in the domain business who just wanted him to go away finally
got their wish two years ago when Mann sold BuyDomains to the
company that became NameMedia
(and used BuyDomains as the foundation for what has become a
global domain conglomerate involved in just about every aspect
of the business). When he sold his company, Mann retained a
financial stake in NameMedia (who was profiled in our June
Cover Story) so he continues to benefit from what
they have done with his "baby".
that, now that his non-compete agreement with NameMedia
has expired, Mann has just re-entered the domain sales
business with DomainMarket.com
- one of several new ventures
has a hand in through WashingtonVC
- the new company he founded to find and develop promising
projects. In this article we'll detail where Mann is
headed now and how the moves he makes could impact this
industry and the world at large.
we last talked with him at length for that September 2003 Cover
Story (that contains a Mann biography that is worth
reading for those not familiar with the path he took to the top)
he was still involved in building BuyDomains into the company
that was sold less than two years later. When we hooked back up
with him for this story we started by asking him why he decided to
sell the highly profitable business.
the time I just wanted some liquidity and a chance to
work on other projects," Mann said. "One main
project was a book I wrote, Make Millions and Make
Change, which I think is
helpful to businesspeople and charities alike and is
available for free
download to all or can be read directly
online at KnowledgeIsPower.org.
Also, I liked the idea of having a large team of
professionals to bring BuyDomains to the next level, as
they have. My team and I are still major shareholders in
the new company, NameMedia, which has been outstanding
in the marketplace."
selling BuyDomains Mann wasn't in the news as much and
some assumed he had retired from big city business life
in Washington, D.C. to his tranquil summer
home in Dewey Beach, Delaware. However, anyone
who knows Mann knows he is not a guy who is going to sit
back and take it easy.
didn’t take any break really because we had already
and our charity, Grassroots.org, prior to selling
BuyDomains. Since then we have been on a roll buying and
creating symbiotic entities as part of our keirestu/incubator/catalyst
project called WashingtonVC," Mann said.
started WashingtonVC because I want to make lots of money for
our charity Make Change! Trust which funds many other very
important charitable projects. The MC!T site just launched at
as will a new Grassroots.org site soon. Major new online services
at Yield Software and Phone.com,
among a slew of other announcements will be constantly emerging
from the WashingtonVC family," Mann promised.
have a core strategy which has been working great. That
involves managing an array of compatible technology
companies that serve as a core for extensive ecommerce
infrastructures and telecommunications services.
WashingtonVC’s investments cover a breadth of
technologies. These include a telecommunications
company, a software download site, a web software
development company, a search optimization software
company, and a search optimization consultancy."
included are a full service web development firm, an
online television production company, a graphic design
firm, an RFID asset management business, a biometrics
company, a gaming and technical support enterprise, a
holiday ecommerce site, a rock and roll video and
download site and several other innovative assets,"
also own and promote the best possible brand names for
each of our companies and control the rightful domains
therein, like Phone.com, Software.com,
WVC has a well-known
of the bases covered
in naming companies and creating slogans, which is
leveraged with each new company asset. With this
infrastructure in place we can continue hiring the
world’s best people and building out the world’s
best digital assets," Mann noted.
main things we are currently missing from the fundamental
strategy we formed some time ago is a next generation marketing
and PR company as part of WVC and a deep financial base, but
luckily I think we have those issues solved and you can expect
announcements accordingly within the next month," he said.
has so many irons in the fire you need a program to keep
up. Asking entrepreneurs to pick their favorite projects
is a little like asking parents which of their children
are their favorites, but we put the question to Mann
anyhow. "Well HappyBirthday.com is really
cool and popular, and of course impossible to forget,"
Mann said. "You can get reminders for life on all
your friends’ birthdays, and instantly send them
flash-centric ecards, and overnight them some chocolates
and flowers if you want. This site innovates in SEO and
SEM strategy as well, since it has tested so many
variations over such a long duration."
apply a lot of what we learn at HappyBrithday.com to other
emerging ecommerce assets. With our core infrastructure now well
in place most of our future assets will be ecommerce-centric,
and almost all of those will use the world’s very best
domains. More announcements coming, including the next
generation of Software.com. Also keep an eye on Dial-a-Geek
and Podcast.com which are two other cool, compatible
assets in our family," Mann added.
is also high on his new sales platform that will put him
back in the aftermarket game he played so well at
BuyDomains (a platform that will also have him competing
with the company
previously owned). "We are launching DomainMarket.com
this week. DomainMarket.com intends to build the world's
best and most liquid online market for the immediate
sale of premium domain names. Only names that pass the
stringent qualifications of world leading domain dealers
will be placed on DomainMarket.com, the world’s best
digital brand values," Mann declared.
will also act as market makers ensuring the prices for the best
domains don't get too low. Currently DomainMarket has
approximately $35-50 million worth of committed
.com domains to start this market, with a considerable pipeline
of potential future name additions."
will be a relatively small market as far as the number of names,
but is likely to ultimately become the most valuable and
profitable of all domain markets given the quality and controls
surrounding the inventory and our ability to appeal to domain
buyers. You will not find valueless domains, overpriced domains,
extremely offensive domains, or random ccTLDs" Mann
"DomainMarket should not be confused with another emerging
WashingtonVC asset, which will be a live auction of
developed web sites, plus domains worth over $100,000,"
Mann said. "These markets may work together in some cases
but DomainMarket is for domain only assets to be sold online,
while the other project is for developed web sites to be sold in
a live auction environment."
what about the prospect of going head to head with
BuyDomains and NameMedia (to a certain degree competing
with himself since he still has a stake in those
companies)? "I don’t
DomainMarket or our auction will compete much with
BuyDomains for the time being since we are only
intending to sell a comparatively small number of
brands, with generally higher than average
pricing," Mann said. "Also NameMedia has
diversified into many promising market niches that we
are not addressing."
seems to me BuyDomains has a very comfortable spot in
the domain market irrespective of DomainMarket, and in
any event a little competition keeps people on their
toes to expand and improve the market for all
stakeholders. I invite people to read the new version of
which will help teach everyone how to thrive in
book is a very interesting read. Below is a 10-paragraph passage
from Make Millions and Make Change that Mann says
is a fundamental representation of his business mindset:
|Evolution is the result of a series of mutation tests. You must adapt
your processes in a competitive market while creating mutations from
the baseline of what currently exists in your market or business.
Understand the status quo and force evolutionary mutating processes
to expose the methods that will work best for your business, and
against your competitors.
Take the double helix of a DNA strand, for instance. The two strands
are dependent on each other in order for life to exist and DNA to
replicate. The DNA's helix structure serves as a blueprint: one
strand denotes faster evolving traits, like hair and eye color, while
the other strand carries the stable genetic traits, like the
formation of bones, lungs and so on.
Fundamentally, business works in a similar way. You should have your
baselines, like CPAs, lawyers, data systems, and so forth to allow
stability in your business and processes, but you should be making
mutations in your sales, marketing, PR, merchandising, deal making,
recruiting, R&D, and other methods in order to evolve and beat your
competitors. On one hand, your basic structure and DNA is protected,
while on the other hand you are in radical proactive mutation mode in
order to figure out how to create additional wealth for your shareholders.
Likewise, life is a stable baseline that protects us and our art.
While art helps mutate our minds and activities towards the next
generation of life until we are ultimately stronger and more
appealing to others, which means we can compete better. The stability
of rational people ensures that the radical evolving, mutating nature
of art does not lead us too far astray but only improves us, just as
mutating evolution provides opportunity to improve an otherwise
For another example, we know that cash or salary makes employees feel
comfortable and stable; however, since it's a sure thing, it doesn't
make them terribly competitive. This is why stock options are often
used to incentivize them to mutate into more effective, efficient,
and ultimately more profitable workers. However, with no salary
component, most employees feel insecure and unstable. The two are
mutually dependant to enable an optimized competitive evolutionary
environment for your business, much like the double helix DNA
structure, life and art, and other mutually dependant evolutionary models.
Another example would be a chicken and its eggs. While the chicken is
the baseline, the egg has the opportunity to mutate the genus to
adapt stronger competitive characteristics, so the chicken's
stability ensures that the egg does stray too far while trying to diversify.
Welcome to Hype Theory:
Based on the above we have crafted our own broad business philosophy
that we have coined "Hype theory." Hype theory holds that two forces,
hype and reality, follow the same patterns of natural selection
discussed above, and are also mutually dependent on each other for
optimal success; Hype and reality working in concert enable a
powerful evolutionary force, as does a DNA strand.
For example, in the real world, you work hard every day on creative
processes to make your clients happy. But at the same time, you can
project the proposed greatness of your future company to the press,
your prospective clients, and others-the hype. While this may be just
hype for the near future, you are simultaneously protected with your
base reality (of excellent plans, employees, intellectual property,
staff, financing) and can therefore safely project your hyped up
confidence in the market, which is likely to appeal to new customers
and help uncover a variety of potential opportunities that you are
qualified to leverage. Again, you are creating a self fulfilling
prophecy while projecting your real world confidence.
Here is our attempt at an equation to explain Hype Theory: Life + Art
= Nature + Nurture = Chicken + Egg = Cash + Stock = Reality + Hype
They all feed off the other and are intrinsic to the other to create
success. They engage in codependent mutual self-preservation. One
stabilizing force allows another force to radically explore options
and adopt its best options without destroying the sanctity of the
base business functionality. So to the extent that you hype and
simultaneously believe in your own services, others will follow which
will advance your business, just as the other parts of Hype Theory
work together to guarantee successful evolution.
theory has obviously paid off for him. Of course, like others in
this business he has also benefited from being in an industry
that has enjoyed unbroken upward momentum for several years now.
When they cycle turns back down (as cycles always do) we will
see a more difficult climate to succeed in. We asked Mann how he
advises preparing for days that aren't as sunny as those we have
thing I have noticed is that there are many wealthy,
smart domain owners who now need to diversify their
holdings. But I have found that many of them lack
expertise outside of their somewhat narrow market spaces
and therefore are not prepared to properly diversify or
make proactive, timely decisions on non-domain
investments," Mann said. "Also, unfortunately,
wealthy people naturally think they already know
everything so converting them to new ways of operating
is difficult. So they are frequently stuck in their old
has recently been working with owners of many of the
world’s best unused domains to either build them into
real companies like other WVC assets, or otherwise
enhance and then sell them on our market(s). Failure to
diversify would be a mistake in any investment
environment," Mann concluded.
(at the June 2007 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York party)
knows all parties eventually end so he advises domain
owners to diversify into other assets as well.
hard as Mann works, he does occasionally stop and smell the
roses - especially during the several months a year that he
spends working from Dewey Beach rather than the Nation's
Capital. "I am a committed beach person," Mann
admitted. "I like watching the waves and feeling the ocean
air when I am working, and when I’m not. I like French fries,
pizza, sunrises over the ocean, and sunsets over the bay with
Calypso playing nightly (no, this is not an eHarmony profile!).
Then some great (and bad) bands are in town nightly - the best
this summer was Cracker at Dogfish Head Brewery -
they rock the house so you should see them when you have a
chance!," Mann exclaimed.
tentacles of my extended families, stepfamilies, etc.
are often nearby. All of us are beach-centric. When I
was born my grandfather had a house a few blocks away.
When I wasn’t near here I lived for some years in Santa
Barbara or Santa Cruz when I was young; nice
lots of Internet, domain and finance people either
vacation nearby or come in for a visit. My
stepbrother/business partner Eric Cantor from NY
is often partying in the neighborhood and many top Washington,
Baltimore and Philly business people are
nearby. So ask yourself, why are you not in Dewey
question. Another good question (at least when you want
to see Mann's eyes light up) is to ask him how things
are going with Grassroots.org. "As
many people here know Grassroots.org is the coolest, and
most important, project around," Mann said.
"Currently 1,000 other charities
free technology, marketing and business services within
our network. We expect to add another 9,000 members as we
add a wide variety of new free services this fall within
the “Grassroots Toolbox”.
object is to provide each of these 10,000 charities
with $10,000 per year of real service value, at
no charge. Therefore Grassroots.org intends to have a $100
million per year positive impact on our targeted
needy charitable communities."
also work with the Dingman Center at the University
of Maryland which provides free MBA services to our
members. We want to expand this with other universities
around the country, leveraging the University of
Maryland's leadership and best practices. Plus we help
build and operate social action web sites for free like Shelters.org
among many others which are linked at Grassroots.org."
Executive Director Angela Siefer at the organization's
Domain Roundtable show booth (August 2007 in
enjoyed such great business success and done so much
good through his philanthropic work, I wondered, with so
many positive things to reflect on, what gave Mann the
most personal satisfaction. "Outside of my family,
I am pretty focused on getting paid real dollars so I
can use it to promote my charity work. To get paid and
have a good time I like to work directly with the
brilliant, innovative, hard working people who are
making our plans into realities in the field every
day," Mann concluded.
this article, Mann becomes the first person who has been
the subject of a DN Journal Cover Story twice. Still,
with so many innovative companies and charitable
projects up and running and more on the way, we know his
story is far from complete. The next chapter is sure to
be one worth waiting for. In the meantime, you can keep
up with what's happening in Mann's world at his personal