Countless new businesses sprout every day and each needs an Internet presence. As strategized in real estate, the stock market and other investment verticals, a premium domain name is a highly valuable asset. As a matter of fact, as long as the internet is growing, domain names might just be the only definite investment there is. The millions of domain names that are bought and sold every year have given rise to an industry of countless domain name investors.
Understanding the science of domain names, how to pick the right ones from the digital vine, can be a bit tricky. But there are a set of rules and if followed properly they can prove to be very lucrative. What if you had a guide, someone to show you the way and make the journey easier?
What follows is the second of the series of interviews with the pack leaders of domain name investment industry in Pakistan. We hope it to be an avenue where the new entrants in the field, and fresh entrepreneurs, both can cultivate an insight into successful domain name investment.
We are glad to welcome Sharjil Saleem at the PW Domain Investment Interview.
Sharjil Saleem, born in Karachi and currently based in Dubai. Being in the IT sector for the last 8 years and currently at the age of 28, he has made great impact in domain industry. His specialties are to deal in numeric and short domains. He has sold the highest NNNN.com sold to date for $252,500 in 2016. Overall, has bought, sold, and brokered over $3M in domain names. Sharjil has been mentioned in DnJournal and several other mainstream publications.
What follows below is a candid interview PakWired team (PW) conducted with him. We are grateful for his time, and the knowledge he (SS) has shared with our readers.
PW: When did you register your first domain?
SS: I registered my first domain when I get into IT industry (SEO) in 2008 or 2009. I planned to develop that domain but didn’t get a chance and then I dropped it within 2 to 3 years.
PW: How (and when) did you get in the business of domain name investment? What is your oldest domain name?
SS: I mostly focus on domain brokerage, however, I’m into investment as well. The oldest domain name I have used for brokerage are: Shelly.com which I already sold at $35,000 and Great.org which I sold at $22,000.
PW: How much does a domain cost now? What did it cost you when you registered your first?
SS: If you go with hand-registered domains it costs around $8 to $12 per domain, but if you go with the premium, or expired domains auction, then it totally depends on the domain.
PW: What is the market value (both wholesale and retail) of the best domain names?
SS: I don’t think so there is any wholesale or retail markets except Chinese domains, like LL, NN, NNN, or LLL.com. The other domains totally depend over the End User pocket. There’d be instances when you come across domains sold in more than $10m, however, the real owner gets perhaps only couple of thousands $.
PW: What kind of domains are worthless and should be dropped?
SS: This is totally dependent on the type of domains you register. I’ve seen some of the guys trying to chase after the Trademarks, which they eventually have to handover to the trademark owners since there can be lawsuits filed under the UDRP (Uniform Dispute Resolution policy). In the current era, most of the hand registered (Available) domains have been rejected by several investors or buyers. But yes, sometime you do find a gem.
PW: Which domains are valuable, and in what way?
SS: There are 2 types of markets: one is for the Western Buyers and the other is for the Chinese. Let’s start with western buyers. They try to focus on branding and trying to go with the one word domain like, Case.com, Lawyer.com Or Marketing.com.
In contrast, when you see the Chinese market, they love to invest in numbers. For us working in other markets 1688.com is nothing, however, for the Chinese it means ALIBABA, since this is owned by Alibaba itself. Therefore, in Chinese market numbers are more easier to sale than letters, though, they invest in letters as well. There is a proper market in China for the type of domains like LL.com, LLL.com, LLLL.com.
PW: What is a brandable domain?
SS: Brand speaks for itself. Some of the domains which you may have never considered to be a brand, make great success as a brand. Take for example, Uber!
In the Chinese market LLLL.com with vowels values around $190 to $250. Uber one of these regularly priced Chinese LLLL.com, until Uber launched. Now, it’s a massive seven figures priced name, only because it’s a brand now.
PW: Which domain names may invite legal issues?
SS: You can’t fight with the Million $ company by holding a $10 name. I have seen some examples at: http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=D2014-0002 where you can see that the domain Marlborocigs.com transferred to the Trademark very easily.
PW: Which domains deserve marketing efforts to sell?
SS: There are some of domains which speak for themselves. For example, I have Profile.com and DXB.com (Dubai). At these domains I only created the landing pages and the interested buyers sent their offers. On the other hand, there are several domains like SEOCharlotte or AtlantaSEOCompany, which need the marketing efforts.
PW: How do you discover the perceived value of a domain name?
SS: By spending my day and night in this domain world :)
PW: What type of domain names you should consider buying when you’re starting out?
SS: There are 2 kinds of domain investors and buyers. One kind is who began investing, aiming to be a millionaire overnight; the other kind is the one who research about this industry and study the pros and cons. Obviously if you just jump in the river without taking swimming classes, a day will come when you will even lose the hope to survive.
I would better suggest to read the books or research about it to understand how this domain industry works. It definitely will make you millionaire but not without research and knowledge.
PW: As a successful domainer, what do you consider to be your essential tool/tools?
SS: If you want to get expertise in Chinese domains, there is a website chaomi.cc which is like a stock market for domains where you can study the prices fluctuate on daily or even hourly basis. There are other tools which you should review before you jump into this industry, namebio.com, dnjournal.com (for case studies), domaining.com and several others if you research.
PW: Did you ever buy a domain just because?
Since I am more focused at Domain brokerage, I make sure that whatever domain I take under my brokerage, I sell.
PW: What has been your biggest sale to date?
SS: There are some sales which I can’t share due to the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), but there are some already published sales. One of them is 0123.com which I sold at $252,500. It’s the highest sale of NNNN.com ever in this domain industry. Others are Shelly.com at $35,000, MarketingConsultants.com at $25,000, Great.org at $22,000, 7200.com at $45,000. I have sold more than 2000 LLLL.com domains to my Chinese buyers.
PW: What are your most favored sites for hunting domain names?
SS: Godaddy Auction, DropCatch, Namejet.
PW: Please list a couple of examples on how to identify a good domain from a bad one?
SS: Before you buy a domain name, I will suggest you think as a buyer that if you are the buyer for this domain what could you do with this domain. If you can build something then anyone can. But again it needs a research and learning.
PW: Which extension/TLD’s are most popular with startups in Pakistan?
SS: In Pakistan, currently most of the websites are using .com. However, I am seeing that there are the new startups are shifting it to .pk which is definitely good for Pakistan market.
PW: What is typically the most active month of the year?
SS: If you are talking about Western market, any month is good as per the need of the buyer. If you are talking about Chinese market, they invest and make the strategy in different months like after their New Year.
PW: What’s your advice for a new investor stepping into domaining in Pakistan? Is it worth it?
SS: My advice would be, if you really want to step in, you should learn. And yes, It’s still a great time to get into this industry.