Blogs about the domain industry and the various players and companies within it.

Tony Lentino Passes Away

Tony Lentino Passes Away

My friend and the friend of many, Tony Lentino, passed away yesterday. I know that I speak on behalf of the entire domain industry to pass our sincerest condolences on to his wife Emily and their children during this difficult time.

I first met Tony while training for my pilot’s license at Moorabbin airport. He was an amazing man who loved life and accepted everyone just where they were. The one thing that really struck me about Tony was his exceptional generosity and this permeated every aspect of his life.

I remember flying together from Melbourne to the Gold Coast to attend TRAFFIC downunder. My wife Roselyn and I were in a little Piper Archer while Tony and five other domainers were flying his larger Saratoga. He loved his plane (AQM) and it was an absolute joy for him to take people for a fly.

Tony's pride and joy

He didn't ask for anything from those that traveled to the Gold Coast and back. He happily invited them to jump onboard and have an experience of a life-time.

In those years, Tony came across as a bit of a larrikin but he was also one of the smartest and most astute business people I’ve ever met. He was always expanding his knowledge, whether it was a passion like aviation or something technical from within the domain industry. He was one of those rare individuals that had an insatiable appetite to be curious.

After moving back to New Zealand we didn’t communicate as often but I’ll never forget the day that he dropped around with his wonderful wife, Emily. It was clear that he was completely smitten by her and had met the love of his life. Naturally, she was a tremendous positive influence on his life and really brought out Tony’s gentler side. It wasn’t long before they started a family and had two gorgeous girls.

During the last few years, Tony’s zest for life continued with the establishment of the Super Black car Racing team. His goal was to both “give it to” the Aussies across the ditch (in a good natured way) and provide opportunities for Kiwis behind the wheel of a super-car.

Today, when I reflected of my many times with Tony I know that it’s been a real privilege to have known him. He was an amazing man in so many respects and it gives me great comfort to know that we will meet again.

 

Flying to the Gold Coast

From Jothan Frakes on Tony's Life

I am absolutely slammed right now - busy working hard to create a very special DOMAINfest again with a very amazing team of people, and some sad news came across my desk today.  The world lost a star today to their long fight with Cancer.

I had to stop for a minute and write this up as a tribute.  I asked Michael to be kind enough to allow me a few words in on his post about Tony Lentino because of a shared experience the three of us had after the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down Under conference in Gold Coast back in 2008.  More on that a few paragraphs from now.

Cancer sucks – full stop.  Before I continue, I hope that people who share their passionate hate of cancer will take a moment and support Elliot Silver will join in on his fundraising race in support of the Dana-Faber foundation here:  http://profile.pmc.org/ES0223

Back to Tony.  I cannot really think of DOMAINfest without thinking of Tony Lentino and smiling, because there is a wonderful backstory around it that I’ll share.

DOMAINfest has had the likes of Kim Kardashian, Biz Stone, Steve Wozniak, the Stone Temple Pilots, and I’ve met Rick Springfield and John Travolta in and around the event.  But the person who has stood out to me more than anyone as I think fondly back on the stars that I have met along the way - one person that stood out to me across all of my years of DOMAINfest – it was one of the attendees at the first DOMAINfest Global, Tony Lentino.

The team at Oversee.net and I had put together a number of small regional DOMAINfest events in 2006, and we launched the DOMAINfest Global (DFG) in Hollywood in January of 2007.   Because it was the year 007 we held a faux casino night at DFG with a ‘Casino Royale’ theme, and there were models hired who were ‘bond girls’, and among them was Emily, Tony’s wife.  They met there at DFG.

I also met Tony there at DFG – he stood out to me because he had such a vibrant and enthusiastic presence as such a good natured person – and the fact that he came all the way from New Zealand for the event had really impressed me.  (Also, how much he expressed respectful and gentlemanly interest in Emily stood out.)

I had the chance to see Tony again in 2008 for DOMAINfest Global in Hollywood, and later in 2008 for the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down Under in Gold Coast Australia, where I had been sent to continue my live auction development work with DOMAINfest, and speak about new Top Level Domains.

 

Among the amazing people in the domain name industry, Tony was there, as was Michael Gilmour, and Tony invited me back to Melbourne to visit his offices.  To get to Melbourne, Tony and a friend flew with Kevin and Julie Daste and I in his 6 seater plane, and we flew tandem with Michael and his wife in their plane across parts of Australia I would not have likely had the chance to visit.  We flew through the weekend and stopped in Port McQuarrie, Mudgee, and Parks, Australia and enjoyed local food and hospitality, getting the chance to visit and all get to know one another.  Tony was an exceptional host and very experienced pilot and the trip is on the top of my lifetime lists of experiences. 

 

I did not see Tony again until a few years later when he and Emily came to Seattle and they let me know that they were getting married, and then at the 2012 Webfest Global where he and Emily introduced their first daughter to me and we had dinner with some long time friends in Santa Monica.

You can read more about Tony in the article on SpeedCafe, and Tony is remembered as the founder of Instra and the owner of the Super Black racing team in New Zealand – but to me, I will always remember him as a robust and spirited part of why I love doing conferences and why I am grateful we have such a fantastic industry of people.   The way he met Emily and how their love grew and thrived, and his wonderful daughters are all things I will smile and remember him for.

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What Brexit Means For Domain Investors

What Brexit Means For Domain Investors

Well, the news is out! Britain has just exited the European Union and the global financial shockwaves are only rumbling through the markets. It’s only been hours since the announcement but what does this mean for Domain Investors?

For a start, the forex interest in the event has been so enormous that popular website XE.COM crashed. I spent the last ten minutes trying to get any sort of activity and finally gave up. My guess is that it’s experiencing the impact of a very real DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack from genuine requests rather than a large botnet.

Escrow.com

After flipping across to Yahoo Finance I was able to see that as of this article the Pound has dropped over 12.65% against the USD. Likewise, the Euro has fallen by 3.6% and this will mean a possible boom ride for European domain investors.

The majority of the online advertising market is still in the United States and so any advertising dollars earned will need to be converted to Euros or Pounds. If a UK based domainer earns $US1 they will effectively get an additional 12.65% free of charge.

What it will also mean is that European investors will baulk at the idea of buying US based domain assets as they will be paying more for them.

I must admit that I’m pretty happy with the Australian dollar crashing by nearly 4% against the USD and nearly 3% against the Euro. The majority of our expenses at ParkLogic are in AUD and so this means we have more to pay the bills.

What we don’t know as yet is whether these rapid movements in the forex markets are a precursor to something else. Is this just the rumblings before the major quake? Remember, the majority of the European countries are so debt leaden that a decline in both the Euro and Pound is going to place a lot of pressure on their finances as debt payments come to term.

The currency interactions to really watch is the USD/CNY (US to China) exchange rate. It’s already increased by nearly 0.5% and with China’s massive debt this may be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. China is really caught in a difficult situation where they need a high currency to pay off their debt and a low currency to keep the economy flourishing with exports.

The CNY is also appreciating against the pound by 9.07% and this will mean the Chinese economy will be that much less competitive exporting to the UK and Europe. This will have a flow-on effect to the Australian commodity based economy that many economists are suggesting will cause the AUD to fall to around $US0.64.

All in all, I think we are in for a really interesting ride and US domainers are getting set up to be in a really strong position. With a strengthening USD bargains can be snapped up from around the world while living in a parity environment within the US. What is certain is we’re all going to be in for a really interesting time as the global financial markets rebalance on the news of Brexit. The question is whether the rest of the EU will begin to break apart…..time to get the popcorn out!

Sorry.....just edited the post and couldn't resist adding the following chart for the movement of the gold price over the last few hours. You'd think that something was happening in the global financial markets wouldn't you!

Gold price

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How Much Are Your Domains Really Worth? Part 1

How Much Are Your Domains Really Worth? Part 1

Over the last few years there has been a rush of capital into the domain industry from two major sources, Chinese investors and speculators. I have written quite a lot on the Chinese investors but have largely ignored the speculators.

Escrow.com

Speculators have hoped to win the lottery by having a domain that a cashed up major company wants to desperately buy. They hear about the successes of “old-time” domainers and dream about find the pot-of-gold at the end of one of their domain rainbows. I don’t mean to rain on your parade but this is unlikely to happen and here’s why.

Continue reading
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How Will a Chinese Economic Hard Landing Impact Domain Investors?

How Will a Chinese Economic Hard Landing Impact Domain Investors?

I’ve taken a great deal of interest in the Chinese economy of late and I’ve written a number of articles that outline how everything is not so good in the dragon nation. Debt continues to skyrocket, GDP is levelling off and there appears to be stockpiles of commodities that are unused. So how is this all going to impact domain investors?

Escrow.com

CNBC published an article, “Moody’s raises worries over China loans as Communist party paper calls debt load ‘original sin’”. Within the article, influential investors Kyle Bass and George Soros warn of a credit crisis in China, with Bass noting the presence of “ticking time bombs” in China’s banking system.

What really struck me about the article was the second video where an independent economist, Andy Xie, suggests that China’s real bad loan situation is closer to 20% and not the 1.5% being reported. He then went on to say that over half the loans relate to property and that all across the country buildings empty and that they are being traded like gambling chips. Everyone is hoping that someone else will pay more for the assets.

China Non-performing loans

The Economist recently wrote an article titled, “The coming debt bust”, which outlined the fact that China’s overall debt is 280% of GDP. One scary statistic is that 16% of China’s top 1,000 firms owed more in interest than they earned before tax. Debt levels are expanding twice as fast as the economy. Market Watch recently indicated that it takes four units of credit for each unit of growth.

So will the Chinese authorities be able to manage the economy to a hard or soft landing? They have plenty of ammunition in their reserves (around $3 trillion) but more and more commentators believe that the current regime is playing catch-up to rapidly changing economic circumstances. What everyone appears to be saying is the debt piper is calling….

If there is a hard landing how will this impact domain investors? Since China is the world’s second largest economy we can draw a comparison between it and the US sub-prime fuelled crash of 2008.

For traffic portfolios, Google immediately took greater margin in a great cash grab to help support their earnings. The difference we are seeing now is that Google’s TAC (Traffic Acquisition Costs) has been pushed down to the point where they really can’t increase margins without losing market share to tier two advertising networks. This means that we are unlikely to see a collapse in earnings per click rates induced by Google.

The other factor impacting the advertising auction system is obviously the companies bidding for the traffic. In the event of a crash many companies will immediately hold onto their cash and reduce discretionary spending (which online advertising is often seen as). This will place downward pressure on EPC rates and depending upon competition for the market vertical keyword how far down the rates will fall.

Domain sales will almost certainly experience a sharp correction (especially in the ChiP domains) as debt laden Chinese buyers suddenly become sellers at any price. In many cases, off-market margin loans have underpinned domain valuations and these loans will be called as stocks collapse in value. Chinese investors will be forced to sell domain assets to meet their lenders capital requirements.

Assuming that the world doesn’t go into a global depression, what’s the good news? If you’re cashed up, then there’s going to be a heap of bargains. A good rule is most people make money on the buy not just the sell. In other words, in this type of market there will be domains available that can be snatched up for a song and later sold at an enormous profit.

Whatever happens, make sure you have some cash to ride out the crisis. Some commentators are suggesting that the GFC of 2008 was a tremor before the real financial earthquake.

I know that my wife and I are reviewing our personal financial circumstances to help ensure that we are in a position to weather a global storm. We periodically do this but right now I’m getting a sense of urgency about it. If I’m completely off the mark, then the worse that we’ve done is be financially prudent.

Remember, many people make a fortune in the bad times by being wise in the good times.

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Domaining Europe Presentation

Domaining Europe Presentation

I had the absolute pleasure of presenting a session on Domain Monetisation at Domaining Europe yesterday. A lot of people asked if I could upload the presention to my blog....so here it is!

Click to Download the Domain Monetisation Presentation

Domaining Europe has been outstanding so far and I'm really looking forward to heading back down to meet new people, do some business an make new friends!

Escrow.com

 

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