Developing a Domain Into a Business - Part 1

So you’re all excited about developing that really special domain name and you’re wondering what the first steps are. Most people immediately jump into getting a website up….whatever you do this is the completely wrong approach!

In this article I want to touch on a number of things that I look for in start-up businesses and then as the series progresses discuss how to actually build a successful business. I've founded many successful startups and there is nothing quite as satisfying as creating something from nothing.

I've found that successful businesses typically start with a well thought out business plan. The technical implementation of a website is only one small but important aspect of the plan. The first thing that you need to work out is how you’re going to make some money. You may only have a vague concept about how you are going to do this but nevertheless, get it down on paper!

For example, I love writing my blog on the domain industry, business and even my weekly personal musings. From my very first article I had a clear direction that it would be an advertising based may seem obvious but there are many other things that I could have done. Speaking of which....reach out to me if you are interested in advertising!

I was recently approached to invest in an online business and the first question I always ask is, “How are you going to make money?” This seems an obvious question but believe it or not it’s often forgotten in the excitement of getting a pretty website up and running. If you can’t answer the question then stop whatever you are doing and work on that problem because it impacts everything else that you do.

The second question I end up asking is, “How fast can you earn your first dollar?” Like the first question this one is vital as it helps scale how big an investment you require to really understanding if you will actually have any customers.

Once again, I see many budding entrepreneurs believe that they need everything nailed down, automated and working at peak performance. I personally don’t really care about many of those things. I’m more interested in them actually earning the first dollar.

Jeff Bezos started processing his first online payments by literally taking a disk out of one computer and walking it across to another computer. He nick-named this sneaker-net. He didn’t have all of the automation in place but he knew how to collect the money…..the automation came later.

So I come back to the question, “How fast can you earn your first dollar?” Forget all the bells and whistles. I want to know how long it will take you to get a client to buy your product or service. From an investment perspective this proves so many things about your business:

1.    That there is a market.
2.    The really basic technology works.
3.    Your product/service works.

Once you have this in place then it’s just a question of scaling.

It’s like me with the science fiction book that I’ve written called “Battleframe”. I’ve never written a book before and it’s been quite a journey but now that I have my product I need to think of innovative ways of getting it into the hands of customers. I need that first customer that I’ve never met before (ie. not a friend) to buy the book and say that they enjoyed it. Once everything’s in place I then need to scale…..and write book two!

A number of years ago I met a domainer that had built a website into a business. They’d spent $6m on it before they had earned a penny. I must admit it that I just don’t get this mentality. What happens if the market rejects your product? You’ve just spent $6m on something that is pretty worthless.Once you’ve answered my two above questions then you need to answer the third one, “Do I really need any investment.” I’ll cover this in the next part in the series.


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.
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