Rick Schwartz, owner of one of the most valuable domain portfolios around is already a living legend in the domain business. Rick was one of the first pioneers to foresee the value of generic domains at a time where most people didn’t even know what Internet was all about. Also known as Domain King or Webfather, Ricks activities for and within the domain market turn him into one of the most important figures when it comes to doing business with domains. Rick also blogs regularly on his RicksBlog.com.
I have occasionally mentioned Rick in my blog posts, in fact twice now in a very short period of time, due to the sales of Property.com and Widgets.com. Some German readers of Domain Smalltalk don’t really know much about Rick Schwartz, so I asked for an interview and am very grateful that he accepted willingly.
Hello Rick, thank you ever so much for accepting this interview. Would you please answer a few questions for our German readers. Here we go:
How did you find your way into Domain Business?
I bought Lipservice.com to advertise my phone numbers like 1-800-MAKEOUT. 1-800-SIRL-LOVE. It was just an experiment to see if I could put a phone number that got no calls to a phone number that got calls and made some revenue. The first month I spent $39 and took in about $60. That was a sign to me that there was gold in them thar hills. If I could make $20/month from one site could I make more from multiple sites? If only 5% were online in 1995 and 100% would be online in 10 years that would be a big increase. So little by little I got a better understanding of the net. I studied it every waking hour and by the summer of 1997 I had a pretty good handle on things. So it took me nearly 2 years to really „Get it.“
At the time you started, the internet did not have the coverage it has today. What made you think this would change?
To me it was obvious that the web presence and thus a businesses domain name would be the single most valuable asset they owned. I predicted early on that the web address would replace the telephone number as the „Lifeline“ of a business. If you could give only one piece of information to a potential customer it would be their website address. their domain name. That was a time that their sites were not even on their ads or on their literature. But i had no doubt whatsoever how it would unfold. But folks just laughed when i told them.
Traffic is known to break records year for year, the last event in New York sold a lot of domains in five live auctions. How would you evaluate the prices achieved?
I think it showed that the industry is very healthy despite the overall economy. The domain industry is still thriving. Great domains continue to sell. Pros just get pickier in what they buy but they don’t stop buying. I think many were relieved that we did nearly $5M in sales.
You are known for having success monetizing your domains, not really for selling them. How come you are now in a selling mood? Just look at property.com and widgets.com within a very short period of time.
I sell when I think I am getting the dollars that I value the domain at. So it has nothing to do with the economy or anything other than domains are finally being recognized for what value they have. I had a 20 year plan and we are 13 years into it. Folks should expect I will make more deals. More joint ventures. More new businesses. More new opportunity. More experimenting.
Who is your best friend and who your toughest rival?
Me. Me on both counts. But especially the „Rival.“ I am always competing with myself. With my last accomplishment. With my next hurrah. I am driven by myself to always clear new paths and to trail blaze what I believe to be the path I see.
The financial world is right now realizing, that the world economy is built on a ballon, and the hot air in it is just about to freeze. How will this affect the domain market?
It may show that domain names are the safest investment of this new century. I don’t see any long term bad affect. Even short term, I just see a lot of crappy domains coming to the market that can’t make registrations fees. Most of them are worthless. But someone is always feeding on the bottom and someone always will be the „Catfish.“ Whatever happens economically speaking, great domains will continue to go up in value. We have barely scartched the surface. I told cnn.com when I sold them iReport.com for $750k that they got a bargain. That the domain was actually worth $7.5M to THEM. But I used that sale as a building block for future sales for me and everyone in the industry.
Where do you see the German domain market today and where do you see it tomorrow?
I wish I was in a position to answer that. My knowledge of the German market is limited. I do know that Germany has the biggest economy in Europe and that they have been a leader in the domain space. I see anyone in any space that has quality domain names to do well. .de definitely has a strong country code identity. I root for country code domain names and businesses because owning the .com version of certain domains may prove fruitful someday. I think most folks that have their country code domain would also not mind having the .com sister.
Any other extensions to be aware of?
I am a .com guy. I dabble in .mobi and I have a partnership with some high profile.me domains. So I am not the best person to respond to this. I am very biased. What I will say is no matter what extension, don’t waste your money on crap. Buy only premium keyword type domains and your risk will be much less.
What advice would you give those entering domain business today?
Don’t buy crap. Learn what makes one domain great and one worthless. I think this is the biggest mistake, many just don’t understand the elements needed in a quality domain name. It does not take a lot of money when you know what to look for. I can buy gems all day long for $500 to $5000. More importantly, don’t focus on Trademarked domain names. New domainers doing that are just doing harm to everyone in the industry.
Thank you for the interview Rick, I’m looking forward to post more information about your recent awesome sales.
German translation / Deutsche Übersetzung: Rick Schwartz im Interview