29 Sep September 29, 2020 – Logo.com Richard Lau and Facilitator Jodi Hume
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Richard Lau – Founder of NamesCon and Logo.com – Read interview highlights here
Ten years from now, you won’t consider buying a domain URL because
they will be so pricy that you pay a monthly payment to rent it.
Richard Lau is an Internet Consultant and the founder of NamesCon, his in-person conference focused on domain names, which began as an idea in the fall of 2013 and is now part of the GoDaddy family. Back in the late 1990s, Richard had customers who needed domain names registered and the typical charge was $150 over and above the annual fee. So, as a side-hustle, he started a service called DomainsDirect.com where you could search for and register domain names for $20. Since then, he has generated millions of dollars in revenue in the internet industry as he became addicted to the friendly camaraderie of the domain industry. Resume.com is an online resume builder for millions of job seekers and is yet another one of Richard’s recent successful exits, this time to Indeed.com. Having overseen the rescue of many high-value stolen domains, Richard has also become an unfortunate expert in the area of domain hijacking recovery. His current project is Logo.com, an AI-powered logo maker that has the ability to design a unique logo for your company in just a few minutes. He is also a founding member of WaterSchool and has championed numerous WaterNight events, the organization’s flagship fundraising gala.
Jodi Hume – Personal Strategist & Facilitator for Entrepreneurs
You know what you are supposed to do in the world because
it is what you can’t not do.
Jodi Hume is an experienced facilitator & strategist who provides on-call decision support and facilitated leadership conversations for startup founders, entrepreneurs and executive teams. She has a knack for separating the truth from fears & fiction, and a keen way of discerning and synthesizing the core issues that keep people, and their organizations from moving forward. Jodi has also been part of senior management, spending more than 15 years on the core leadership team of GWWO, Inc. Architects while they strategically positioned the firm to move from local to national significance and grow nearly 400% in size. After a 15-year career as COO, she has spent the last decade facilitating complex conversations for hundreds of growing entrepreneurial companies throughout the United States, Europe and Australia, as well as larger organizations such as Excelon, Johns Hopkins and Teach for America. Jodi also co-hosts the business podcast So Here’s My Story and is a lead singer in her band, The Wafflers.
Highlights from Richard’s Interview
As far as how I figured out that URLs were mu gold, I just really stumbled into it. I was fresh out of university, the internet was just coming on into mainstream, that was in the late 90s. I was working at a beeper company and a guy I was working with left and went off to start up a dial up ISP. I hung out with him and just chatted and literally stumbled into it. He had customers calling his service asking how do I register a domain name, how do I register Libya.com or how do I register Cuba.com? So from those conversations, I started to get my feet into domain names, and that was 20 years ago.
I was the guy selling shovels. So instead of registering the domain names myself, I set up a service whereby I was helping people register names that they came up with, and then I was selling them: email forwarding and URL forwarding services on top of that. I turned that into a domain name registrar, which I sold, and that was an unmitigated disaster for me, lost all the value and all the equity in the merge. So an entrepreneurial’s path is not just lined with gold. But it did lead me into the domain name business, and from there, I started to buy and sell domain names myself as a broker. Then along the way, I collected domain names for my own use or came across domains that were like we could turn this into a business, and put partnerships together.
So when resume.com came across our desk, it was a domain name that was for sale. I had an associate who was familiar with the resume-building services that were online. So we looked at resume.com and we knew right away that’s a category killer domain name, super-premium, you know exactly what it is that you’re going to expect when you type that into your web browser or you see it on an ad. So we bought resume.com and resumes.com, the plural, at the same time from two different sellers. Then over the next six years, built it up to an overnight success, and then sold it to Indeed, with 4 million users on it.
So we bought resume.com and resumes.com around 2010, closer to 10 years ago, and those two domains together were right around the $2 million mark. In order to do that, I couldn’t do that on my own, so I arranged with a partner, we got financing. With super-premium domain names, you can pretty much assume that they’re going to start in the mid-six figures and they’re going to very easily and very quickly climb up into the seven-figures, and some of them do hit eight-figures. That’s simply just for the domain name all by itself. But when you think about it, if you fly to New York and you’re looking around at apartments in New York, you wouldn’t blink twice at paying $3 million for an apartment in New York. So really, a domain name is digital real estate, and the value that it holds and the messaging that it conveys and the goodwill it conveys to end-users, it is well worth the price the market apparently sets on these superpremium.com domain names. So it’s not a one-off and it’s not a bubble, there are figures that are being paid year in and year out on the superpremium.com domains.
If you think about it, 20 years ago, if you said, I’m going to pay $7,500 for a five-letter domain, people would be like, that’s outrageous, you shouldn’t have to ever purchase a domain. But I think that the marketplace just evolves, and 10 years from now, you won’t even consider buying a domain because there’ll be so pricey. So you’ll be just like, I want to get a really good domain, I wonder what the monthly payment will be to rent it. Because you just won’t even think that I’ll be able to get the millions of dollars together to buy it, I’m a startup. I’ll just lease it. I lease my office space, I lease my car, I’ll just lease the domain name too. So I think that’s where we’re going to get to in 10 years.
For example, when you look at 99designs, what they’re doing is they are holding a contest and they have 200 or 300 designers from around the world, but generally from the lower emerging nations that are working on your logo. One of those 300 people will be awarded the prize, whether that’s $200 or $400, as the prize of being selected by you. Everyone else, the other 299 entrants, for the work that they put in, they get nothing.
It does work, but generally, that takes about five days to two weeks. But the back and forth discussion or the conversations that you have as a customer with your designer, whether it’s a contest or whether it’s a designer or an agency or a friend, those conversations are predictable. Then the outcomes of those, it’s basically a choose your own adventure. But you’re going through very much questions and stages that can be programmed into an algorithm. So whether it’s the colors, the color palette, the fonts, the icon, the placement of the icon, those are things that are going to be discussed back and forth. So you’re like, do you want this logo larger, do you want it smaller, do you want it justified, do you want it left justified or right justified, do you want the icon on the top, the right, the left? So there are all of these questions that you get asked.
It’s easier, we believe, and much faster on the user, to simply go through all the iterations of the Choose Your Own Adventure, and show you what we believe are the best. So we’ll show you the most likely that you’ll like, and you can just have an infinite scroll. So that instead of having a conversation upon conversation, you simply sit back and scroll through like you’re going through an Instagram feed. You’re like, these are all of the designs that the AI engine has designed for me. So instead of having a conversation about do you want it on the left, right, center, or what, we’ll just show you and you’ll know it. You’ll have the human interaction of having that X factor, of knowing it when you see it. So you’re simply scrolling through, you then choose one that appeals to the most. Then you can go in and tweak, then you can change your icon, we’ll provide you with a suggested icon list and then you can choose your icon. Then, you can go into the colors. But instead of dropping you into a color palette and pretending that you’re a Photoshop expert, we’ll show you the different color palettes and you just scroll through and say, I like that, or you can be like, I like that except I wish the blue was a lighter blue. But now, you don’t have to have a conversation and wait 24 hours, you just select the lighter blue.
So once you’ve got all of that, the icon, the general design, the fonts, the wording, then we have what we call the final preview, which gives you just one last look at all of the different designs that it could be as well. So in about 20 minutes, you go from starting to having a logo that you can download as a package. Then when you download that package, instead of getting one logo file in two different formats, we’re like, why don’t we give it to you in 40 different formats so that when you’re going to now announce this on Facebook, you’ve got the size for the Facebook cover, or when you want to put it into Instagram, we’ve got an Instagram sizing already. So we’re just trying to make life as easy as possible from the user’s perspective. We’re not going to talk to you about bleed, we’re not going to talk to you about offset, we’re not going to talk to you about Pantone colors, you don’t need to know that. You have your own business to focus on, let us worry about it, and let’s make it as simple and easy as possible and talk to you as a real human, instead of going, why don’t you learn Photoshop and let’s talk about color picking, the hex numbers of the different colors that you want in your logo? You don’t need to get into that space, let’s make it easy for the user. So we can take that five-day time period and squish it down to 20 minutes.
We are trying to turn the industry on its head, so our price point starts at $20, and that gets you your logo in high resolution. Then with a transparent background, with a social media pack, with all the different file sizes, it’s going to bump it up to $60. Then we have something called the complete package, which is more for businesses that want their business card and letterhead and the actual font file, and that’s going to bump up to $100. But any way you slice it, it’s still a steal of a deal.
Originally, logo.com came across our desk and we immediately knew what this could be used for because it’s solving a problem that we were experiencing ourselves. So we purchased the domain, it was mid-six figures. We shelved it, we didn’t start it right away. We investigated it and we found that we weren’t going to be able to achieve what we have envisioned in our mind for a reasonable amount of software development. So we actually shelved it for I think five years while we worked on NamesCon and resume.com, and we sold both of those companies.
Then we took a break of just summer and came back, and the two of us, James and myself co-founded it. We each wrote a check as a portion of our proceeds from the sale of the other two companies and said, this is going to give us a runway of three years. So now, we’re completely bootstrapped. We have had offers of investment from outside, but so far, we’ve been able to just turn it down because there’s no stringless money, and we’d rather have the freedom to go at our own pace and go at our own vision than accept outside money until we absolutely need it. So we have used the proceeds from previous sales to fund this, but if we didn’t have that, we could have raised the money from outside investors.
The thing is if you’re not embarrassed by your code, you’re not operating fast enough, you’re not releasing fast enough. So our marketing strategy was just to release it. Having a category killing domain like logo.com, you automatically have people going to their browser and typing in logo.com every single day. So it was really like having a lemonade stand on a highway, you just open it up. We didn’t need to go out and pay for advertising, we just turned it on and we had people showing up at our door. They’re able to give us live feedback saying, I like this, I don’t like this, what are you doing here, are you guys crazy, this is beautiful. So really, the initial marketing strategy for us is getting our hands on super-premium domain name, because it has the automatic customer feed just built right in.
If anyone wants to reach out, just email me at email@example.com or find me on LinkedIn; those are the best ways. We’re also on Instagram and Twitter, Facebook, etc. But I live and die by email and LinkedIn right now, and it’s been a fantastic platform for building my network.