BREAKING NEWS: Nobody Gives A Damn About Your Great Idea

Ever give free advice?

Me too. Sometimes without being asked – I can’t help myself – but often often in spite of my better judgement.

Like a lot of people who run their own business, I get asked for advice on how to do the same. It’s usually by acquaintances or friends of friends (seldom friends or family).

Listen up – they have a killer idea for a business. It’s going to be HUGE – and they want to hear what I think.

Let me clarify: they think they want to know what I think…

There’s almost always three common riffs. Number one, it’s usually in a sector I know little or nothing about…

“We’re going to sell XXXXXXXX… but on the internet”

Secondly, they are super secretive about THE BIG IDEA, as if they’re working on the The Manhattan Project.

“It’s an online marketplace. But I can’t say any more than that without an NDA in place”.

They won’t tell me any specifics. Think Darwin went around talking about evolution before he’d got “On The Origin of the Species” all typed up, huh? (Hint: yes – he did).

Or – worse – they want me to sign a confidentiality agreement, agreeing to millions of dollars in contractual liabilities before I can advice them for free.

Three, there’s usually an internet angle, because the barriers to entry are low, they know I run web-based businesses and because nobody wants to build railways in 2013.

“It’s like [$1B company] meets [$1B company]“

I protest that there are others far better qualified to advise. But they always insist, and I’m faced with the quintessential British problem: how to be honest without sounding rude.

Why? Because 99% don’t *really* want to hear that. They want me to tell them that they have a great idea – and that’s all it takes in this town, kiddo!

Not so, natch.

Don’t get me wrong – I love ideas, especially big ideas. I devoured dozens of books on the subject (like this, this and this) plus more magazines and blog posts than I can remember (like James Altucher’s here and here ).

But we live in a world full of good ideas, and good execution is far more scarce. And that continent-sized gap between “good idea” and “good execution” is where opportunity lies for people who, y’know, get stuff done.

Wish.co.uk was not the result of A GREAT IDEA. It was the result of being able to find an angle to work that competitors were overlooking.

‘The Sopranos’ creator David Chase got it right in this GQ profile of James Gandolfini:

“We can all sit around and decide we want to make a Louis XIV table, but eventually somebody has to do the carving.”

What Seinfeld Taught Me About Domaining

If I had a dollar everytime somebody told me I’d missed the boat domaining I… I probably wouldn’t be speculating money on domain names.

I started speculating on domains in 2007, after hearing a talk by Jeff Libert speak at PubCon. Domaining is not a core part of my business, it’s a hobby – like a flutter on the Grand National.

But over the years I’ve sold a lot of domains in the four-five figure range, bought many premium domains (like Wish.co.uk) and learned a thing or two along the way.

You hear the same lines peddled over and over again about domaining…

“You’ve missed the boat with domaining.”

“There’s no money in registering fresh domains.”

“The money is in buying premium aftermarket domains.”

Lies, lies, lies. And yet you hear them peddled time and again.

Yes, the money is in aftermarket domains if you are if you are Frank Schilling and already own a huge slab of the worlds greatest domains. But that’s not helpful advice for the rest of us.

But you’ve got to remember that 90% of blog posts on domaining are puff pieces to prop up asset bubble prices.

So I thought it’d be more interesting write about the lessons I’ve learned the hard (read: expensive) way.

Three Golden Rules Of Domaining

There’s only three key things you need to know about making money domaining.

#1. Make Like George Costanza

The trouble with aftermarket domains is they don’t come cheap. Premium domains require capital.

Call me crazy, but I am in no rush to tie up $100,000 on a single word domain monetized with Sedo parking. Where’s the fun in that?

My solution was to become the George Costanza of domaining.

That means becoming a cheapskate. I mean a *real* cheapskate, paying c. $10 per domain. Fresh registrations (no fancy drop catching tools) that you can buy at your regular registrar for the standard fee.

Then, um, you sell them for more than you paid.

In short: you make your money on the buy price, not the sell price.

#2. Feel The Quality

Quality is everything both in terms of TLD and the domain itself.

You’ll never shift that dot biz domain for millions, nor will that three-word-domain-with-hyphens get you too far either.

Scott at Self Made Minds gave a great tutorial on how to register fresh domains that have resale value.

#3. Know The Market

You need to buy domains in sectors where there are active buyers, and you need to know the real market value of the domains you hold.

Yes, PeruvianRugVendors.com is available to register, but are peruvian rug vendors big buyers of domains? Probably not.

(Please correct me in the comments if I’m mistaken)

However, some sectors are bustling with activity (like poker or finance). Take a look on NameBio.com and DNJournal.com to see which sectors rack up a lot of sales and what realistic sale prices are.

Note: I’m not saying you won’t flog PeruvianRugVendors.com, just that the odds of selling at a profit are far, far smaller.

Case Study #1: HardGraft.com

I registered the domain HardGraft.com for $7.44 in February 2008 using my Domain Lookup tool.

I sold it 13 months later for c. $2700 in cash and product from the company that would make it their home.

(Go check out the site, they sell beautiful handmade laptop cases).

Could I have sold it for more money? Probably. I like the products they sell, I liked the people and I liked the freebies they sent me as part of the deal.

Case Study #2: DoubleDown.org

This was another registration using Domain Lookup. I bought if for c. $10, and sold it not too long afterwards for $1000.

Like the first example, I could probably have sold it for more (the anonymous buyer turned out to be a Las Vegas casino business).

But, hey, I didn’t say I always followed my own advice (but more on that in my next blog post).

The Internet: Then And Now [Infographic]

A friend recently defined “Big Data” as anything too big for Excel (read: over 64,000 rows). He was only half joking. This infographic is chock full of the stuff, but one fact stuck out for me above all others.

YouTube in 2009 had had one billion views total. By 2013, the Gangnam Style video alone had had one billion views…

The Internet: Then and Now [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Tech Giants and Their Overflowing Cash Coffers [Infographic]

Ever wondered what happens to the $1000s you spend on Apple products? Find out below…

Tech Giants and Their Overflowing Cash Coffers [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

The #1 Reason I’ve Not Blogged for 2 Years

I’ve been busy. Who knew?

But since I’m snowed-in in Virginia, I decided to bring my blog back. One last job. So here are reasons #2-#26, with a quick run down of what I have been doing since 2011:

  1. Grafting full time on Wish.co.uk’s zombie madness
  2. Interviewing for Colombian radio on Romantic Breaks for Three
  3. …and making enemies in Downing Street.
  4. Spending time in Iceland, Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Virginia, Vegas, Austin, Florida and New York, New York.
  5. Neglecting my Twitter account
  6. *Finally* learning to focus on fewer projects (inspired by Walter Isacson’s Steve Jobs biog)
  7. Closing a couple of nice domain sales (Code.co.uk and CPA Offers.com)
  8. Selling a $10 .ORG domain to a Vegas casino company… without sussing the buyer. Damn it!
  9. Contributing to the Flippa blog about promoting website auctions
  10. Attending South by South West, PubCon and Affiliate Summit East & West and TedX Paris
  11. Helping out on Gab Goldenberg’s Advanced SEO Book
  12. Turning gamekeeper, and launching an affiliate program
  13. Speaking at the ever-ace Think Visiblity on how to make the move from affiliate to merchant
  14. Thanking my lucky stars my deal to buy PasteBin.com was gazumped before THE BAD STUFF
  15. Reading Ryan Holiday’s book, blog and Forbes column
  16. Laughing at fake Jeff Jarvis (background here)
  17. Joining ace General Assembly web talks & workshops in London and New York
  18. Winning a RealBusiness’ Future 50 award for British startups…
  19. …then discovering 30 minutes later they’d told the wrong company by mistake
  20. Obsessing over my new-favourite-tools/apps ChartBeat, Pocket App and Zite
  21. Reaching four hour work week goals five years late
  22. …with a little help from my Zirtual Virtual Assistant
  23. Filming zombies (what else) with YouTube superstar DevinSupertramp
  24. Telling anybody who’ll listen about the return of ThreadWatch.org.
  25. Being condemned by the Daily Mail and a local MP

That’s more or less it for now. More soon… Maybe.

PS. The new WP theme is by StudioPress, in case you’re wondering.

A4U Expo: Outsourcing for Affiliates

I’m speaking at A4u Expo on Wednesday afternoon about outsourcing for affiliates with Paul Madden (nee SEO Idiot).

The title of the session is Insider Secrets of Outsourcing Success:

Outsourcing can be your ‘secret weapon’ to scale your affiliate marketing business – but everybody has heard the horror stories about broken promises & poor quality work. Our two speakers offer actionable tips and advice on how to achieve results when outsourcing.

If you’ve questions during the talk, the session hash tag is #A4UB12.

Wish.co.uk – My Ecommerce Site – Live…

Back in April, I bought the domain Wish.co.uk with a little help from Sedo.

The sale picked up a few mentions, and lots of people asked what my plans were. After four months hard graft, I can finally share them…

I’ve just launched an ecommerce business selling gift experiences called – three guesses? – Wish.co.uk (AKA WishCoUk Ltd).

Go take a look: Wish.co.uk

PayPal’s Offshore Support Sucks…

I use PayPal a lot for my business [bear with me - this gets more interesting...].

Unfortunately, their customer support sucks, badly. Since @AskPayPal asked me to explain my comments, I thought I’d share a real life example. But mostly since their customer support emails are so woefully bad, I might get a laugh or two.

Most recently, I contacted PayPal explaining that all outbound payments from my account were blocked. I was away in Portugal, but needed to pay a contractor ASAP.

PayPal wouldn’t fix it. Instead, they replied with a rambling, 416 word reply that offered zero answers – but instead a bizarre pick ‘n’ mix of cliches and statements.

So I thought I’d round up some of my favourite cliches & quotes from PayPal support emails…

“Rest assured that this does not imply that we are suspecting you with fraudulence or anything like that, no.”

“we only have your best interests in mind”

“You may, at the moment, view this as an inconvenience however in actual fact this system we use has helped reduce losses for both buyers and sellers”

“The system would just like to make sure that your payment goes through smoothly.”

[Re: their arbitrary block on my account] “Unfortunately, since there are thousands of transactions happening in the PayPal system in a per minute basis, it is virtually impossible to turn it off.

PayPal, your offshore customer service and/or CRM system suck, badly.

Slangatang App on The Apprentice

Watching The Apprentice tonight?

Each team had to design & build a smartphone app in just 24 hours – and build a userbase.

The boy’s team – who were robbed! – came up with Slangatang, a soundboard-for-stereotypes app plugged by TechCrunch and Pocket Lint.

The girl’s team, meanwhile, came up with the single worst app idea you’ve ever heard… (Wired.co.uk! What were you thinking choosing them?).

The Slangatang.com domain was registered in February 2010, lapsed in February 2012 and drops shortly.

Bid early, bid often at the SnapNames.com aftermarket auction.

[The co.uk, meanwhile, was registered earlier this evening].

PS. Quote of the week: “The next application you might be making is a job application”.

PPS. Be sure to check out the Offices.org.uk Apprentice Blog for blow by blow coverage of each episode.

Wired Magazine: Fail Fast

Wired UK hosted a discussion last night dubbed ‘Fail Fast‘. This month’s issue explains their premise succintly…

“Fail! Fast. Then succeed. What European business needs to learn from Silicon Valley”

The live debate followed the print feature, with the founders of Moo.com and Firebox.com as well as investors Luke Johnson and Stefan Glaenzer talking to Wired editor David Rowan.

If the magazine feature is half as interesting, it’ll be well worth a read.

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