Speaker Profile: Michael Sumner

Michael Sumner 750 750x350

01Michael Sumner
CTO — NameBio.com
Twitter | Facebook


Session Name: What’s My Name Worth?
Number of years in the domain industry: 10 years
Favourite extension: .com
Now watching: Shameless
Your mentor: Nat Cohen


Describe your company and how long you have been there?

NameBio is a searchable database of historical domain name sales. We have nearly half a million records totaling more than $1.4 billion and spanning nearly two decades. Visitors use our site both to track the market, and to research comparable sales when buying or selling domains. We also developed The Domain Game for iOS and Android to help investors improve their gut instincts on domain valuations. I have been with NameBio for two years, but it just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

What can attendees look forward to during your session?

I will briefly discuss my thoughts on how to most accurately appraise domain names, and then we’ll have a workshop-style session where I take domains from the audience and show how I would go about putting a value on them. We will cover topics such as wholesale vs retail pricing, liquidity, sales velocity, attributes of domains that determine value, and more.

Are there any questions or scenarios they should consider in advance?

Attendees should look through their portfolios and select a few domain names that they would be open to discussing with the group. I’m not looking for your best domain names or for this to become an opportunity to show off. I’m looking for examples that the attendee legitimately doesn’t know how to valuate, or ones that will lead to interesting discussions.

What would you like attendees to learn or take away from your session?

I want attendees to walk out of the session feeling more confident in their ability to appraise domain names. It is a very complex and confusing topic, and often subjective, so at the very least I would like to get people thinking and fine-tuning their own valuation methods.

Can you tell us about how your service or product helps deliver value to your customers?

We often hear parallels between domain names and physical Real Estate. Like a building, the best way to determine the value of a domain name is by researching what comparable domain names have sold for in the past. NameBio can help you figure out what a domain name is worth. The domain industry is very fragmented, there are more than a dozen marketplaces, forums, private brokers, and individual owners producing sales. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market, and being aware of which domains are selling and for how much, would be nearly impossible for an individual even if he or she is a full-time domain investor.

What are your thoughts on the new TLDs?

I like them and think they are both interesting and memorable. That said, in my opinion they generally represent a poor investment opportunity for domain investors because registry operators are basically playing the role of domainer with premium pricing/renewals. The economics of maintaining even a modest-sized portfolio of legacy gTLDs at $8 renewals is tricky considering sell-through rate and average sale prices. Bumping the renewals to even just $40 per domain makes any kind of scale very difficult even for experienced investors. Domain investing is about buying at wholesale pricing and selling at retail pricing, bottom line. Most new gTLD operators are pricing for retail, that’s why you see them wrapping buses, putting up billboards, running commercials, etc. and not advertising much to domain investors.

What kinds of changes do you foresee within the industry in the next five years? 

I think we’re going to see a lot more consolidation, both in terms of portfolios and companies. Many of the larger portfolio holders are getting close to retirement age and want to cash out. Others have been overpricing and playing hard to get for decades, and players like NameFind will continue swallowing them up and using their data and reach to make the portfolios more profitable. Weaker new gTLDs will get gobbled up by larger ones that have better economies of scale.

What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming NamesCon?

Hearing people’s stories. A majority of domain investors are not full-time and have other side hustles, and it’s fun to hear what people do outside of domaining. This industry is really diverse and there are so many interesting people in it.

What industry trends or topics do you think will be at the forefront of panel and keynote discussions this year?

The Chinese market, new gTLDs, and UDRP reform.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Namescon? Why?

I’m really excited for the “Always Be Closing: Case Studies of Recent Negotiations” panel with Dave Evanson, Richard Lau, Andrew Rosener, and Gregg McNair. Talk about a brain trust! Hearing those guys give play-by-plays of their negotiations will be worth the price of admission alone.

How did you get your start in the industry?

In short, luck. Since this is already getting pretty long I would direct readers to this interview if they want to hear more.

What advice can you offer those who are just getting their start in the domain industry? 

Read and learn as much as you can before you invest. Participate and ask questions at NamePros, read Domaining.com, watch DomainSherpa interviews, study the charts and DNJournal and NameBio, play The Domain Game until it starts making sense. Then when you have a good idea of what makes a domain valuable, start slowly. Build a small portfolio and then try to sell every single domain in it, starting with end users and then to other domain investors. In that way you’ll have immediate feedback on whether you’re on the right track or need to adjust your strategy.

How does your career compare to what you envisioned in your youth?

It is pretty much exactly what I envisioned. I was fortunate to have found my passion (web development and programming) in my early teens, and everything I’ve done from that point on was to further that goal. It has always blown my mind that you can tap away at a keyboard, and suddenly people from all around the world will start giving you money as long as you add value.

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

I don’t even try any more, people’s eyes just glaze over. I just say “internet stuff” or something similar.

If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them? 

A nap sounds nice 🙂

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