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

Critical Insights Into the Domain Industry - Part 1

I’ve spoken and attended a lot of conferences over the years….and clocked up quite a few airline miles in the process! During this time I’ve seen so many people come and go, businesses launched only to vanish and domain investments completely mismanaged.

So why am I reflecting on these things? I was speaking with a client this morning and the conversation caused me to journey down memory lane and review a few of my old presentations that I’ve shared at conferences.

Escrow.com

I had a bit of a laugh when I looked at a presentation that I did at TRAFFIC Vegas 2008. One of the slides predicted the recession and the collapse of domain valuations and PPC revenue. Guess what….it happened.

Am I a living genius? My wife would be the first to say, not at all! What I try and do is take in what is happening in the complete industry and then ask the reason “Why?” This is quickly followed up by, “So what does this mean?”

So let’s take a look at the state of the domain industry with these two questions in mind.

Why do many people think that domain parking is dead? Back when the revenue squeeze came on many domainers were left holding two types of domains, traffic and brandable domains. At the time brandable domains weren’t in fashion because there was a global recession. Despite this everyone believed that they knew their domains would be worth a fortune (wink, wink).

Many investors convinced themselves that PPC rates were declining and that soon all of their traffic domains would be worthless. So they sold them off at discount prices to help fund the registrations of the brandable domains.

You see, brandable domains are like a ticket in the lottery. You have to have a ticket if you will have any chance of winning….the only problem is that the domain lottery ticket has to be paid each year. When you don’t have the funds to finance registrations you have no choice but to look at selling the one thing that does have value now……that’s traffic domains.

As PPC rates decreased there was pressure to sell while you still could. Very few people thought about how to increase PPC rates and maintain their revenue lines. A herd mentality developed and traffic domains began flying out the door while at the same time domainers dropped more speculative domains.

I want to say upfront that although PPC rates did decrease they have not decreased as much as many domain investors have experienced. Here’s some data that I think you’ll find interesting. The most that ANY parking company wins is 25% of the traffic. This means that in the absolute best case scenario, if you left all of your domains with one parking provider then 75% of the time the domains can perform better elsewhere!

Some domain investors caught onto this and began manually moving their domains around to find the best monetisation solution. Here’s another stat that most people aren’t going to like. After nearly nine years of running what I believe is one of the most sophisticated optimisation system in the world I have found that around 33% of domains move providers every 3 months. The problem is that it’s a different set of solutions and a different set of domains!

So why did PPC rates decrease? It was really simple, because they could. Google is the dominant provider of PPC revenue to the entire domain channel and to maintain its position in the industry it logically did two things. To fully understand this we need to first understand the industry at the time.

Traffic had begun consolidating around several large hubs of monetisation providers, the largest two of which were Domain Sponsor and Sedo. The problem with a consolidating market is that the tail could end up wagging the “Google dog”.

While traffic was spread throughout the industry Google could play one player off against another. The problem became when Domain Sponsor raised a lot of capital via Oakhill Capital Partners and Sedo became part of United Internet and developed a domain sales revenue stream that was not dependent upon Google. Both these actions meant that the companies could now buy vast amounts of traffic and potentially break the Google exclusivity stranglehold.

The next article will continue the story of the domain industry and how Google responded to this threat.

---------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

0
  5474 Hits
  0 Comments
5474 Hits
0 Comments

Brandon and Matt Discuss the Escrow/Freelancer Deal

A few days ago I wrote an article on the acquisition of Escrow.com by Freelancer.com. This morning, I had an opportunity to speak with both Brandon Abbey from Escrow.com and Matt Barrie, the CEO of Freelancer.com about the why the deal was good for both companies.

Although he is an Australian, Matt completed his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stanford 1998. It was during this time that he found himself immersed in the burgeoning technology boom. Matt said, “I remember using Google because it happened to be on one of the universities servers and it seemed pretty cool at the time.”

Escrow

His Stanford background helped provide him with a unique insight into what makes tech companies really flourish. “It’s all about providing a superior customer result,” he said.

For the last 11 years Freelancer has been acquiring companies (over 19 to date) within the crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace. Since listing on the Australian stock exchange at the end of 2013 Freelancer.com now has a market cap of more than $460 million.

Continue reading
0
  8024 Hits
  0 Comments
8024 Hits
0 Comments

Freelancer.com Acquires Escrow.com

In breaking news, Australian company, Freelancer.com has reached an agreement to acquire Escrow.com for $7.5m in cash. Freelancer.com is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and projects.

For many years, Escrow.com has been the company of choice used by many domain investors for their sales and acquisitions. Escrow also partners with eBay, GoDaddy, AutoTrader.com and Flippa.com and has a strategic partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) in support of President Obama’s National Export Initiative designed to significantly grow US export volume.

Escrow.com

Since Escrow.com has been a private company this is the first time that we’ve had a glimpse into the financials driving the business. As can be seen from the chart below, Escrow.com has experienced continued growth even in the downturn years of 2012 and 2013. According to the press release announcement, for the FY14, Escrow.com has facilitated a gross payment volume of US$265 million, net revenue of just over US$5 million, US$1.2 million in EBITDA.

Escrow.com Revenue

What's really interesting is where all the revenue is coming from and the fact that  only 41% is coming solely from the US market. This really shows that the Escrow.com team is viewing the world as their marketplace rather than just the USA.

Revenue sources

Given the $7.5 million price tag this means that Freelancer is paying at least a multiple of 6.25. This seems reasonable given the strength, sustainability and market position of the Escrow.com business.

Continue reading
0
  6097 Hits
  3 Comments
Recent Comments
impulse
That seems like a much lower price for escrow.com than I would have imagined. It is a business with growing sales and a large annu... Read More
27 April 2015
mgilmour
It could be argued that it's a bit of a steal but at the same time my guess is that the single shareholder was a motivated seller.... Read More
27 April 2015
impulse
Yes, that is very true. That is exactly why I sold Bored.com for $4.5 million in 2008, see my reasons at http://www.impulsecorp.co... Read More
27 April 2015
6097 Hits
3 Comments

Moving Forward in 2015

In 2015 the domain industry was launched with Namescon but there's a lot more on it's way. Domaining Europe, ICANN conferences and The Domain Conference being run by Howard, Barbara and Ray Neu are just a few of the topics discussed on this video.

0
  4477 Hits
  0 Comments
4477 Hits
0 Comments

When is an Escrow not an Escrow?

I was reading another blog recently (yes I do that) and was intrigued by the comments on an article about escrow. A viable, secure and reputable escrow service is absolutely key to every domainer if they are to safely buy and sell domains. So when is an escrow not an escrow?

I used three key words in my first paragraph and I would like to unpack them to help readers judge and escrow service.

Viable.
Is the business that is ultimately backing up the escrow service going to be there tomorrow? Do they have the financial ability to pay their debts when they fall due (ie. are they solvent)? My impression is there are too many people hanging out a sign saying that they can do escrow and actually have no idea what it means.

For example, I receive requests all the time from new monetisation companies wanting to get access to our large volume of traffic at ParkLogic. My problem is that for many of them I don’t know if they will be in business in the next 12 months. It’s the same for some of the start-up escrow companies, they just aren’t viable.

Secure
Security is all about whether there is an independent body that verifies that the internal processes of any escrow transaction are auditable and transparent. This means that the escrow company needs to go through the expense of government audits that verify they are a legitimate escrow business that is conducting themselves in a good and proper manner.

Recently I’ve seen a number of escrow companies pop up in strange and wonderful jurisdictions. This doesn’t mean that the escrow company is bad but it does mean that they are doing this for a particular reason. In many cases, it could be that the costs of providing a fully operational escrow business in the USA is too high, therefore they get an escrow license off-shore.

The advantage of a company that goes through the expense of a US license is that they tick a lot of the boxes. They have the money to pay and go through the government audits. It’s very likely that the US government audit will be a lot more stringent compared to other jurisdictions.

For example, my understanding is that you need to get a license for each US state (some are bundled together) and that California is really the big one. I’m not a lawyer but if you’re conducting an escrow business in California without a license then I would have thought that you’re on dangerous ground. There are some creative ways around this problem but if you’re doing business in California as an escrow company then why not just get the license and be done with it? I may be a little naïve but I just don’t get it.

Reputable
One of the most difficult things that you can do in business is build a good reputation. It often takes years and years of consistently doing the right thing by customers.

For example, I’m privileged to be part of a group of domainers get together at each conference. We do so because over the last 10+ years that we’ve known each other there has developed a sense of trust and mutual respect. It’s taken a lot of time to build these relationships and the result is a huge amount of business between us.

It’s the same thing for an escrow company. It takes years to develop the reputation as a place that can be trusted with literally millions of dollars of transactions. Reputation is everything.

So when is an escrow not an escrow? From my way of thinking, it's when they can't tick the boxes of viable, secure and reputable.

I’m very careful about who I have sponsoring my blog and I’m very proud to have Escrow.com on here because they are viable, secure and reputable. I’m not saying that any other escrow company is not any good. What I am saying is that I’ve only had positive experiences of dealing with Escrow.com

---------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.

0
  5480 Hits
  2 Comments
Recent Comments
mgilmour
I completely agree with you. Escrow is peace of mind and you're a great ad writer!
04 March 2015
5480 Hits
2 Comments