Neil Bostick is Founder at Landholder LLC (a real estate website portfolio startup ) & QEIP LLC (the established domain brokerage), and both are currently based out of NYC where Neil resides in the East Village.
You may be familiar with the qeip.com newsletter which features domain names at prices that are often times more obtainable than those seen on other sources. The qeip website describes the company as “a group of expert domain investors that provide digital asset consulting and brokerage services designed to connect businesses with domain owners.” I reached out to Neil to find out more about him and the business he runs.
Mike: With the variety of domain sales platforms and brokers in the market today, what inspired you to launch qeip and what would say differentiates you from others in the industry?
Neil: Before starting QEIP in 2016, I had worked at an IT services company where I was selling big data/analytical consulting along with high value enterprise software – each of the products was priced around $50k-$500k/YR. To find the right companies (and the right contacts for that matter) for our targeted products, a lot of outbound strategy and effort was needed to find/close deals. And for any company to give you the time of day when considering such a big purchase, a lot of attention to customer needs was required to get deals done. At the time when I was getting into domains, I spent quite some time researching the domain industry and I had found that too often the industry was very ‘used car salesman’ in terms of the way listing services, ‘domainers’, and brokerages operate. In that, there seemed to be a lack of professional communication between parties, transparency of pricing, and a genuine strategy for sales. At my last job, my approach to outbound sales was meticulous – I was tracking every company that visited our website (via analytics & IP addresses), converting each of these relevant company leads into lists of executive contacts (through research on the now-defunct database of Data.com), and then we would set up automated email & phone campaigns to convert these leads into customers (through Salesforce campaigns). Seeing that most of the brokers at the time were just using email and Google search and the auction houses were not providing any human labor (while both were charging 25% commission!), I felt that I had quite the competitive advantage to starting my own domain brokerage. In this, my competitive advantage was offering a superior lead generation service (using the process I outlined above) whilst offering domain owners better commission rates and communication standards.
I built my domain brokerage on the classic b2b model – where our team strategy for attracting premium domain owners and connecting these domains to investors & end users is all based around addressing the individual needs of each client (given their business goals). For my sellers, I found that most domain owners were very starved for outbound work (both for quick and long term sales) and we had a strategy that could fit their needs no matter their timelines to sale or their pricing expectations (as long as they are not looking to get an above-market price in a short timeframe …as that is against market forces). What sets us apart on the short-term outbound front is our exclusive investor network in addition to the platform of our weekly newsletter to get domains sold quickly for market prices. What sets us apart on the long-term outbound front, is our full-time lead generation team that uses the corporate sales strategy I described above to market superb domains right in front of the right executives at the right companies for above-market prices. So if you want to sell a domain quickly for a solid investor price or you are willing to wait longer for a killer end user sale, we can provide an outbound service to you that enables you to get your domain sold quicker AND for a greater amount than you could sell the domain for yourself.
Mike: One of your earliest successes was a hosting site that attracted nearly a million subscribers. What specific tactics did you employ to accomplish that? Did you ultimately sell that business?
Neil: Before I was really into domains, a very techy friend and I started a file hosting site just as a side project. Before long, we had gained a couple partnerships with different blogs and content providers who needed terabytes and terabytes of storage space but didn’t have a budget to pay a monthly fee for it. In response of this, we setup a network of premium low cost servers in Cincinnati (where I was living at the time) and let our partners use them for free with the condition that they referred all of their visitors to our site to download any content they needed. Since we had Google AdSense setup below and above each download button on our site, we were making some good money while providing a free service to our partners. At its peak we had 1M visitors a month (without any effort by us) but surprisingly that only was really translating to mid-4 figures or so of profit from ads a month. Around a year after we started, the time came that we wanted some liquidity and wanted to sell the website off…and I was the one in charge of moving it. Going through the website sales process, it was kind of a pain to list the website, answer questions from buyers, and to transfer all of the complex website assets. Funny enough, the only part of the process that I enjoyed was the transferring of the domain as it was just so smooth and clean to do it via GoDaddy at the time. That was actually the first thing I ever did with domains and it was one of the main things that started me on the path to the domain industry.
Mike: As far as brokering domain names, can you share the highest priced domain name you have helped to buy or sell?
Neil: One of the other things that really sets our brokerage apart is that we are committed to private sales (in not listing sales prices) as we believe this gives investors more confidence to purchase from us (as private sales enable them to resell for higher profits quicker). Beyond just investors, the end users that we work with mostly prefer private sales just for the sake of controlling their own press. I will say that posting sales publicly is a good marketing strategy for most brokers but it’s just not a strategy that is conducive to the premium service that we are trying to offer to our clients. If you are curious about some deals that we have done, feel free to check out our testimonials page.
Mike: I mentioned above that many of the names I see in your newsletter are more reasonably priced or more obtainable than what one might expect. What are. Your thoughts on that?
Neil: My thoughts are that all the people who follow my newsletter (or any domain newsletter for that matter) are investors at heart. I say this because even if they are buying for a new business or project, they are not tied to a specific name yet and are opportunistic about what domains and prices might be available – as an investor would be. So, addressing the needs of an investor driven newsletter to keep my newsletter relevant, I think it is supremely important to try to have the lowest prices possible to give investors a reason to buy. If I am here marketing some basic 3 letter .com for $1M, that defeats the purpose of listing it as a deal in a newsletter as you can take 95% of all 3 letter .com domains and if you offer the domain owner $1M, they would probably accept…so there would be no point in me spending the time to list it myself as a ‘special offering’. In being a broker, it is a often two sided negotiation as both sides are naturally unrealistic in their expectations (due to a lack of education on both sides) – it is clearly my job (as the hired broker of the seller) to get the buyer to increase their price BUT it is also my responsibility to get the seller to lower their price to their true minimum. Through this, deals can happen (where they otherwise might not) and everyone is happy.
Mike: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that are looking for a domain name for their business?
Neil: For the sake of being concise, I am going to say that there are three good strategies for a new business picking out a domain (and any brand for that matter). The first is to just a pick a generic term that represents your product and gets your point across very easily to the customer – think of this as something as targeted and premium as Loans.com or something less special but just as effective, QuickenLoans.com. For comparing these, if you go with Loans.com, chances are that you will spend more on the domain but a lot less in marketing dollars than QuickenLoans.com to achieve relatively the same brand-ability. The second option is to create your own term (or pick a less generic word) and spend some marketing dollars and time to help make it mean something that it otherwise would not – think of this like my domain QEIP.com or something more notable like Google.com. It can be quite hard to get everyone to remember your term in what it is reference to, but once they do, its stuck. The last good domain strategy (in my book) is to pick out an acronym (ideally 2-4 letters in a .com extension) to represent your brand which might be too long otherwise – think of MSN.com or RCH.com (a domain I sold last month to an end user that has been around since the 60s!). I find that chances are 9/10 if an established company (that has had a website for 10+ years) is buying a domain from me, it is usually an acronym. This is because acronym purchases are one of the few domain upgrades that really makes sense without a formal company name change.
Mike: What is your position on gTLDs. Are they worthy of investment for the average domainer? How about as the average business owner?
Neil: gTLDs are an interesting subject in my mind – I would never invest in them but I do believe that companies will use them increasingly. In this, if I was starting a website without a real budget (as most websites are done), I would search for my ideal keywords in .COM and after realizing that none of the available options are taken, I would slowly look at other extensions to see what fits. This said, I would never pay a premium for a non-.COM extension nor would I even consider a non-registration purchase of one outside of .COM or .ORG. I think that many startups and buyers feel the same way and this will cause a lot of different TLDs to take off with varying levels of success (as many have) but I don’t have any confidence that any will hold value as long term high value assets (of which end users are consistently willing to pay a premium for). Because of this, I don’t think any are worthy of too much investment (good investments if you own a TLD (like Verisign does with .COM) but not if you are registering them individually for profit). With all of this said, I do believe that country-specific TLDs (like .CA, .FR, .CO.UK, .DE, etc.) have and will continue to be relevant as they represent their given country in the same way that .COM represents the US businesses. There are plenty of country TLDs that don’t take hold like .US and others … from my perspective, in the same way that smaller less stable countries tend to adopt American practices (from political to using the USD in forex) instead of generating their own, I think these same countries/people will continue to use .COM (instead of their own TLD) as tribute to their dependence on the US.
Mike: What has been one of your biggest learnings in the domain industry over the past 5 years?
Neil: Most domain investors that want to use my services often want high sales in short periods of times – the problem is that this is just not feasible 99% of the time. Big sales take time and the only quick sales you can do come at a cost of a lower sale – that is just the way that the supply/demand market works assuming you don’t get lucky. With this, my biggest learning in as a broker has been that it is not worth my time to represent over-priced domains (if the seller is not patient) as they just end up just wasting time and resources compared to actually sale-able domains. Beyond that, I find that my favorite clients to work with are not part of the domain industry as they tend to have timelines that are much more practical, and they are willing to commit to the long exclusive period that is needed to get deals done.
On the other side, as a domain investor, I have learned many things which I think could be helpful to others:
1. When making a domain investment, it is better to buy a great domain at an okay price rather than an okay domain at a great price. My perspective on this is that great domains are easy to sell quickly and easier to sell long term – while okay domains are hard to sell short term and hard to sell long term. So, if I buy 10 deals for $1k each vs I buy a solid domain for $10k, I’d be better off with the one $10k purchase accounting for risk and return. The premium on the purchase of a great domain is worth the liquidity benefit most times.
2. Also relating to liquidity, it is very important for any domain investor to have just as many liquid investments as they do illiquid ones (like domains). If you spend most of your money on domains as investments and the time comes where you really need cash for another investment or something else, you will take a big loss to sell your domains quickly – if you have extra cash on hand, your long term value of your domains can be better maintained.
3. As a last point, I think it is very important to not look a ‘profit horse in the mouth’ and to understand how domains fit into all of your overall investment portfolio as there is an opportunity cost for every offer you to turn down. E.g. If you rejected a $10k offer 5 years ago for one of your domains because you wanted $12k – then you got that $12k offer today and then accepted … that is a loss in my book because you could have sold the domain for $10k and then put that money in a passive index fund and turned it into $15k in the same 5 year span with a lot less risk and more liquidity than if you had held it.
Mike: As a domainer, how did you decide to use the domain name qiep.com for the business? What questions went into that decision?
Neil: Going back to my idea about the 3 strategies for a startup deciding what domain to get, ‘QEIP’ started out for me as a way to use 2 of my strategies simultaneously by branding a new term whilst utilizing it as a acronym. In this, I knew if I created my own term, I needed it to be pronounceable (CVVC format fit that), unique (no company is called QEIP), and short (around 4 letters). By abiding by these specifications, I found QEIP in auction for super cheap (I only spent like $150 on it). Only after buying it and deciding to use it as my brand, I had come up with a few acronyms with it that were quite relevant to the domain investing business I wanted to create. The first main one was “Qualified Expert Investment Planners” and my other idea was “Quality e-Intellectual Property” Never really decided on either formally but I went by QE Investment Planners for a while to market my services as a way for the domain investors that I wanted to bring on. Today, I really just like to go by ‘QEIP’ as simply a term (not an acronym) – it is pronounced as ‘Kipe’ which I think helps promote the professional yet creative services we provide.
Mike: Are you a reader? What, if any, books would you recommend to other entrepreneurs looking to build their business or improve their success?
Neil: As an entrepreneur, I think the biggest barrier to most people’s success is always mental. It took me years of mental conditioning to work up the confidence to commit to working for myself for the remainder of my life. Once I started working for myself, there was even more mental conflict around how I can justify doing it into the future. The commitment that a business requires (emotional level, physical level, and the financial level) should not be overlooked and you need to be willing to risk every part of your being to make it happen. I found that the number one reason I was able to make it happen was that I got the idea, started working, and didn’t stop working until I got to a more comfortable place. There is so much time in the day if you really stop to think … if you are starting a business and you truly love what you do and spend every waking minute on it, you will have some form of success. You just need to be in the right mindset of being willing to give up your mental safety net.
I am mostly a pragmatic reader who only reads books for self-betterment rather than entertainment or pleasure. There have been a few books that have helped me to gain the confidence that I needed to overcome the mental block of committing to an entrepreneurial life. Of these, I have found the most helpful to be the ones that have nothing at all to do with business or anything too self-help oriented. In this, my favorite book I have read recently has been ‘How to Change your Mind’ by Michael Pollan. If anyone reading this has ever read his other book ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’, it is very different conceptually despite having the same well-thought-out structure. Although this particular book goes pretty deep into how the use of psychedelics can enable someone to cure themselves of mental issues such as addiction, depression, and anxiety … the part of the book that I find to be most contemplative/helpful is around the ideas of the way the brain works with the Default Mode Network (the location of the ego in the brain) and how through this part of our brain turning off, our body processes fear in a way that gives us courage to do the true things we want to do. In this, I see this book giving an idea of how through the quelling of the fear response, we are able to get courage to overcome all of the challenges of our life and to live entrepreneurially. The book shows psychedelics as the ‘easy’ way to achieve this state (with proper guidance and preparation) but Pollan smartly notes that through much practice in daily meditation the brain is able to get into the same conceptual state of ego dissolution. Overall, my main takeaway from the book was that once you understand how to take your ego out of the picture of your decision making, you can take control of your life and do what you truly want to do (without regard to any perceived mental ailments). That last bit might sound cliché but committing to entrepreneurship is often a mental battle and ‘How to Change Your Mind’ can provide some perspective on how to overcome it (at least it did for me).