Marek Eckhaus is the founder of Brands.International and resides in Prague. His company works with business owners worldwide on innovative strategies to increase their business and improve their online presence using relevant domain names. Marek has some interesting domains leveraging several of the gTLDs. I spent some time with Marek and learned about him and his business.
Mike: It looks like you have been involved in the domain business for about 6 years. How did you get your start?
Marek: Hi Mike, thanks for having me on your site. I really appreciate the work you do and I read your articles and interviews with great interest. Yes, I started to build my private portfolio of domain names 6 years ago, just when the first new gTLD extensions went to GA.
I focus 100% on new gTLD domain names, which are names like Enjoying.Life or Paradise.World. Personally, I do not own any .com names, and I do not own any ccTLD names, just new gTLDs.
For me, it was a love at first sight – I just love how the new gTLD domain names look and feel. You are basically getting very generic and geo neutral website addresses. I particularly like that you can build truly global brands and business using new gTLD names – for example, when you have a name like Unhappy.Love, you can use it in any country, really, as extensions like .Love are not limiting you to any specific country. It’s great that with new domain names, you can secure a name that directly reflects your brand in the simplest and shortest form possible. It also means that if you name your company Unhappy Love, and get the domain name Unhappy.Love, you do not necessarily need to secure your brand in all national ccTLDs tocover yourself in case you expand to other countries. If, for example, you expand your business to Denmark and the UK, you will save the trouble of getting names like unhappylove.dk or unhappylove.co.uk, which is amazing. Unhappy.Love will work for all countries.
Very early on, many traditional domain investors were not so confident that the new gTLDs would be a good class of investments – this gave very early adopters and investors like me some really good opportunities to get some beautiful domain names with low renewal fees for very fair prices. Years between 2014 – 2016 were golden times in my opinion – I purchased basically all my domain names on the domain aftermarket, while price were pretty acceptable in most cases.
Note for your readers about renewal fees: new gTLD names have various renewals attached to them, and those renewals vary significantly among registrars, registries and different extensions. As we have now several hundreds of different new gTLD extensions, it is a very complex topic. However, from the very start, I have only been interested in the best quality new gTLD names with very low renewal fees. I had lot of fun building my portfolio early on and still have fun, although competition in 2020 is much tougher then let’s say in 2015. People are now getting more familiar and confident when it comes to new gTLD names, and even many traditional domain investors would now like to get great new gTLD domain names, so purchases are getting tougher and tougher each year. On the other side, sales are getting easier and easier. Because I am able to hold my names at a low cost, it’s been a very enjoyable ride for me, and I am more and more optimistic as we see new record sales of new gTLD names reported each year.
Mike: Tell me how you help business owners strategize and improve their business? Do you have any examples of companies you have worked with?
Marek: Brands.International provides some of the best new gTLD domain names available at the moment to business owners worldwide. We have a domain inventory close to 1,000 new gTLD names. While I personally recognize that for many companies .com names, particularly 1-word names, are an amazing option and still will be for many years to come, we all also know that such names are definitely not cheap. The recent sale of voice.com for 30 mil USD just shows that if you want to have great .com name, you usually have to pay for it significantly.
Great new gTLD names are an amazing alternative to .com names, mainly because they are also global the same way as .com names. Both are very well suited for global companies. Some of our names are also not cheap at all, I admit, but if you upgrade your business name let’s say from JohnsLondonRentals.com to our name Realty.Rentals, not only you get a shorter and more memorable brand, but you are able to expand freely in the future to various countries, and the initial one time purchase price paid will return to you many times in future.
This is exactly what we are doing – we are presenting business owners with possible brands which they can get from the new gTLD domain space, and we are explaining them advantages (and also disadvantages – those who know me know I will also clearly mention disadvantages if I am aware of any, as I really like to have very happy clients) of new gTLD names, and help businesses to get much better, shorter and more memorable global brands.
New gTLDs are still pretty new. Some people I contact are still not even aware of existence of some extensions – so it is lot of work. But my experience with end users is that once they SEE the new internet addresses they can get, they immediately LOVE them! Of course, some end users are not 100% sure in 2020 if new gTLDs are “too new”, and in addition, there are still some voices in the domain community which are telling businesses “you need to get ONLY .com, and nothing else”… But there are a lot of other voices now as well, which are saying to business owners, “you can also opt for great looking and high quality new gTLD name, and here are the advantages for your business, and here are the disadvantages for your business”. New gTLD domain names are becoming more accepted by end users year after year, and some of the most famous global companies, like Alphabet (parent company of Google, www.abc.xyz) or Block.One (block.one), are using their new gTLD domain names and love the feel and the look of them.
As for specific examples, I do not share any details of my clients, and I do not share any details of my sales. Being in EU, and having new GDPR legislation in place, I would advise all EU domain investors to do the same – always honor privacy and basically any data of your buyers. I personally think it is utterly unprofessional of some domain investors to be publicly bragging as, “I sold a domain name for $20k, purchased 3 months ago for $8.” This not only can have various legal consequences; it is simply not good behavior towards the domain buyers. Saying that, I admit I too, like to read data about sales of other domain investors – so I might change that approach in future, but only in case that I agree with a particular client to do just that. I am not hiding that I am trying to make some record-breaking sales with a few of my best domain names – and if I am particularly happy with something, I might report some highest sales, just to boost new gTLDs as such and also some of my fellow domain investors.
Mike: You mentioned that some of your domains are for sale while others you would like to develop. What are some of the names you would like to develop and what have you developed any to date?
Marek: I have developed (or have developed for me) few names so far. For example, for one of my businesses in Prague I have developed is the domain name Royal.Estate. It is now a boutique real estate agency which I own, and our clients just love the name and the brand! Some of them are really impressed – they were asking me how it is possible that I can have exact web address which is absolutely the same as the very name of my company! I have explained to them, that since 2014 this is simply possible 🙂 So I am personally testing new gTLDs in daily life and in daily business. All aspects such as using them on social media, using them in ads campaigns, using some of them just for email, using some of them in forms of various subdomains, testing their traffic, performance in parking, etc. They work amazingly for me. Once again, when you have brand like Royal.Estate, it just adds instant credibility to you and your business.
For the future, we have more development plans. For example I really love some of my other real estate domain names (to explain, I have been active real estate agent until recently, while now I have shifted my focus more to domain names and internet related focus), and I am lucky to own domain names like Holiday.Property or Dream.Property. I can not wait to develop them. In my opinion, once you have really good domain names, it is a pity to sell them all (or to sell then all cheaply, to be more precise). Other names which probably will go down development route in next few years are Express.News, Instant.Website and Casinos.Cheap. It is simply too good to pass on such opportunities.
Mike: Brands.International, in my opinion, is a fitting name for your business based on its mission. Which of the TLDs is your favorite and why?
Marek: I do not have particular new gTLD extension which is my favorite. I am really looking at only for 2 criteria in my domain investments. First, the name must have great semantic quality, it must be a widely used generic English term (and right side of the dot must semantically match left side of the dot). Second, it must have a low renewal fee attached to it. Having hundreds of new gTLD domain names, one has to be very careful when it comes to renewal fees of those names so the portfolio as such stays in good shape from financial point of view.
But again, most important for me is the semantic quality of the name. I like to invest in very broad, category defining names like Express.News, Realty.Rentals or Alien.Life. For each name, I must be able to imagine a global business and who can use it as global brand in future, otherwise it does not have place in my portfolio.
Mike: Do the names listed on your site all belong to you? Do you or will you list names of other domain owners and act as the broker?
Marek: Yes, all names listed on Brands.International belongs to me. As for listing names of other domain owners, or brokering, I am very active on LinkedIn, and thus I am getting daily requests to broker domain names of other domain investors and/or various registries. But at the moment I own enough of inventory, and I am pretty busy with my own names. And quite frankly, the names I am offered to broker or list are in many instances simply not at the quality level of my own names, so it does not make much sense for me to broker or list anything at the moment.
As I really respect my buyers, I feel I need to have 100% control of the names I sell to them. With Brands.International, buyers will never face any unpleasant surprises. Their personal data will never be shared. Information about the price they paid will never be shared in public (unless specifically agreed and confirmed by buyer), and I also know detailed history of each name I own from the very beginning (which in case of new gTLDs is late 2013, when first of them started to be available). So, no sudden surprises, like in case of some valuable legacy domain names which are brokered and sold, only to be later repossessed because the name might have been stolen. This is also one of the reasons I do not plan to broker or list anything which does not belong to me, it simply takes lot of time to verify all the facts on valuable domain names which belong to other entities. Saying that, even now I occasionally help some new gTLD fellow domain investors, by posting their domain names in LinkedIn, in cases where I see it is a great name, and when I feel it will help domain owner and buyers as well. But it is explicitly written in those posts who is the domain owner, and I do it as a friendly gesture to help fellow investors. Who knows … if someone approaches me and buys my whole portfolio, and I stay with empty hands, I might consider to be broker then 🙂
Mike: How do you calculate the value of a gTLD, especially when they are so new and unique. What makes one more valuable than another?
Marek: I had to develop some strong opinions about most names, as choosing wrong names costs lot of money considering the size of the portfolio. It is however pretty complex to explain in short manner. Since summer 2018 I was running large appraisal thread on Namepros, where I was doing my best to valuate names of other domain investors. I tried to give back to domain community on Namepros. It was an excellent mental exercise for me as well, and I kept up to date with new ideas of other investors, as well as with all new extensions launched. I have recently stopped my active participation in Namepros as I do not have any spare time to do this anymore, but I still read it from time to time with great interest. When it comes to valuation, although there are so many different names and various extensions, when you will read the thread, you will notice there some common patterns. I would always think of following factors when valuating new gTLDs, which are:
a) whether it feels and sounds good – can you build a truly global brand on it?
b) what is the renewal fee – is it low, is it high? Obviously, the lower, the better.
c) whether there are available alternatives in new gTLD space (whether you can register some similar domain names in other new gTLD extension), and how much those alternatives cost.
d) what is the guesstimate of STR (sell through rate) per any given year we hold that domain name corresponding to particular valuation range
Then, when you combine all those factors, plus other variables like eventual TM sensitivity of the name in various jurisdiction (very important factor to consider), previously reported sales in that extension, in similar extensions and for that keyword and similar keywords, you will get some rough picture of its value. Purely from investment point of view, my approach is mainly to compare PYP (“Projected Yearly Profit”, which is STR percentage multiplied with estimated resale value) vs fixed yearly renewal cost (FYRC). Apparently, if the PYP is larger than FYRC, such name has some future in your portfolio. And if the PYP is some larger multiply of FYRC, it is even much better for a domain investor. Concept is not trivial so I recommend to readers to read directly the valuation thread and make their own judgement, here. Warning: it is pretty long and might be boring maybe 🙂
Mike: Can you share the highest value single domain name that you have sold?
Marek: I can, but I will not due to reasons explained above. I am sorry that I am not more helpful to domain community via this particular way, but I do care about privacy of my client’s first.
Mike: What tips would you provide to a business owner looking to purchase a new domain for their business?
Marek: First, I would like to note that from my experience business owners are definitely not stupid. Vice verse, they are usually the quite clever peopl, which is also the reason they are the business owners! I am saying this, as it is very often nowadays that domain investors or domain brokers are thinking that in general they actually can educate business owners and advice them which domain they should buy. In some cases, sure, they can, but in many cases I would say please do not even try to do that, as business owners usually know more than we do about their business, which includes their online business as well. So, I am pretty humble in this aspect.
Saying the above, in the case of new gTLDs, which are a more complex topic then legacy extensions due to their variety, I would definitely advise business owners to speak with domain experts who actually invest in new gTLDs and test new gTLDs daily. Not just any domain broker or consultant will do here in my opinion, as it simply takes lot of time to test hundreds/thousands of new gTLD domain names in various extension on your own for several years, so you are able to form at least some opinions. Not all new gTLD names are created equal, not all registries and registrars are acting equally, some of the are better, some are unfortunately worse.
There are different aspects of new gTLD names as well which are not frequently talked about – for example, some new gTLD names are getting a lot of traffic each month, lot of clicks, and are actually producing some nice parking revenues! This is particularly a very secretive area, no one will tell you really much about it (from obvious reason. If I discover that some new gTLD names are performing very well, I’ll just register more of such names silently). So only direct experiments will give you insights here. In addition, some new gTLD domain names might have amazing ranking abilities once they are properly developed, and thus can bring huge intrinsic value to business owners. Once your name ranks so well, you will be saving a LOT of money each day on marketing campaigns. You will pay much less to companies which are improving your SEO, etc.
Also, prior to any major purchase, speak with your accountant: from my experience, 95% of buyers are not aware of this: there are depreciation rules in many countries worldwide which can be applied also on purchase of your new domain names. Depending on your jurisdiction, you will be able to create yearly tax credits as large as 1% – 6% of the purchase price, which can be applied directly on your company profits. Which means (in normal language) that your domain name will pay for itself in 15-30 years. So great domain name will not only bring you better brand, more leads, better business, higher ranking, more customers, less costs, and various other advantages, but it will also pay for itself in a period of time by applying correct accounting rules. Of course, you need to confirm everything with your accountant first.
Another part of my advice would be this: please be really careful where you take your advice from. At least from my experience, many of typical domain brokers in 2020 still focus on .com or ccTLD names, and will not be able to advise you properly on above mentioned topics, as they do not have sufficient knowledge. Also, you typical IT guy will not do here. And your SEO company (particularly in case of external suppliers) will in many cases definitely not do as well – you need to understand, that great domain name means that your SEO guys will have much less work to do, therefore will be forced to send you smaller monthly bills, and not everyone will be happy about it. If you slash your budget also to your marketing ads running supplier (as your web will rank higher and therefore you will need less marketing budget for the same amount of leads), the marketing guys will also not celebrate, so to speak. You need to find an independent broker or adviser with relevant experience in new gTLD area, particularly when you are about to purchase high value new gTLD name. Once you purchase it, some people will not be pleased (your SEO delivery company, your marketing ads running supplier, etc) but one person will really be glad (you, the business owner).
In short, new gTLD domain investors like Brands.International can tell you advantages disadvantages of new gTLD domain names, as we now have some direct knowledge and experience. We are also neutral when it comes to various extensions, registrars or registries. To illustrate that, I have names registered in more than 10 different registrars, in approximately 50 different new gTLD extensions operated by more the 10 different registries located in various countries – so I can definitely compare things, and tell you what is great, and what is not that great. This is also the main reason why I personally offer various consultancy services for business owners on my site.
I would also encourage business owners to be open to new ideas and trends, to have curiosity, and most importantly: please get your great global brand and domain name from day one, be it an amazing .com name, or a amazing new gTLD name. Never ever start your online effort with mediocre domain name and brand, simply get the best possible brand you can!