The 3-Minute Interview: Domain man Mike Mann

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People,Alan Blinder

The D.C. native has become one of the nation's most prolific domain investors and holds Internet assets worth more than $100 million.

What exactly do you do?

The domain business is mostly a matter of buying and selling intellectual property. I could buy a domain for a certain amount and, if I'm lucky, sell it for more. It's essentially arbitrage and speculation of intellectual properties.

How'd you find your way into the business of "domaining?"

I was in the Internet business for a long time prior to all of this. I owned this one domain name, and one day someone offered me $25,000 [for what] I was paying $70 a year for. The margin is phenomenal in this particular enterprise, so I just dedicated myself to it.

How many people do this?

Tens of thousands, but only a couple of dozen people are very good at this. Their portfolios are worth hundreds of millions of dollars each, and they turn over about 2 percent of that a year. Most people just lose their money, though there are a lot of people who have one or two excellent assets that they can capitalize on.

You bought 15,000 domain names in 24 hours earlier this year. How did you come up with the names you wanted?

It's not that exciting. It was just business as usual for us. It's normal for me to buy 300 domains in a day, and all this was a few weeks built up and all bought in one day. This is software-driven.

Is this more or less risky than typical stock market investments?

It's a very clubby atmosphere and a very illiquid market. There are big, big spreads: You can lose a lot and make a lot. It's a thinly traded, inefficient market. There's a lot of risk. I could lose everything or make 10 times my money.

- Alan Blinder

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