“Not all who wander are lost.”
I have wandered the internet for the past 5 years, learning new things, trying various money-making ventures, and exploring. All great journeys must come to an end sometime though. I needed a purpose. I needed an income. I needed to be able to explain to people what I actually do all day (“internet stuff” is my usual response). Nothing was clicking, and all the work I was doing seemed too small scale after previously running 500 websites and owning 9000 domains.
A few months ago I considered opening a domain brokerage, as I already have several hundred of my own domains for sale. At least I would have myself as a big client. This led me to look more closely than usual at domains for sale and what prices they had ended up selling for. Some of these available domains got me thinking about businesses I could create on them. But I am an introvert and like to keep things as virtual as possible, so unlike being a domain broker, starting these other businesses would be way outside of my comfort zone.
My general plan was to have a killer domain to help me get my foot in the door of a real-world industry I knew nothing about. I would handle the online part and hire people for the offline part. I looked into doing something with ghost kitchens (“cloud restaurants” that exist only for food delivery via DoorDash/GrubHub/Uber Eats). I also researched starting a nationwide home/office cleaning service. Maybe even a nationwide drain unclogging service (Drains.com is for sale for $30,000). But does somebody with a dirty house or clogged toilet really care that much what domain they go to? If I were in the drain business, I would definitely buy Drains.com, but is it enough for me to start an entirely new business around when I don’t have any desire to be in that industry in the first place? Would I be better off instead registering FixMyClogs.com for $10 (it is still available as of today) and spend the remaining $29,990 on marketing?
While I was researching all of this, there was one domain I saw that kept running through my mind: Yachts.com. But unlike most of the others, it did not have an official asking price. When I am creating an imaginary plan in my head for a business I know nothing about and probably will never start, it makes things that much harder to run the numbers when I don’t even know what the domain will cost me. Just to see what would happen, I made an offer of $20,000 knowing, of course, it would be rejected. The owner responded that he wanted “mid 5 figures” for it. I have never been on a yacht and don’t particularly like boats, so I was not sure I would pay what he wanted, but at least it gave me something to think about. A few days later I upped my offer to $40,000, which seemed to insult him. I soon realized he had made a typo and really wanted mid 6 figures for it ($500,000 price range). And he said he recently had a $600,000 offer but it fell through because of COVID. I told him that was out of my price range.
My goal was that if I was going to enter an industry I had no experience in, I should at least get a good deal on the domain. That way if after a year things didn’t work out, I could always sell the name and break even. I did that in the past with other big domains such as Weights.com, Pastries.com, Humidifiers.com, Physical.com, and Adventure.com. I bought them all at wholesale domainer prices; I had nothing to lose.
But even at a crazy high price, the name Yachts.com kept calling to me. Yachting is a $15 billion dollar a year industry, and much more than with most businesses, a luxury image means everything with yachts, so having the best, classiest domain for it could make a huge difference. Just this year alone, there have been these one-word domain sales (as reported at dnjournal.com):
Christmas.com – $3.25 million
Angel.com – $2 million
Exodus.com – $1.945 million
Tattoo.com – $812,000
Blade.com – $503,000
James.com – $440,000
Exclusive.com – $350,000
Skates.com – $150,000
Cows.com – $125,000
DogGroomers.com – $104,000
And previous years had sales such as Voice.com for $30 million, Slots for $5.5 million, Toys.com for $5.1 million, Clothes.com for $4.9 million, Ice.com for $3.5 million, and Whisky.com for $3.1 million. Based on that, Yachts.com selling for $1 million+ at some point does not seem out of the question.
A few days later, I made a new offer of $250,000. He countered with $350,000 and I accepted. You would think that for that kind of money, I would at least have some great idea for Yachts.com to turn it into a multi-million dollar business. But no, my simple plan was that if I spent so much on a big domain, I would be forced to focus all my time and effort on it and eventually figure out what to do. Even though I don’t know about boats, I did at least have some experience with the topic as described in my blog posting from 5 years ago about my BoatDeals.com project. I never did more than set up a demo site for that, but my plan was to offer to buy boats for cash so people wouldn’t have to go through all the stress and hassles of selling their boat the usual way. I never followed through, mainly because I really know nothing about boats. Going forward with it would have of course been foolish, unlike buying the top domain in the boating industry 5 years later, when I still know nothing about boats.
Once the deal closed, and I was staring at the blank screen of a site that was Yachts.com, reality hit me and my first thoughts were, “what the heck did I get myself into?” and “I probably paid too much for it”. But soon my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I started acting as the captain of my own destiny. The most obvious use of Yachts.com would be for a yacht brokerage (yachts are sold very similarly to how real estate brokers do it, and the commission is usually 10%). Only 2 states require a license, so pretty much anybody can call themselves a yacht broker. I think if I hired brokers to work for me, the Yachts.com domain would give them a huge advantage. And I even found some ways I could do it where I stay 100% online and get a commission for referring potential buyers and sellers to a real yacht broker.
I also took a deep dive into the world of electric boats. There are a bunch of new companies that want to be the Tesla of the ocean. The growth will be huge for this, but it is not something I can easily make money from, and more importantly, having the Yachts.com domain for it would not help that much. The topic is exciting and disruptive enough that any good domain would do. Next, I did a lot of research into autonomous (self-driving) boats, which has enormous potential, but again not something I can easily get into.
Peer-to-peer boat rentals are another area I considered. This is part of the whole Airbnb/VRBO/Uber sharing economy craze, where people rent out their boats directly through an app with no broker involved. Yachts.com would be a great name for that, because trust is a big issue with those types of services. But some of the reviews I read of the existing companies that do this said it was the worst experience ever, and that their boat was canceled at the last minute ruining their entire vacation, or they were charged for damages to the boat they didn’t cause, and other similar problems. Airbnb sometimes has similar issues with people not getting what they expected, but at least they can still go to a hotel instead.
Finally, I settled on offering yacht charters. These are luxury boat rentals, usually for 5-10 days, with a captain and crew catering to your every need. It is easier to broker those because no license is needed, the prices are much lower than with buying a yacht, and there is a multiple listing service brokers can use, like with real estate. I made an arrangement with an existing charter broker to refer customers to them in exchange for half of their commission.
The current version of Yachts.com is just a temporary, one-page demo. Soon I will be adding 50 travel destination pages, and also profiles of various yachts people can charter. This will help it in the search engines and also make it look much more like a real site. I will post another update on this blog once I make some more progress.