I don’t remember exactly when I met Braden. But I do have few flashbacks. Braden throwing swag from the stage like a rockstar to the raptured crowd of Namescon in Mumbai, India. Braden and his partner Lisa lecturing me about the virtues (and secret benefits) of being vegan – in front of a gigantic paella in Valencia, Spain. Sailing into the sunset at the LMX launch party in Lisbon, Portugal.
Since then, I have met Braden in several corners of the world at almost every domain conference I attend, as he is often featured as moderator or panelist. I look forward to seeing him again next month in Stockholm for Nordic Domain Days, where he will be the stage host [use code NDD-GGRG-20 to get a 20% discount]. Outside domain names, Braden doubles as a successful angel investor and serial entrepreneur. Please enjoy this wide-ranging interview with Braden Pollock.
Where do you live and why?
I split my time between Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe. I spend most of my time in LA as that’s where I grew up and where my family lives. I have a home in Tahoe as well, which is a great place to go when it’s too hot in LA – or when there’s snow in the mountains.
Who did you want to be as a kid growing up?
Growing up I read lots of biographies. I think I was most impacted by Ben Franklin. I still have books about him on my bookshelf and memorabilia on my office wall. This man was a statesman, an inventor and an entrepreneur. He established America’s first library, the first fire dept, the first franchised business. He invented the lightning rod which is still used in buildings to this day – almost 300 years later. He invented the Franklin stove, swim fins, bifocals, the flexible catheter (ouch!) and the list goes on. Many expressions we use in the US are attributed to Ben. He was truly an independent thinker. I was fascinated by leaders like Ben, as well as other business leaders, and couldn’t wait until I could own a business. Not just one. I wanted multiple companies. Now that I’ve achieved that, I wish I had less on my plate.
How did you get involved in domain names? What was your first aha moment?
That’s an easy one. Back in the early 2000’s, I had a couple hundred domains that I had acquired for the clients of my digital marketing company (Legal Brand Marketing). I asked my friend David Rosenbaum (who was the sales manager for .TV) what i could do with them. He told me to park them. Of course I had no idea what that meant, so he introduced me to a rep at DomainSponsor. Then I heard about an upcoming domain conference. If I recall correctly, it was the first DomainFest in 2004. I attended the conference and was immediately smitten. There was a live auction where people were spending tens of thousands of dollars on single domains. I think a 2L .com was sold for $140k and I couldn’t believe it. I loved it and knew then that I wanted to be a part of the industry.
You are often featured as moderator at several industry conferences. What is the most memorable experience you had in this role?
The most memorable time I can recall while moderating was in Mumbai, India. There were more than 500 attendees in a conference center with less than 500 chairs. It was a packed house with people standing along the walls. It was a lively bunch as everyone seemed genuinely excited to be there. I threw swag out to the audience in the lead-up to the live auction and people went nuts. Many of the attendees knew me from Domain Sherpa and other industry blogs and podcasts so they all wanted to talk to me. The craziest thing was that many people wanted to take selfies with me. All day long I was posing for pictures. It was probably the most fun I’ve had moderating a conference.
What do you feel is the most common mistake(s) domain investors make?
I think many investors, particularly new investors, underestimate how long it takes to sell a name. They think they can sell it quickly and earn back a multiple of their investment. That a potential end user will reply to their unsolicited email and immediately strike a deal. It often takes YEARS to sell a domain. The industry average sell-through-rate (STR) is in the 1-2% range. And that’s for experienced investors! Why people ignore this is beyond me. If you invest in 100 names, you’ll maybe sell one or two before you need to pay for renewals. And that’s if you know what you’re doing. If you pick up a bunch of terrible domains and haven’t followed best practices, you’ll probably sell less. I wish all new investors would take Michael Cyger‘s Domain Academy course before they start investing. It would save them a ton of money, time and heartache.
If you had $10,000 and wanted to start investing in domains, what would you do?
After taking Domain Academy… Buy a name for $5k, three names for $1k each and four names for $500 each. Names that are worth 5-10x on the retail market. The higher the quality of the domain, the more likely you’ll be able to sell it. If not retail, you can ultimately sell it on the wholesale market and recoup some or all of your investment. Perhaps even make a profit. If a new investor just hand registers domains, there’s no track record nor industry proof that the domain has any value.
The industry average sell-through-rate (STR) is in the 1-2% range. And that’s for experienced investors! Why people ignore this is beyond me.
What does your personal domain investment strategy look like? What metrics/features do you look for in domains you want to buy?
I’m focused primarily on premium generic one-word .coms. I will occasionally pick up a really good two-word .com or a one-word .net or .org if the price makes sense. I prefer empty vessel names as opposed to product or industry specific names. The top tier domains have the least amount of risk so I’m always on the hunt for those. Unfortunately, they’re hard to find at reasonable prices.
When it comes to investing, what do you think is your superpower?
I don’t know that I have any investor superpowers. I’m just out there hustling like everyone else. One advantage that I have is that I’ve been in the industry since about 2004. When I first got into the industry I knew I had to get a grasp of domain value. I used to go to the live auctions at the conferences and sit in the front row with the print out of what was on auction. With a pen, I would write down the sales price of each domain and make a note if I thought it was a retail buyer (most were wholesale). I would follow all the reported sales everyday and read all the blogs. The key to understanding the industry is to learn as much as possible. Follow Domaining.com everyday and read the blogs. Check Namebio each day to look at the previous day’s sales. If you do this consistently, you too will get a feel for domain values.
What are the domain tools that you use on a daily basis?
LinkedIn, Namebio, NameJet, GoDaddy Auctions, Google Sheets, to name a few.
I prefer empty vessel names as opposed to product or industry specific names. The top tier domains have the least amount of risk so I’m always on the hunt for those.
Your Twitter account is braden.eth. What do you think is the future of web 3 domains? Would you invest in them?
I don’t invest in them. I think there’s going to be an issue when ICANN opens up the next round of gTLDs and grant the same strings that exist on ENS. Who is going to win that battle? Google will resolve standard ICANN TLD’s and not ENS TLD’s. Then what happens? I don’t have an answer as I’m not an ENS expert. But I’d rather take the less speculative bet with standard ICANN strings.
You invest in startups, as well as NFTs. You recently launched the Pollock Fund, which focuses on alternative investment classes. If you were to invest in any other asset class, where would you invest and why?
I played around with NFT’s for a while but haven’t done much in that space for a while. Same for crypto. Domains are so much less volatile. I’m still angel investing but mostly follow-on rounds with existing companies I’m invested in. I’m doing very few new deals. I’ve yet to find an alternative asset class that does as well as domain investing. Not to mention, one that I understand as well as domains.
I’ve yet to find an alternative asset class that does as well as domain investing.
If you could pass just one single business advice to your children – what would that be?
Pay attention! There are a million opportunities out there. Be ready when the right one comes along. The only way to know when a real opportunity comes around is if you’re looking out for it. And you’ve educated yourself enough to recognize it when you see it.
What is your favorite non-domain related book(s), blog(s) and app(s)?
Hard to narrow it down. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. I particularly like Founders, How to Take over the World and My First Million. And anyone who’s not reading the GatesNotes.com newsletters really should subscribe. Bill Gates is one of the smartest people of our time and it’s worth your time to read what he has to write. And while I’m mentioning Bill Gates, he recently wrote a great book called How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. In terms of other books, I read classics like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Cernegie and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. If you haven’t read these books, you should definitely add them to your reading list.
Pay attention! There are a million opportunities out there. Be ready when the right one comes along.
What does your average day look like?
I get up between 6:00-6:30. I usually make some tea or coffee and answer any pressing emails. I usually read before really starting my work. I’ll go on a quick run if the weather is nice. I don’t really like running so if it’s too hot or too cold, I wuss out. I have a home office, so no need to go anywhere. I look through all the domain drops for the day and place any last minute bids. I have lots of Zoom meetings throughout the day and several lunches each week. I have a home gym so a fitness trainer comes over in the afternoons to kick my ass. That’s pretty much an average day for me.
How can people find you?
Easy. I’m on the Twitter @BradenPollock and at all the domain conferences.
Any parting notes or comments?
If you’re a domain investor you should be a member of the ICA. Full stop. Sign up here.