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From Madison Avenue to becoming a domainer millionaire

Every successful domainer has his story how he got into this business. Here’s Rob Grant’s. He was this creative guy working really hard at Grey Advertising. He was really happy to get that job, but it was becoming more and more stressful since working for clients like Proctor & Gamble, Northwest Airlines and others doesn’t come that easy. Tag lines like “Thank Goodness it Fits” made his clients a fortune, so he began to wonder what it takes to do the same for himself.

Quiting from a renowned company to start domaining
Quitting from a renowned company to start domaining

Moving away from New York was the best move Rob ever made. He went there into the Real Estate business that gave him the security after moving there, and giving up his great job at perhaps the best marketing agency in the world. You are probably wondering what happened next, and how does a guy from a marketing agency – turned “RealEstate agent” go to a domainer?

Well, when you think about it, domains are virtual real estates. And marketing and branding is deeply tied with domain names. So when Rob combined his two experiences, he though he could get a hold of it, and boy he did. When him and his team were working on one of their website, his developer suggested Rob should get a domain name RobGrantRealEstate.com, which he did. But even more importantly, he found that AdirondackRealEstate.com was also available. Since that place was going up in the real estate world, it was a great move.

But Rob didn’t stop there! He bought thousands of .com domains starting with a city, state or country, ending with a “real estate”. Although you my dear reader are late for that party, you can make that sort of massive checks with WhoAPI. {1000Cities} + {RealEstate}. Now guess how much money you can make for getting a buyer of a real estate that’s worth 750 000$? That amount is the average home sale in Hawaii, and when you own HawaiiRealEstate.com great things happen. Single lead to a licensed broker in Hawaii can be worth up to $45,000. Sounds great, right?

Well, during the dot com bust, when everything was collapsing, and everybody was giving up on internet services and domain names, Rob purchased even more of them, and back then he still wasn’t making any money. You imagined how good the commission would feel, now imagine the guts it takes to pull that off and do the complete opposite everybody is doing.

Rob’s company WebMediaProperties.com is currently operating around 1600 websites, and around 8000 domain names.

Rob Grant a domain investor
Rob Grant a domain investor

WhoAPI: What was the first domain name you registered?
Rob: www.AdirondackRealEstate.com

WhoAPI: What was the first domain you sold?
Rob: www.BahamasRealEstate.com

WhoAPI: What was the biggest sale you made?
Rob: My biggest sales are restricted by NDA’s. However, I can disclose select real estate domain sales: ParkCityRealEstate.com      $60,000. BoiseRealEstate.com           $50,000. HiltonHeadRealEstate.com  $80,000. (lease with option to purchase)

WhoAPI: How big is your domain portfolio?
Rob: #8000 domains

WhoAPI:Which .com is your favorite?
Rob: Marathons.com

WhoAPI: What is the oldest domain you currently own?
Rob: All of my earliest domains were hand registered  back in 1996. Great names like Biathlon.com, TropicalFish.com, FourWheelDrive.com, BookPublishers.com, TalentAgents.com, PrefabHomes.com,  & thousands of other premium generic domains.

WhoAPI: What excites you most in domaining? Now that you are on top, where do you find the motivation to keep competing?
Rob: You’re never on top. The moment you think you are… the game is over. This is especially true in the internet space. No other industry changes as rapidly and without warning as technology. Its the only space where you can go to bed at night feeling on top of the world… and wake up the next morning to discover your entire business model is dead. That’s also what makes it so exciting.

WhoAPI: How does your typical day look like, and what are you currently working on?
Rob: I start every day with a good cup of coffee… looking out from my deck over beautiful Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains. I try to start every day in peace. It helps me maintain my perspective and to be very thoughtful… I try to be very aware so I can avoid making bad mistakes (often based on emotion), or rash decisions. The chemistry of the day is critical to me and determines a lot of my success.

WhoAPI: Where do you see the industry going? What does your crystal ball tell you? 🙂
Rob: In many respects, the domain industry has come full circle for me. When I got into this space back in 1996, I bought domain names intuitively – based soley on their inherent brand value. It had nothing to do with PPC revenue or multiples of revenue, or exact match SEO with search engines – Because none of these things existed back then. What I looked at was the Brand Value of a domain name, and what kind of potential business could be developed around that name in the future. Today, after having gone through (and survived) the 15 years of changes and so many interesting cycles of PPC, SEO and other phases, domain names stand ready to be developed as they were originally intended. For me personally, this has always been the highest and best use for a premium domain. Everything else represents a wasted asset. So the Golden Age of Domain Development has finally arrived, and with it unlimited potential.

WhoAPI: Which new gTLD has the most potential? What’s your opinion on hundreds of new gTLD’s that are lining up?
Rob:Only one extension will emerge as the winner. Its the same extension that has always emerged on top, through countless disruptions and changes in the domain space. It’s Dot Com. Dot Com will always win the horse race. It doesn’t matter how many horses enter the race. Dot Com is the powerful and graceful ‘Secretariat’ of domains. It’s important to remember that this is the one extension that all companies (Fortune 500 companies on down to small businesses everywhere) have all built massive brands around – both online and offline (print, TV, radio, etc) over the last 15 years. All other extensions have basically played a defensive role. This means that billions of dollars in advertising and marketing have been spent on the Dot Com brand itself. It’s what consumers are familiar with and understand. The introduction of thousands of new extensions will only confuse the consumer, and serve to strengthen the Dot Com brand. What people forget is that we have already been through a similar test case with the introduction of new tld’s like Biz, Info, Travel, Mobi, etc. And we all know how that mess turned out. The only potential disrupter this time is Google, launching its own extensions and then favoring those extensions in its organic search results. Google has just spent $18 million applying for over 101 new extensions. The same is true with Yahoo (.yahoo) & Bing (.bing).

Domain investors manage to find profitable .com domains
Domain investors manage to find profitable .com domains

Without a doubt, we are poised to enter one of the most interesting chapters in the story of domain names. The one thing all of these new TLD’s will do (and it will be very valuable for all of us), is to attract huge new investment dollars into the domain space and raise the awareness for domain names as an asset class. And this is already happening as we speak. I also expect to see massive disruption and confusion over the next 24 months as experts and businesses try to anticipate the launch of these new tld’s and determine exactly what their collective impact will be on the domain space. Durring this period, I think we will see a decline in high value domain sales, as the world ponders the meaning of these new tld’s. It may take several years to emerge from this fog of war (as we have so many times in the past) before we have clarity, again.

WhoAPI:Are you doing something to clear the name of domainers that are doing a great job instead of squatting and spamming?
Rob: Over the last decade, we have gifted approximately $1 million dollars in educational domain names to colleges and universities around the country. We were the first to pioneer this concept in the early years of domaining. You can learn more about our program and our unique gifting at www.GrantFamilyFoundation.com (For a thorough explanation of the gifted $1 million dollars read Rob’s interview in DN Journal)

WhoAPI: Anything you wish to add, promote, explain?
Rob: Currently, we are experimenting with a successful new real estate domain platform which allows brokers the opportunity to lease a turn-key web portal complete with SEO, as well as a premium domain brand. We are partnering with a firm out of San Diego (eDomainers.com) which handles all of the web development and leasing. A great example of this new & very innovative platform can be viewed at www.PhiladelphiaRealEstate.com This program is very important to me, since I own the world’s largest real estate domain portfolio, so my focus is on this space and how we can achieve the highest potential value for these great names. www.WebMediaProperties.com (our holding company which controls 8000 domains) also operates a large travel and lifestyle network comprised of over 1600 sites around the country. Last year, we were honored to receive the Publisher Of The Year award at the annual Traffic Conference for our work with web development on a wide spectrum of domain names. As the future unfolds, large domain portfolio companies will continue to evolve into media companies. The focus will be on creating partnerships, as well as outright mergers and acquisitions, with companies that can develop these raw domain assets into profitable businesses. This will ultimately explode the value of domain names beyond anything we have seen before. That’s our strategy moving forward.

Written by Goran Duskic

I am the founder and CEO at WhoAPI. Entrepreneur for more than a decade in the hosting and domain industry. Sold my previous company. 500 Startups and StartLabs alumni. Author of a white paper "Domain Disclosure: Dirty Dozen" and eBook "26 Fundraising Questions for Startups".

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  1. Very inspiring success Story…..
    I have also recently started investing in domain names, I see few people call themselves a Domainer….

    Being a Domainer feels great

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