Photo: Domain Sherpa
Page Howe hasn’t always been lucky in business.But in 2007, he struck gold when two domain names his company owned were acquired for more than $1 million each.
He sold Seniors.com, which he purchased for $100,000, for $1.8 million (or $1.5 million after commission). A few months later, he sold Guy.com for $1 million. He had only owned the domain for about a month.
Howe first came to our attention when we were digging through the most expensive domain names of all time.
DNJournal’s August 2008 cover story reveals how the failed dotcom chairman cashed in big with a domain business.
Howe was born in Burbank California in 1963, and he studied management at a nearby liberal arts school, University of Redlands.
He took a lot of economics, political science, anthropology and sociology courses, and he really excelled in classes that focused on taxes. This helped him land his first job out of school at a financial planning company for doctors, Perkins & Zures.
Howe worked there for six years, then he left to work for one of the company’s clients. He helped the doctor research Internet stocks and find both public and private companies to invest in. Then, Howe became chairman of a small public company. In 2000, it was nearly acquired for millions of dollars.
Howe thought he was set and he purchased a second home in Tennessee. Unfortunately, the deal fell through, and Howe’s company failed. He and his wife left California for the more affordable Tennessee home, and he sold his collection of 200,000 baseball cards for income. In addition, he worked part-time as a CFO.
Around that same time, in 2001, Howe got into the domain business.
“We had originally stumbled into the business after reading a story about Chris Ambler trying to get [The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] ICANN to approve a new .web extension,” Howe told DNJournal’s Ron Jackson. “There was a perception at the time that all of the good domains were taken in .com, so we thought something like .web might be a new opportunity. But we discovered most of the good names in that extension (which still has not been approved) were already reserved by one guy! So we thought the ideal thing to do would be to own an extension of our own so we could control all of the good domains.”
Howe created a registry business called Basic Fusion and spent $50,000 applying to purchase top level domains through ICANN. His application wasn’t approved and the money was lost. But Basic Fusion had bought up about 4,000 domain names on its own.
For a few days leading up to Christmas that year, Howe set up a kiosk in a mall that sold domain names to average shoppers. They sold about 50 of them to people who were persuaded to buy a url and a hosting package for a present instead of a traditional gift for families and friends.
Seniors.com became available when another venture-backed, dotcom company failed, and Howe snatched it up. “A domain name becomes what you have left to sell, even if your strategy doesn’t work,” Howe later explained to DomainSherpa. He was able to buy it for about $100,000 and held it for the next five to six years.
In 2002, Howe’s company sold all but 20 of the 4,000 domains. It kept Seniors.com and Guy.com. The following year, Howe began playing around on a forum for domain sellers, DNForum.com. He’d scroll through all the names people didn’t want as he tried to cheaply build up his portfolio again.
“There were maybe 15 good domains each day and I knew that 10 of them were names that everybody knew about,” Howe told Jackson. “So I would try to get the other five that I had identified through hard work. My edge was being a professional, doing it full time, searching every day and not just relying on a computer to filter names but literally looking at the lists myself. I was trying to get strong names at the lowest price I could, knowing that I couldn’t get the best names because I wasn’t funded well enough.”
In 2007, Howe’s company sold both Guy.com and Seniors.com for seven figures, four months apart.
Although those two ended up being big wins, Howe did let some domains slip through his fingers. Basic Fusion had owned GasPrices.com, but sold it for $8,000. A few years later it was acquired for $225,000.
Howe still runs his own domain marketplace for the “average joe” buyer called Joe Domains, and he’s the president of BigNameHunters. Howe and his companies own about 25,000 domains total, and they generate between $25,000 to $50,000 in monthly sales.
For more on Howe’s domain flipping career, watch his 2011 video interview with Domain Sherpa. If you can make it through the first minute or two of ads, Howe offers a lot of great business insight.
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