The Domain Name Industry, South Florida, and Professionalism

Last week, I attended the SouthFloridaDomainers.com event, which was put on by the company Oversee.net. Most of the early innovation in domain name trading, development, and selling originated right here in South Florida. The founders of SFD, Mike Ward, Stu Maloff, and Brian Diener, are some local Domainers in South Florida who have a passion for the industry.

Of course, Boca Raton's own Rick Schwartz is probably the most-often-cited and quoted domainer in the industry. He's sold names like property.com, candy.com and supposedly a lot of adult domain names.  

In fact, it turns out that about a third of the top-level domain traders in the industry live in South Florida. Vancouver is another hotbed, but since those domainers choose to live in arctic-like conditions, we will not focus on them at all.

Attending SFD, I learned three things about the domain name industry I hadn't known before:

  1. Domains involve a lot of lawyers.
  2. Most participants in the domainer business are really amateurs.
  3. There might not be a more conniving crowd than these people.

I attended the event having been invited by a friend. I've dabbled in domain trading and development before and have made some money doing it, but I have always thought of myself as just a dabbler, an amateur. Turns out, I've done more of it than most of the "experts" in attendance. A lot of them were there, I think, to try to siphon information from the successful domainers.

It's amazing how many things there are surrounding the domain business as well. Lawyers, mostly, but they are the back-end that most people don't see. They cut deals, smooth out the legalities, and work on people's behalves to defend against or prosecute theft of trademarks or copyrights. With them are the paralegals and support staff. All focused on the domain-name industry.

To get an idea of what domain name trading and selling means, here are some examples of what's been traded:

Mike Ward sold miamibeachhotelrooms.com for $2,500, his highest pure domain sale to date. Most of his domains are Thai and .pro extensions, however. Mike has more than 1,200 domain names in his portfolio currently.  

He met Stu Maloff (a third-grade teacher in Coral Springs) at an auction where they were bidding against each other. Neither would admit who won the auction (lol), but they got together and found out they could do well collaborating together, so they've done so since.

Stu's highest sale was for $6,000 for an undisclosed domain name. It was a New York business name. That was all he'd say.

Brian is an interesting part of this trio of founders, as he's only 16 and goes to St. Andrews in Boca.  He sold a domain for $1,000 to a lawyer but is under a nondisclosure agreement and can't say what the domain was. He currently owns several domains, including teendomainer.com. Not sure if he'll have to give it up by default in four years when it's no longer relevant for him, though. Brian funds his domain-name acquisitions through sales and through eBay auctions.

"I know you are wondering what this kid is doing here, since you all probably have domains older than me," Brian said.

Another person I was honored to meet was Monte Cahn of Moniker.com. That business owns 117 registrars around the internet and has more than 3 million domain names registered. Their best-known site outside of Moniker is Nameking.com, which holds about 700,000 names.  

Monte began business out of his bedroom in 1999 and hasn't looked back. He saw the potential for domain-name investing back in 1995, and from then to '99, he purchased more than 1,000 domains and found ways to monetize them in the fledgling AlNet. That was before the internet got its new name when Al Gore left to go into politics.

His first major sale, with his new company in 1999, was a $1 million name: wallstreet.com. In 1999, they pulled in $2.2 million for autos.com. In 2000, they became an officially recognized ICANN registrar when they purchased a small Canadian company.

As you can see, some of the old movers and shakers were there, as were the new generation of domainers. Mingling in the crowd, I found that most domainers are either amateurs like me, who sell the occasional $200 or $300 name or are posers who haven't sold much and have little idea how to really go about it.

Some domainers specialize in pure name acquisition and resell, some pick up domains and develop them for sale, and others purchase names to sell in groups or bulk lots to other domainers or investors.  

It's an amazing industry, and most of it takes place, quietly, right here in South Florida.

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