Original Domainer Kevin Ham talks at VEF: Summary

Despite what you make think about his politics or the industry of domaining in general; or for that matter, his relatively ‘spontaneous’ speaking style, Kevin Ham managed to convey some interesting ideas and stories about his journey from Med Student at University of Western Ontario (in my home town of London Ontario) to Internet Mogul that most people have never heard of.  I thought I’d highlight a few of the stories and comments that I found interesting; I hope you enjoy.  There’s one analogy I’ll leave out; if you were there, you know what I’m talking about.  It definitely caused a “pregnant pause” throughout the audience.

Story 1: Kevin Ham was indoctrinated to the internet by way of website hosting back in those heady days of the late 90’s where, well, you know.  He ran a website and decided to try and fund it with advertising.  This is a great commentary on pricing and on understanding value propositions.  Kevin was looking for advertisers and sent out 1,000 emails to web hosting companies offering space on his site for $30/month.  In his mind, he figured this would be an automatic ‘yes’ for prospects.  No takers.  He reconsidered his pricing and the next month sent out an email offering space for $300/month! He got a half dozen takers!  The next month $3,000/month and he got one more taker.  Amazing!  This is the type of experience that we should all consider when looking at pricing decisions.  The answer can be counter-intuitive.

Story 2: The Internet Land Rush.  I won’t try to delve into the relative morality of gobbling up domain names in anticipation of selling them later at an inflated price.  Is it a ransom?  Is it cybersquatting?  Or is it just recognizing opportunity and making a business of it before anyone else?  I’ll let the hardcore geeks battle that one out.  It’s beyond me.  I will say that’s it’s nice to see a Land Rush that doesn’t result in the virtual destruction of a race of people.  Based on the history of the human race, I think we have to chalk this one up as a win for human evolution.  I didn’t know much about how all of this came about so I found the story interesting.  At one point Kevin was able, as were others, to buy keyword traffic on one search engine and resell them to another at double the price!  They were selling from Google to Yahoo.  I guess Yahoo’s search strategy hasn’t been great from the start, eh?  So, here we have another example of fortune being derived from simple arbitrage.  Want to be rich?  Find arbitrage!

Story 3: Contemplating expansion of his business through a series of acquisitions of competing Domainers, Kevin went looking for was pursued by 11 different investment banks from NYC.  He was looking for $300M.  The firms were all competing for the business.  So, who had the most convincing pitch?  Well, it was Bear Stearns and Bank of America.  How are those guys doing these days? I don’t keep up with all that “financial stuff”.  In fact, Kevin visited the Bear Stearns office that year and was introduced (as he tells it) to the Head of the Leverage Division.  As he tells it, the guy was a bit distraught about something called “sub-prime”.  Again, you guys will have to help me out on this one.  At any rate, Kevin didn’t go through with the deal.  I like this.  His telling is that, realizing that he would be betting everything he had built to date, he backed off as it was not worth the risk.  He walked away from the money.  A couple years later that $300M would have bought Bear Stearns, apparently.

Last Story: Kevin is still in the Domainer game although the Land Rush mentality has matured.  Once reaching a certain pinnacle of success some rich guys buy, or attempt to buy (sorry Jim, too soon?) a professional sports team. Kevin’s… fetish if you will is, with obtaining 4 specific websites that he highly prizes.  He has 3 of them now, reminded me of Rahm Emmanuel in the Obama/Zombie Lincoln cartoon. So, what are the websites? 1. God.com 2. Heaven.com 3. Religion.com and 4. ?????.com.  He wouldn’t tell us, but my money is on hell.com.  Speaking to a few of the Techvibes guys after, they were thinking maybe Jesus.com or something like that.  My money is on hell.

There were a few soundbites I’ll share with you below just to play it out; I’m paraphrasing a bit:

On Philanthropy – When you do your give back, do it from your first dollar or else when you have a million dollars it will be much harder to give back

On EntreprenuersYou need someone there to ground you or you’ll end up flying off into space (I call this the Michael Jackson factor)

On Stage PresenceIf Martin Luther King, jr spoke using a Powerpoint presentation, what would it be like?

On Potential The only limits we have are the one limits imposed on us by others

On Thinking Big – The government can’t tax me on my dreams, can’t tax me for my ideas

On PerspectiveYou can walk out into the waves and they can knock you down, but you can also get up onto the waves and surf

Good times.  Cheers.