just like me), believe that while we are likely to see an increase in activity after Chinese New Year (8th of February), the current prices have likely reached a plateau and 2016 might be a good year to actuallystay liquid, especially for the 2nd part. I feel that the closer the investors are to China, and the more private the conversation (wink wink), the more they are likely to share the second opinion. But, as usual, let’s let the market talk.