Alvin is an experienced and passionate internet entrepreneur, blogger, and podcaster. He founded Kickstart Commerce in 2013. Since 2017, he has been writing consistently for both The Domains and Domain Name Wire. In addition, he produces DNAdverts.com, which highlights on strategies and best practices to advertise brands using domains. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable internet marketing and domain name strategies for greater commerce.
Mike: I often think about how thin I spread myself, but Alvin, you’ve got more irons in the fire than anyone I know. In addition to all that I listed in the opening paragraph, you’re highly active on Twitter, have written for other blogs and outlets such as Medium and have a family to attend to as well. How do you manage your time?
Alvin: One word, DISCIPLINE. I aim to live each day with intentionality. I rise and start the day off reading, meditating, and praying with my family before my wife and I see our kids off to school together. Next on the agenda is checking or responding to email. Then, I invest 1-2 hours reviewing GoDaddy’s aftermarket for the daily lists. Daily, I check social networks and forums for necessary responses (if any) or content ideas throughout the day. Weekly, I map out an analytics-driven strategy for posting content to social networks for the next 14 days at minimum. In addition, I’m always brainstorming content ideas for articles, podcasts and tutorials. When I’m not brainstorming content ideas against web analytics, I’m producing and finalizing content. I also volunteer at my local church a few hours each day. While I no longer operate a software development and consulting company since last September, I still field a few quick-turn assignments from time to time from long-standing customers as well as make a few onsite visits and meetings to shake things up a bit during the week. All in all, I heavily rely on automation to help me achieve and sustain abnormal efficiency and consistency.
Mike: I think we all have a story about what brought us into domaining. What’s your story or pivotal event that sparked the passion?
Alvin: Well-versed in the disciplines of Marketing and Technology, I stumbled into domain investing as the Marketing/IT point-of-contact person for a number of ‘mom and pop’ shops throughout the years. Mainly focused on providing web, email, tech support and marketing guidance, I found myself owning over 100 different domains. It wasn’t until late 2012 that I received a $500 inquiry for a domain that I kept renewing although the customer was no longer in business. The domain only cost me $30 for nearly 2-3 years. I sold the domain for $500 and discovered a few weeks later it had been flipped for nearly 10 times what I received. I was hooked at this point, and soon discovered DNJournal.com, RicksBlog.com, ElliotsBlog.com, DomainShane.com, TheDomains.com, and DomainNameWire.com. Soon after, March 1st, 2013, I started KickstartCommerce.com originally as a search marketing company and began blogging about SEO strategy. For whatever the reason, about a month into the venture, I discovered myself passionately writing about topics focusing on or near domain names. Here I am almost seven years later, attending conferences and meetups, and solely writing and podcasting about domain investing.
Mike: What is the primary difference between KickstartCommerce.com and DNAdverts.com? What made you decide to keep the niches separate?
Alvin: These days, content produced – articles, tutorials, daily lists of expiring domains, and podcasts – for KickstartCommerce.com is more and more dedicated to domain investing although I toss in disciplines of digital strategy from time to time.
As for DNAdverts.com, it’s an end-user or customer-centric site primarily focused on “domain sightings in the wild” or real-life domain usage. I encounter a wide range of domains in my daily, weekly, and annual commuting and traveling. I enjoy researching and sharing “the good, the bad, and ugly” about a given domain’s use as well as providing personal and company brands with feedback or alternative domain options, if any exist. In short, its content is aimed at helping businesses understand domain strategies and best practices to advertise and grow their business.
I chose to separate both websites because they serve different audiences. KickstartCommerce.com is primarily for domain investors and developers, while DNAdverts.com is for personal and company brands with a strong desire to effectively advertise their business using domains.
All in all, both websites greatly assist in educating and informing target audiences of domain investors, domain developers, and end-user customers.
Mike: How did you get involved with writing for TheDomains and DNW?
Alvin: I’m beyond grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to write for TheDomains and DNW, and to have content syndicated via TLDInvestors.com.
As for DNW, Andrew Allemann and I met for the first time while at MERGE! 2017 in Orlando, Florida. The amusing thing about this connection made is Andrew and I lived approximately 10-15 minutes away from one another in Austin and never met (although Andrew eventually moved to Seattle). J But thankful for MERGE!, Andrew and I met in person and about a month later I was invited to write for DNW. I’ve since settled into producing monthly/quarterly tutorials using the various APIs offered by domain registrars and service providers.
As for TheDomains and TLDInvestors, interestingly enough, Raymond ”Ray” Hackey also invited me to write the same week as DNW. During this time, emoji domains were the ‘flash in the pan’ topic I wrote the most about amongst a few other articles and videos. I’ve not produced much lately for TheDomains, but we’re working to establish a strategy and timeline for the types of content I’ll deliver in 2020.
Mike: Is there a particular domain niche that you prefer? If so, why?
Alvin: While I invest in and prefer two and three word .com domains, I’m currently testing and investing in one-word .cc domains. And NO, I’m not recommending anyone invest in .cc domains.
As for why, well, it certainly helps to keep investing in what works and makes the register ring. This is not to say that other extensions are not worth investing in, but again, each domain investor must learn to invest in what works based on their interest, expertise, and life experience.
Mike: What has been the toughest lesson you have learned as a domainer?
Alvin: The toughest lesson I’ve learned as a domain investor is what works for one domain investor is not guaranteed to work for another domain investor. Domain investors often attempt to mimic or imitate other domain investors to their very own demise. Figure out your own strategy based on your personal interests, and professional and life experiences. Going outside of your lane of experience and expertise can be very costly. TEST, TEST, TEST… MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE your domain investing strategy BEFOREgoing all in investing hundreds or thousands of dollars. No matter what the domain niche is, it’s always best to start with 5-10 names at most and add incrementally, rather than buying 50, 100, or 1000s of domains without a well-vetted proof of concept for the given domain investing strategy.
Mike: What are your predictions for the domain industry in both the short and long term?
Alvin: I wish I knew the future! But, I don’t. Best guess is the possibility of economic downturn or correction greatly increases each year as we move beyond the decade anniversary of the Great Recession and an overall business cycle in its seventh year of expansion. Economic downturn or correction could be a mild one.
As for the domain industry itself, there are two things I predict short and long term.
Short term, I predict most aftermarket platforms are likely to realize their revenue mix positively impacted by establishing or promoting installment plans for domain purchases. If I had to assess a growth percentage, I would likely say 20-25% YOY growth for the next 2-3 years. This should also greatly increase and provide steady income for domain investors listing domains with aftermarket platforms offering installment plans, helping to ease renewals and possibly cash flow challenges.
Long term, one of the most interesting headwinds I predict we’ll face as an industry are the nuanced challenges of estate and legacy planning of domain portfolios. One thing we know for sure, we’re all not going to live forever. Domain investors MUST have an air-tight, prudent plan to protect the many years of blood, sweat, and tears they’ve invested for years to come.
Mike: What would you say is the number one misunderstood concept in domaining?
Alvin: In my opinion, the most misunderstood concept in domain investing is the time it takes on average to sell a domain. We’ve all likely had quick flips that occur in 0-6 months of owning a domain, but that’s NOT the norm for a large percentage of domain investors. Depending on the domain and skill of domain investor, amongst many other factors, the average time it takes to sale a domain is likely 3-5 years. It’s taken me roughly 5 years to reach 2-3 sales a month. Most domain investors, especially new domain investors, think domain investing is as easy as hand registering a domain, posting it to an aftermarket, forum, or social network, and collecting funds the same day or within a week. That’s lightening in a bottle, and only a small percentage, if even a percent, of the domain investor community could consistently achieve this feat if put on a clock. Instead of a one year and done model, be prepared to invest the initial cost of a domain and carry the annual cost for at least 3-5 years at a minimum. Taking this approach should drastically narrow the domain options you invest in and hold.