A house built on nothing

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. He rang me up with some exciting news, “I’ve got some exciting news!”.

“Yes?” I said, thinking he’s done some brilliant deal with a major client, or someone wanted to invest or buy us out, or something.

“I’ve tracked down the owners of that domain name, and they are willing to sell it for around $150,000, but I reckon I can get them lower!”

My heart sank. This was the good news? Amazingly, he went off and bought the domain name, for something under this price (but not far under) from some real estate agents in Iowa (I kid you not) who must have thought their boat had come in.

I was reminded of this story when the Iowa caucus vote came in the other day; which is the official start of the ever running saga that is the US Presidential race. Iowa, the field of dreams, home of one of my favourite authors (Bill Bryson), place of Tornados, the world’s largest strawberry (I am not making this up) and birthplace of Herbert Hoover, John Wayne and Glenn Miller.

And one very lucky real estate husband and wife team. But not my erstwhile business associate, who went under within 12 months of the deal he struck with them.

A good domain name is useful, but surely Google, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and many others have proved that the domain name in itself does not a business make. Essentially, to have a successful business that lasts, you need to continually solve problems for customers such that they will pay you for doing so. If you can also wrap this all up with genuinely great customer service, and adjust your offering as their needs change, then you may be in business. Sounds easy, but it’s actually quite hard. Mainly because it involves selling (and listening, and thinking, and WORKING!). What my former associate forgot was that buying things is easy (anyone can go out and buy things), but selling… well that’s something else entirely.

Photo Credit: Active Rain

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business aussiehome.com, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran reiwa.com. In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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