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VPN.com: Masterful Negotiation Techniques and a Crucial Entrepreneurial Pivot – with Michael Gargiulo

Serial entrepreneur Michael Gargiulo spent 4 years* trying to acquire VPN.com, poured about $2 Million into developing it, and then identified a crucial need/opportunity to pivot. He sees VPN as the future of how everyone will connect to the internet, and expects VPN.com to dominate that industry.

Michael communicated for years with the original owner of VPN.com who didn’t want to sell. Later, that followup paid major dividends when the owner was ready to divest and Michael masterfully managed the negotiations to ensure he would acquire it…

Learn how Gargiulo purchased a major 3 letter .COM domain name in a booming industry, how his experience with EMDs (exact match domains) shaped his dominance as a serial entrepreneur, and how he pivoted his original plans to increase success.

*Folks, sorry about the typo in the title, we’re still settling into editorial perfection but wanted to go live as expected!

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This Show’s Sherpas

Tess Diaz
Tess Diaz
Tess Diaz is Executive Producer of DomainSherpa.com and Business Development coordinator for MediaOptions.com. With a passion for consultative sales and education, Tess grew to understand the domain industry during 7 years as Executive Accounts Manager at GoDaddy, while also serving on the Domain Product Sponsorship Team there.

A Massachusetts native, Tess enjoys hot yoga and hiking in the beautiful Phoenix desert.

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Andrew Rosener
Andrew Rosener
Andrew Rosener is the CEO of the industry-leading domain name brokerage firm Media Options.

Globally regarded for exceptionally discreet and successful transactions, Media Options assists startups with their domain name search, and corporations with domain name sales and acquisitions.

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Michael Gargiulo
Michael Gargiulo
Michael Gargiulo is founder of VPN.com, a visionary company whose latest initiative shows progress towards a safer, more private internet.

Michael describes himself: I am a simple visionary. I love to dream and get seriously bored with people who do not know how. I enjoy building websites and driving quality traffic to them. I studied finance and risk management but my competitive advantage over others is in search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization.

I currently manage a team of 11 on our current project, VPN.com. Building the right team with the right chemistry is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do however it is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had to go through (and continue to go through). Some of the best relationships I have in life come from my team members and I could not be more proud of what we have gone through to get to this point.

Some interesting things about my younger days: While in college I bought and sold more than $2 million dollars of unwanted gift cards, I built and grew 3 websites to 3,000,000+ monthly visitors (making $2-3k per day), I was a cheerleader at the University of Georgia for three years, I really enjoy playing pool, I play hockey, I am an Eagle Scout, I ran for National President of FBLA, I love God and my family a lot, and I am so excited about what my future has in store for this vision.

More shows with Michael Gargiulo »

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Tess Diaz: Serious about online trading? Secure your funds, keep your merchandise safe, and use a company that keeps the buyer and seller protected the whole way through. That’s Escrow.com, payments you can trust.

Finally, if you’re a domain name investor, don’t you have unique legal needs that require domain name technical know-how and industry experience? That’s why you need Stevan Lieberman of Greenberg & Lieberman or Jason Schaeffer of ESQwire.com.

Go search for Jason Schaeffer or Stevan Lieberman on DomainSherpa, watch their interviews, and you can see for yourself that they can clearly explain issues, can help you with buy-sell agreements, deal with website content issues and UDRP actions, and even help you write your website terms and conditions. Stevan Lieberman and Jason Schaeffer are the lawyers to call for internet legal issues. See for yourself at ESQwire.com or Aplegal.com.

Tess: Hey, Sherpa Network. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Tess Diaz, I’m the executive producer of DomainSherpa.com, the website where you can learn how to become a successful domain name investor or entrepreneur directly from the experts. In today’s show, Drew Rosener and I will explore how an Eagle Scout and college cheerleader built 2 successful businesses in college, spent 4 years trying to acquire premium domain name, VPN.com, and has invested over $2 million developing VPN.com business of secure internet access, and Drew’s favorite part, how Michael plans world domination of the VPN market. Welcome, Michael.

Michael: Thank you so much, Drew and Tess, for having me.

Tess: And, Drew, we’re so glad to have you on the show again.

Drew: I’m so glad to be back.

Tess: And Michael and I had a quick little chat in the beginning about your background.

Michael: Yeah, yeah. It was great, Tess. You know, I’m excited to share the story here today. I know we’ve got a slight lag on the line, so, viewers, we apologize in advance. But I’m excited to share the story, I think we’ve got a great one lined up for you guys.

Tess: Thanks. Well, welcome, Michael. We’re so glad to have you.

Michael: Sure.

Tess: So tell us a little bit, you know, it’s not every day that you’re both an Eagle Scout and a college cheerleader, and in your free time in college, you also built not one but two pretty diverse successful businesses.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, very quickly, I was from a fortunate family, so I had the opportunity to follow an entrepreneur as a father as a kid for a long time. So I got to see kind of how you put together the hustle on a business model that actually works there. So in college, I started buying and selling gift cards off of Craigslist. I did that to the tune of about $2.5, $3 million, just buying unwanted gift cards and reselling them to people that would pay me more for them, and rolled a lot of those profits into kind of building the first piece of what now kind of became my small domain and website portfolio.

Actually, it was part of a project called CoolMathGames.com. We did about 3 to 4 million visitors a month. There was a cybersquatting lawsuit that later came in. Unfortunately, that was with Vertical Access, if any of your viewers know who that is. But we got out unscathed at that…

Drew: Hold on. Hold on. Tell me something about that because I know Vertical Access very well.

Michael: Yeah. No. They’re good guys. Unfortunately, we got tangled up in a small lawsuit, but we were able to get out. I wish that project went a different route because it was doing very well at the time.

Drew: Yeah. What happened? Rather, what was the catalyst, if you don’t mind saying? I’m just curious.

Michael: There was a settlement, NDAs, ladi-dadi-da, but long story short, I had CoolMathGames.com. I had actually leased it from Vertical Access. The site that a lot of people know is Coolmath-games.com. So there was tons and tons, millions, tens of millions…

Drew: Type-in traffic.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. So we basically grew the domain and brand off the no hyphen in the domain. So generic exact match dot-com domains are definitely a thing and will work for a long time, just stay away from squatting on a brand if you can.

Drew: So they actually had a trademark for Coolmath Games?

Michael: So the domain was registered several years before there was a three-way suit, and I know we’re getting hot and heavy here five minutes into [inaudible 00:04:53]. It was a three-way suit, Vertical Access, myself, [inaudible 00:04:57] party. The other party had a mark registered about five years after the domain that I was leasing was registered. So long story short, they weren’t 100% right, I wasn’t 100% wrong. It was come up with $250,000 to fight this or move on to another project and sink your time and energy and effort. And that’s kind of…

Actually, that was the catalyst that pivoted me to what now became VPN.com and I’m much more excited about the potential of VPN.com, both from a traffic and revenue standpoint compared to Coolmath Games. So we were doing very well. If I had it today, it probably would be doing somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 a day in ad revenue, but…

Drew: Wow.

Michael: That still stings, but VPN.com is very excited. I’m excited to share with you guys what we’ve got going on.

Drew: Awesome.

Tess: Wow. That’s a lot of experience under your belt. Very, very… So you’re so young and this was years ago. How many years ago?

Michael: Yeah. This was 2014, so this was 3 years ago now. And yeah, I had the… You know, I think just like Drew here just been tinkering with stuff since forever, and you find things that work, and, you know, you’re young and you run on until the wave kind of stops waving for you and then you move on to the next thing. And that’s kind of just what just entrepreneurs do. So fighting the fight.

Tess: And starting with unwanted gift cards, it sounds like that was all physical, not online, and just with people you knew. How did you come up with that? That really is a great hustle.

Michael: Yeah. So, primarily, we were finding all of our supply on Craigslist and eBay and I found 8 to 10 good suppliers that regularly were bringing me, you know, decent $2,000, $5,000 chunks that I was buying. And the selling part was actually the easiest because if you actually know anything about the reseller market of gift cards, you know, $100 Home Depot is worth $100 Home Depot to someone that’s standing in the store at the cash register.

So, you know, the further out you kind of go from the cash register, the more discount you kind of bring into the equation. So if you do it right, you know, who to buy it from and who to sell it to, you can make money on the spread there. And that’s what I did for about two and a half years and did very well with it, did very well with it.

Tess: Wow. It sounds like you had an organized arrangement with a team and you researched it first or something. So, you know, it doesn’t sound like grandma gave you a gift certificate, you wanna get rid of it, and you had an idea. How did you come up with the concept?

Michael: I actually had gambled all of my college savings away on Full Tilt Poker the summer before I really started doing this and I was just like, “I need to find a way to make money online that isn’t, you know, ad revenue.” Because I had been tinkering with some game sites, but none that were really taking off.

So I got on Craigslist and I was like, “What can I buy and sell pretty easily?” I thought of gift cards and then next thing you know, I’m running $100,000 a month of cards. And it was great, it was great too because I had some really good people I worked with, had a great team underneath me. There’s still a lot of companies doing it in the space, but just not enough money in it for me to kind of keep investing the time that I was. So it was a great ride, though. Great experience.

Tess: Nice. Good for you. Are you still gambling?

Michael: No. No, I stay away from poker now and on my own merits. So I stay away from the cards, but I’ll play for fun. Gift cards was my segue away from that life.

Tess: Well, that makes more sense now because you’re partners with your father or your father is an investor in VPN.com?

Michael: He’s definitely…I mean, he’s a serious investor. Once I got to the point with VPN where I, you know, recognized what this could be and recognized that the money I had made from my previous projects just wasn’t gonna be enough to make it, much less actually acquire the name that we needed to really blow this thing up, I brought him in. And it wasn’t…you know, most people look at my situation and they’re like, “Oh, you know, daddy just gave you money and…”

My father is an entrepreneur himself, he’s always looking for a good business deal granted I’m his son, but he believed in me and my track record up until that point and wanted to be a part of what VPN could become. And I think he’s excited with that decision, especially over the next 12 to 18 months because that’s when things are about to get really fun.

Tess: Yeah. It sounds fun for sure. So you spend four years trying to get VPN.com and having trouble getting a response?

Michael: Yeah, that was actually one of the really interesting parts of the story. I had been in the proxy server, VPN space, for probably almost 10 years now, and it was about 5 years ago that I started…I recognized that VPNs were truly the future of how we’re going to connect to the internet. And I was just like, “Okay, I need to…you know, being a domain holder and liking exact match domains, I need to find a way to get this domain.” And that’s when I kind of started knocking, and it wasn’t until January of this year that we were actually able to successfully acquire it.

Drew: Back up for once again. I’m just curious because, you know, living outside the U.S., I need to use a VPN often to access certain services.

Michael: Sure.

Drew: Why do you say that using a VPN is the future of the way we’ll connect to the internet?

Michael: I think there’s a lot of different use cases that drive…

Drew: And how does net neutrality…how does that affect your VPN use?

Michael: So at the end of the day, negative events towards citizens’ privacy, no matter what country you’re in, are great for the VPN business. So when net neutrality goes the way, you know, that’s in the citizens’ best interest, it only pushes larger amounts of people to finding a solution that can protect, or secure, or keep, you know, their privacy or stay more anonymous online. So whether you’re a downloader, a business traveler, an expert, you might have a host of different reasons that drive you to use a VPN, but at the end of the day, you’re still needing a VPN.

So for a lot of reasons, people need it, and I think just with what kind of countries and governments are incentivized to continue collecting on their citizens and surveilling, VPNs protect you from so many aspects of not only that, but also advertisers as well. I just think in less than 10 years, if you’re not using a VPN, the drawbacks are gonna be so dramatic, that it’s gonna be…it’s just not gonna be good if you’re not using a VPN.

Drew: Right. You know, you’re on the right side of human nature, right? People are more incentivized by avoiding the stick than they are by going after the carrot. So you’re probably on the right side of that.

Michael: And when we started knocking on the owner’s door, Drew, we didn’t know that privacy was gonna became what it’s become.

Drew: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael: San Bernadino, Snowden, net neutrality, all of these things in the last…even Bitcoin, you know, cryptocurrency, cryptography, encryption, all of these things have kind of really just started to blossom here in the last 18 months and we’ve just kind of…they’ve been in the right place at the time.

Drew: Yeah. So let’s talk about VPN.com.

Tess: Hang on. Before we get too deep, you know, I’m not sure that everyone in the Sherpa Network knows what VPN is. I don’t know. I mean, I’d be interested to know what the general populations understand. So VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and I’ll say from my end, my understanding is that it’s something that you get online, you have a different IP, it’s more secure. So if you’re at Starbucks or at Target, buying something on Amazon, the other people at Starbucks and Amazon can’t see your credit card. And if you’re in Panama or trying to get on Amazon or Netflix, who don’t provide service there, then it gives you a U.S. IP or something and spying people can’t see stuff about you.

Michael: That’s a variety of the use case. I mean, you’re hitting the nail on a lot of different reasons people use VPNs. I mean, very basically, and I think this is a good way to explain it for the viewers, a VPN is like home security for your computer. Now, the home security can do more than just secure your home. It can give you access to websites where maybe you can’t get on in Panama. You might not be able to get on Google or YouTube and you need a VPN to basically circumvent a restriction that you’ve got. You need a VPN to keep all of your data safe.

So to your point, a VPN is an app that you could connect to when you get online and that’s it. From that point forward after you click Connect, all of your information now goes through an encrypted internet connection. So whether you’re at, you know, a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, your business, on the go, VPNs give you that security where you can safely send emails, you know, private business correspondence back and forth with the guarantee that it is in fact private. You know, businesses and governments have used VPNs since the inception of the internet because it was the only way to guarantee that your information was safe.

And kind of going back to what Drew just said on why it’s gonna become so big over the next 10 years, people, especially in the U.S… In Europe and Asia, VPN awareness is higher than it is here just because censorship is a bigger deal over there. But in the U.S., people are just now starting to realize what privacy and internet security means for them outside of just an anti-virus program and VPNs are kind of gonna be the anti-virus of the 21st century because privacy will be something that just people start to value and don’t just, you know, “I have nothing to hide.” That kind of sentiment, I think, will go away over the next 5 to 10 years.

So I hope that explains it. There’s a lot of different use cases which is why it’s hard to explain and relate to everybody at once.

Tess: So do you have… So if you’re on a mobile phone and there’s an app, do you have to press that every time before you access like your email or a browser or another app like…

Michael: Sure.

Tess: …an Amazon shopping app?

Michael: So one of the things that a lot of providers are doing now is making the [inaudible 00:15:59] automatically connects you, especially on your phone. Your phone’s actually easier to develop that particular feature than your laptop or desktop. But, yeah, most providers are moving to the convenience of you not even having to think about VPNs. It’s just running all the time and you’re safe all the time. And if you wanna check on it, you know, check in the tray and you can see it’s connected.

But, you know, the market is moving towards you don’t even need to think about your VPN, you open up your computer and you’re automatically secure. That technology isn’t across all major brands yet, but that’s what the market is moving towards.

Drew: So we use ExpressVPN. Is that…

Michael: Yeah, Express is a…they’re a very large, they’re probably in the top five largest consumer VPN providers from a paid standpoint on the planet right now. They do what you need. They provide, you know, stable, consistent service that I would say works across most devices, and for most people, that’s, I would say, covers their needs.

Drew: Okay.

Michael: What do you guys think of it?

Drew: You know, I’m totally neutral. You know, it’s kind of like… It’s one of these things. It’s like… You know, there is nothing sexy about VPN and so as long as it does what I want it to do, then it’s about ease of use and price.

Michael: Exactly.

Drew: And, you know, it was… I actually signed up just before we scheduled to do an interview with you. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have used your VPN. You guys were a little bit cheaper. I was exploring your website, you’re a little bit cheaper. I don’t know what your service is like, but I do like… I used to have, [inaudible 00:17:41], which I just… I use them because I just think it’s such an amazing fucking brand. Like Hidemyass.com is such an amazing… It’s an amazing brand.

Michael: Yeah, a lot of people… Sorry, I interrupted you. A lot of people like that name, some people on the business side of it just like, “Hide my ass? Like I don’t know if my ass needs hiding from like [crosstalk 00:18:05].”

Drew: Yeah.

Michael: Consumer standpoint.

Drew: From a consumer standpoint, great brand. Great brand. And, you know, they got the logo of the donkey. It’s like this is, you know, well played. Well played.

Michael: Yeah, yeah.

Drew: So I had a point I wanted to ask you here, but I’ve totally forgotten. Oh, I know. You were talking about seamless integration into your VPN. So I have a little thing down, you know, in the dock and I just click on it and it says… You know, I just click Start, and then that’s it, and then it’s on, it’s in the background. Is that how yours works?

Michael: So, you know, it’s funny you asked that question, Drew, because nine months ago when we bought VPN.com, the goal was to actually build the technology ourselves. So we were actually trying to build out the features that you’re describing kind of in detail here. We quickly recognized that unless you had $3 to $5 million, competing in this space is going to be a very difficult thing to do at a product level and be able to provide a product that not only is competitive but better in some regard. And that’s when we pivoted to very recently… Actually, I don’t even know if you’ve been to the website in the last few weeks, but very recently, we shifted over to a model that is more of the Hotels.com of VPNs. So instead of offering our own service, we’re moving to basically…

Drew: Ah, smart. [inaudible 00:19:30]

Michael: Exactly.

Drew: Comparison.

Michael: Exactly. Exactly. So here at VPN.com, we review every… There’s more than 1,000 different VPN providers out there. Just like Hotels.com, the reason they rate number one organically on Google and number one in the ad placement spot, we wanna be that kind of provider of all information on any VPN, and not just a provider of one VPN, and what, you know, resources our VPN can provide you.

Drew: Smart. Smart. So, you know, we used to own VP.net and I always thought that was like, you know, one of the best possible brands in that space. We sold it for a relatively low price. I mean, you know, good price. I think we got like 50, 75. I don’t know. I don’t even remember. I think it was something in that order of magnitude. But I think it’s worth a lot more. And I remember, you know, you should have come to us when you wanted to buy VPN.com. This is what we do.

Michael: Yeah, it’s funny, although… Keep going.

Drew: And I spoke… I had the contact. I was in contact with the VPN.com guy because we were trying to sell it to him. I was like, “You know VPN.com, it’s a Virtual Private Network. Here it is. VP.net. I mean, how does it get even better? This is it. I mean, it’s the shortest brand humanly possible for a VPN company.”

Michael: Yeah, agreed. Agreed. I have a funny story for you, but keep going. I wanna come back.

Drew: You know, country codes are two letters, right? And so even if you get a country code, VPN.de, it’s still the same length as VP.net. So I always thought that was an amazing brand for that market, but, man, it was a hard time selling it. Nobody wanted to take it.

Michael: No. And if you got 50 to 75, I think you did well for it. And yeah, VPN.com…

Drew: Are you gonna tell us you paid like 100 grand to get VPN.com? Is that what you’re gonna tell us?

Michael: I wish I could tell you that because if we paid that, I’d be in a lot better position because the guy who we purchased it from, he was a very smart negotiator and it took four years for us to actually make something happen. But $100,000 is, on the other end of the spectrum, [inaudible 00:21:48] for the name.

Drew: So I think, you know, the question that everybody is pressing to know, what did you pay?

Michael: So, unfortunately, through July of this year, I’m still under NDA, but I can tell you we’ve got roughly seven figures in the name. And we’ve got…

Drew: In the name or in the development included?

Michael: In the name. In the name.

Drew: Right.

Michael: We’ve got roughly $2.5 million in the whole project. So without giving explicit details, you know, everybody can do math and… Yeah, that’s roughly what we paid and invested into it. Without buying the name, Drew, we would just not have had the…

Drew: You can get in the water. What are you…you’re gonna be Jack’s VPN or VPNcomparison.com or…

Michael: Exactly.

Drew: And then you’re just another fish in the pond.

Michael: Exactly.

Drew: When you’re VPN.com and you call up and you say…you know, you call up Hide My Ass and you say, “Look, we want an advantageous affiliate deal with you or Red Share, you know, whatever it’s gonna be,” they answer the phone when you’re VPN.com.

Michael: Every Hide My Ass answers the phone [crosstalk 00:23:02].

Drew: Exactly. When we had Santa.com, you know, we called up Amazon. We got straight through to the top just because we’re Santa.com. If I called up and I said, “I’m, you know, Andrewsnurseryrhymes.com and we wanna do a Christmas promotion with Amazon,” you’re not even gonna get past voice mail.

Michael: No.

Drew: So, yeah, it puts a lot of wind in your sails. Tell me something.

Michael: Sure.

Drew: What’s the type-in traffic on VPN.com?

Michael: Well, first of all…

Drew: [inaudible 00:23:30], was there a business on it when you bought it or was it just a domain or, you know, bullshit website or something?

Michael: So it was… Actually, the gentleman who owned it previously… By the way, he was the original registrant from 1996. He just had owned it for a long time and was waiting for the right buyer in his mind to come along and, thankfully, that was…

Drew: Did VPN… Sorry, I interrupted you. Did VPNs exist in ’96?

Michael: The technology was around. It was actually still kind of being built out, mainly used by governments and larger businesses.

Tess: And did he buy it in ’96 because of VPN or was that like his initials or a different business he ran?

Michael: Sure. It was. It was. So he actually had a business called, I believe, VPNet Technologies and the company that owned VPN.com that he was a part of actually sold to another company, to my understanding, and they did not want VPN.com included in the sale. So what happened is he got an exit, he still kept the domain, and, you know, 20 years later, was able to sell it for a pretty penny.

Drew: Another exit.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. He got multiple exits and he had actually, to answer your question, Drew, his resume on the website up until 2016. So up until we bought it, this man was… I mean, he was a smart man, he knew what he was gonna do with the name, and he was just waiting for the right company to come along and pay his price. And I, you know, [inaudible 00:25:12].

Drew: There you were, he found his schmuck. He found his schmuck.

Michael: Exactly. Exactly. I’ll raise my hand. I’ll raise my hand on VPN.com. If I gotta be the…

Drew: That’s all right. I raise my hand, I’ve been a lot of people’s schmuck.

Michael: That’s about it. And when you’ve got a good name and when you’ve got a great vision, you know, sometimes you’ve gotta raise your hand and pay the price.

Drew: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

Tess: Yeah. And not all sellers are alike, you know. And in that one, you knew what you were working with and he had everything on his side, the history, I’m sure a stream of potential buyers, and, you know, there is no other name that’s really…

Michael: Exactly. And he knew all of these things. So, I mean, he had kind of full control. I mean, just like what I think the space is becoming in terms of negotiating for exact match dot-com domains, over time, the owners are just going to have more and more leverage over the conversation because they know that God stopped making exact match dot-coms. You know, they’re pretty much all gone and you’ve got to either buy them or just own them already. And yeah, if you want a dot-com in this day and age, you’re gonna have to pay someone somewhere. So he just got lucky and that was me.

Tess: It sounds like you’ve had some real history in exact match dot-coms and have a definitive opinion on them. Where did you develop that?

Michael: So before I really kind of got into any of the projects we talked about today, I was pretty involved in the gaming space online, and recognized that if you have a name that people are typing in, not necessarily dot-com type-ins, but people are typing into Google, and you can build an instant affinity, an instant credibility, just boost, by giving them that search term dot-com or that search term dot…I think the very first one was a dot-co for me.

You’re able to create so much value instantaneously with the search or with the visitor and Google, honestly, because we had figured out that Google, over time, if you have the right experience and the right value offering, they reward exact match dot-coms just because the customers reward exact match dot-coms. And they know just for the same reason Hotels is the number one organic result, you will just remember that naturally over time and that has everything to do with your brand search, everything to do with your Google brand search over time.

And if you do it correctly, and this is why I have the affinity I do, if you do it correctly, you can build an organic empire around your name and business that is extremely protected from a lot of the competitive battle that goes along with…which is competing and online just any space now. So it’s a very good insurance policy for your brand and for your business.

Drew: Absolutely. So back to my question, how much type-in traffic did it have when you bought it?

Michael: Type-in, so we were on the edge of about 1,000 a day and we were doing…

Drew: Great, nice.

Michael: It definitely fluctuates with the trends of news, so…

Drew: How much did that impact your business on day one? When you actually got your site live and you had live bodies coming into your website on day one, did that have an impact on your business?

Michael: This is probably the number one most important thing, I think, of exact match dot-com domains. You get traffic to guinea pig for free. And for us, that traffic allowed us to test different messaging, different positioning, different homepage experiences, different… Really, our goal at the time was to understand who are these 500 people? Why are you putting in VPN.com? What is it that you want and how can we give you that and make, you know, a sustainable business model off of that?

It started with us selling our own product. We kind of recognized from the feedback we were getting that wasn’t necessarily the direction. So that feedback alone allowed us to develop a pivot to, you know, the direction that we’ve got going on now, and without that traffic, we would have just never been able to do that. So sure, I could have paid for that traffic, and sure, you know, I still could, but when I’ve got 500 to 1,000 people coming to our site every day, [inaudible 00:29:46] CPC of 2 bucks in this space right now.

Drew: You’ve got a business on day one. Day one, you’ve got a business.

Tess: So you spent four years trying to get this domain. Did you have anything else up and running before then? Or how did you spend those four years besides, you know, trying to get this domain? What else were you doing to get VPN.com business founded?

Michael: I actually owned ProxyServer.com, I still do. And ProxyServer.com was the precursor, from a vision standpoint, to VPN.com. I knew the technology I could sell would be the same on both platforms, and we’re not selling our own technology, so that kind of became irrelevant later on. But the vision of ProxyServer, I was like, “Okay, if I get VPN, I can kind of pretty much translate everything over. If I don’t, I can still kind of move forward with ProxyServer.”

So ProxyServer was my sandbox and then at the end of last year, this time last year, actually, we got a call and we heard that he was ready to do a deal and, you know, that’s kind of when the whole business shifted to now becoming VPN.com for the foreseeable future. So we had a nice sandbox in a very related space that allowed us to kind of grow our thought processes and shake out a lot of wrinkles without having to spend a lot of money or tinkering upfront when we got VPN launched.

Tess: So are you combining the two businesses or you’re gonna run them independently?

Michael: Yeah. I think we’re gonna run them…we’re definitely gonna run them independently. Like I said earlier, the goal with VPN now is to transition to the Hotels.com model where we’ve actually collected 180,000 data points across more than 1,000 VPN providers now. So we wanna become the Wikipedia of VPN research. You know, you might not know what VPN you’re looking at, you might know a VPN and you wanna know more about it, you might just want to know if I have a particular use case.

You come to VPN.com, we take care of the rest for you and we do it in the most unbiased fashion possible. And if properly executed on, I think over time, we can get to number one in Google and that’s where, you know, you can change the world, once you get that type of traffic on and that model behind it.

Tess: And having the exact match puts you at such a perfect fit. I mean, all the marketing dollars that could be spent to prove to people that you’re the expert doesn’t need to be spend. I mean, VPN.com, of course, you’re the expert on VPNs.

Michael: Yeah. I think for any… I’m sorry, Tess, to cut you off, but I think to that point, with an exact match dot-com, no matter what industry, as long as people are looking for that term, your efficiency on spend marketing dollars is probably going to be tenfold of any other domain. So, you know, I can spend $1 and you’d have to spend $10 to accomplish more or less the same result.

That’s either just increased click-through rates, that’s either higher quality scores with cheaper CPCs. You know, for whatever reason, there will be platforms, customers, you know, your advertising spend that will reward your decision to buy the domain. And the great thing is you only have to pay it once and that’s it. Once you own it, you own it.

Tess: Yeah. Like I said, that will reward your decision.

Michael: Yeah.

Tess: It’s true, and especially in the security space. I mean, I do believe that it’s true of all spaces, but in the security space, to have VPN.com, that is just… The credibility, I really… One of my favorite things about domain names, premium domains, is the credibility that they can provide in a world that is so suspicious, insecure. Do you email? Like I would imagine, if I got an email from VPN.com or Hidemyass.com, which one would I open? Or which one, if I wasn’t familiar with either brand, would I think might be spam or unsafe to open or, well, maybe porn in that one? I don’t know.

Michael: No, that’s a good point, though, and that’s where it kind of it all goes back. If you could put your brand in the front field of an email, literally just put your domain, not even your name. If you could your brand in the front field of an email, like is that the way you want your customers perceiving your brand? Like you have to… If you’re really wanting to spend…

If you’re an end user wanting to develop something, you’ve gotta ask yourself those questions when you’re looking at spending the type of money exact match domains bring because that’s the benefit, that’s part of the benefit. The advertising benefits are part of the benefit of that decision. So it’s so many… And it’s long tail, it’s forever. You just continue to get that credibility, that recognition, all instantaneously, and you paid it, again, just one time.

Drew: You’re a service provider on internet services. Where do you see the future of… I mean, you touched on this earlier, but, specifically, what do you see in terms of value and popularity of these, you know, either exact match, it’s probably two different subjects, but these exact match domains? You know, VPN.com is one of the… It’s the holy grail. It’s both an exact match and a brand, right? Those are the ones that really…those are the home runs. A home run domain is one that is not only the exact match Cars.com, Hotels.com. You know, it’s a brand and it’s an exact match. So where do see the market, you know, three years from now, five years from now, on those types of names?

Michael: I think what you’re gonna see… And you gotta stand back and understand how entrepreneurs, when they have an idea from a project, how they look at naming what they’re building, right? The time you register a name is at the very, very beginning of a project. Unless you own a portfolio and you’re just registering these to inventory, you’re gonna run into one of two things.

I have to pay a lot of money for a good domain or I just register a cheap new gTLD and call it a day. And I think over time, what’s going to happen is your really premium names, your EPN dot-coms of the world, your good exact match dot-coms with type-in or brand search, a lot of it will skyrocket. I think those will always be worth money. I think kind of the lesser value TLDs will still be worth something.

You know, I would say what you kind of see with dot-net and dot-org or what you did see with dot-net and dot-org compared to dot-coms 10 years ago, that’s what you’ll probably see exponentially with all of these other names. But I think the companies that make the decisions to commit themselves to a good quality name will win and with so much just overload of advertisement bombardment brands in your face all the time, banners hanging in the back of cars, this is in a feed, and I’m scrolling through it with my thumb, you know, you’ve gotta have something that truly separates you. And that name is what does it start to finish.

Drew: So one of the biggest complaints I hear from entrepreneurs starting new businesses, domain investors… Actually, let’s, you know, focus really on the domain investment community. I hear people saying, “Oh, I’m scared about AI. I’m scared about VR. I’m scared about voice recognition technology. This is gonna replace domain names. Domain names aren’t gonna valuable or useful in the future.”

I disagree. I think that, you know, personally, voice recognition technology increases the value of a super premium name. I agree with you 100%. The top 1%, 2% of domain names astronomical rise in value over the next 5, 10 years, everything else probably falling in value or staying the same, you know, relative to premium names 100 percentage basis. I have no clue. I think we’re still a long way away from, you know, that mix of AI and VR and AR and all of us living in a world through goggles. I think we’re still ways away from that. What’s your argument?

Michael: The point you’re making there is, again, how do people find things? Okay? What is a domain? At the fundamental just foundation of a domain, it’s an address. It’s 1326, Maple Street. You know, that’s where people go. The longer, the more complicated, the more confusing, convoluted, inconvenient that address is, where there’s a keyword code, a picture, a phone number, an email address, an app download, no matter what your barrier to entry to communicating with me is…

It’s just like apps. Everybody thought apps were gonna be this huge big thing. The average person uses eight apps a month, you know, and it’s like unless you’re one of those eight, you’re none of the other tens of millions of apps out there that people are actively using. Whereas with the domain, I don’t have to have you go to Google or Apple to download this and to sign up and use it. You just come to me. I’m my own racetrack and that’s for…

Drew: I hate to interrupt you because you’re… I mean, this is pure gold, what you’re spinning right now. But what you just said about apps is also very relevant. So I always… I [inaudible 00:39:15]. After killing domains, why do I need to go to a domain, I can go to the app. And then I laugh. Take somebody’s phone and they’re like, you know….like you said, they use 8 a month, but they’ve got 300 frickin’ apps on their phone. It takes [inaudible 00:39:33] the same… It’s like you gotta do a search on your phone to find the frickin’ app you wanna use, no different than if you go to Google and search for the company you’re trying to find. It gets to a tipping point and you go, “Well, the app isn’t even frickin’ convenient anymore.” If anything, it’s more inconvenient than…

Michael: And that would be the rise of Web Apps. So what you’re going to see now and I think over the next 10 years, and you’re already actually seeing this, you’re seeing a trend of businesses that don’t require an app. So for VPNs, ironically, you have to have an app on your phone if you want the technology to encrypt your data. You have to if you want a VPN. For other things like, you know, just a photo sharing thing, you’re not necessarily going to need an app to share a photo on a website.

Drew: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael: If they’ve got the address, I don’t need to download. I don’t need to scan a QR code. I don’t need to remember this. I just go to VPN.com and call it a day and that’s my address forever. So that’s how I kind of look at the whole app because it comes back to the address. Even when we go to voice, you’re gonna be saying, “Google,” or “Alexa,” or whatever. That’s the name. That’s the name.

Drew: How easier is it to say, “Alexa, take me to VPN.com,” instead of, you know, “Alexa, I need VPN service,” and then Alexa says, “Well, do you wanna go to blah, blah, blah?” Right?

Michael: And that’s what… Exactly.

Drew: The more semantically meaningful a domain is, the easier it is to remember, say, the more market share you will capture because it’ll be easier to navigate to you. Period, end of story. Domain names are an addressing system, like you said. It’s very simple, don’t make it complicated. The better your address, the easier it is for people to find you. The easier it is for them to find you, the more people you’re gonna convert.

Michael: And if you’re scared…for any of you are that scared of AI or any other technology out there that might kind of influence your investment into a name, you own the name forever. VPN.com is mine forever and people will always have that convenient three-letter dot-com URL to navigate to that I spent money on one time and I will yield the benefit in perpetuity. So if you have a good name, if you’re in a good space, and you see a good opportunity, don’t be trigger shocked. Pull the trigger, you won’t regret it.

Drew: Amen.

Tess: So I wanna hear more about this four years. Like was he not answering you for four years, the seller, was he just telling you a price and that was too much? I mean, it doesn’t sound like you went to a broker over those four years. Most things, you know, people give up after four years and you didn’t. So I wanna hear the whole story.

Michael: So my approach from the beginning was… And I didn’t have the money from the beginning to buy the name. I knew this gentleman had the name because he wanted to sell it. I just knew my problem was going to be finding a way to come up with the price and the terms to check the box in his mind. And for me, when he didn’t respond, which happened for the first two years because he did get bombarded with hundreds of inquiries into this name. You know, is understandable because I wasn’t throwing out numbers that made him perk up.

But once I recognized that, “Okay, he’s not looking to fire sell it, he’s not looking to get rid of it, he’s clearly holding on to it for the one reason or another,” and I knew that had to be price. So once I figured out that price was his mover, I had to, you know, put together a package with what resources I had to come up with a way to offer him what would check the box in his mind. And I, over time, was just fortunate enough after just enough knocking on his door I, you know, wore him down, I like to think, and just got him to the table and say, “Hey, this is what I can do. Is this something of interest?”

And he said no for, I think, the following 18 months. So got 18 months of no response, 18 months of no, and then I did, in fact, bring in a broker. He knocked on the door for nine months, didn’t get really much of any response. And then I think something happened in his life, maybe he just woke up one day, his wife had had a conversation with him, and he was like, “Okay, this is what I want,” and we found a way to make it work. And that was… Persistence, especially when you’re trying to buy something that you have a use for is probably one of the biggest assets. Because like you just said, Tess, most people give up and all I knew… I had to be… If he wasn’t ready to sell it now, the only thing I needed to do was be the first person he opened the door for when he was and that was it.

Tess: So it sounds like… Yeah, it sounds like you researched him, then you prepared while you weren’t getting any answer. You figured out what his motivators were or were not. I’m assuming you either…like you knew… Did you have a backorder or a monitoring service, something that was a push or a pull where you, you know, checking it all the time on who is to see if he was making changes? Like how do you know that in the middle of this, he didn’t one day become motivated and sell it to somebody else?

Michael: It’s funny you ask that because when we were in the… It’s literally a year ago right now, actually, this week. When we were kind of at the table talking terms for the first time, I knew I was getting shocked pretty heavily during that week, because once he had kind of committed in his brain, just knowing what I knew about the person across the table, I was just like, “Okay, this man is committed to selling it. Now he’s gonna milk out as much as he can milk out and he’s gonna to talk to the buyers who got the pockets.” And that probably wasn’t me.

So I actually met with some 9 or 10 of the largest VPN providers after we bought the name talking about licensing their technology, many of them mentioned the fact that he approached them during that time period for similar prices. So long story short, I could have lost the name and that kind of goes back to how you negotiate when you’re approaching somebody. If you have a domain you have to have, have the number ready, have the contract ready, and once you get him to say yes, it’s in his inbox from your attorney that day, and you’re making it happen that night. Like that…

Drew: Time is the enemy of all deals.

Michael: It’s the enemy.

Drew: Time is the enemy. People don’t understand that. So a lot of time people ask me, you know, like how are you so successful in domain names? And literally, my number one answer is speed. So I was the guy that when one of these wholesale traders needed cash and they all… Everybody needs cash at some point. When somebody needs cash and they’ve got a liquid domain to sell, they know that they can knock on my door and they will be paid at Escrow in under an hour. They will have that money released and ready to go in under an hour, and there was very few people that could say that. And so we got deal flow and pricing that nobody else would get, purely because we acted fast.

Michael: You had the terms. That’s what a lot of people don’t…they get so caught up in the price [crosstalk 00:47:08].

Drew: Forget about the price. More important than the price is that you close the goddamn deal.

Michael: I want the money in my wallet today. Give me the money. And that’s what so many people, they get…

Drew: When you’re talking about super premium domain, when you’re talking about any asset that’s scarce, okay? Each domain is unique, each domain has a perfect buyer or several, and once you have the name, you have the leverage. This is what most domain owners don’t realize. Owning the name and getting it at the right price. But owning the name, more important than the price is just that you’ve got the name. Now you’ve got power. You’re now a threat. Nobody else has it.

Nobody else has leverage till you put yourself in a position where you’ve allowed them to get leverage over you. But if you’ve got the name, you’ve got the power, right? And so I think most domainer owners forget that. I think, you know, they get too concerned about trying to get the price down a little bit here, a little…you know, nickel and diming, they delay, and then, boom, I come in and now it’s my domain.

Michael: That’s what happens. And you will lose deals if you don’t approach the situation like you’re saying. Especially if it’s a million plus, forget it. There’s no pivoting. And I think, Tess, you probably can attest to that based on what little I know about your background just dealing with a lot of acquisitions, you know. If you’re not ready to pull the trigger on this or you fumble with the ball or you back up one moment, you blink, that can lose the entire deal that you worked for years on.

Tess: Well, in your description here, what I’m hearing is, suddenly, he was ready to sit at the table and you don’t know why. You just know you persevered, you were front of mind, he finally sat at the table, but then he, in his head, had changed from an owner or, “I’m waiting,” to a seller. That is the moment he became a seller. And what did he do the minute he was a seller? He called all your competitors. So that’s why you need to be ready, you need to give him deadlines, you need to keep…you’ve had your perseverance before, now it’s really the time to follow up, follow up, follow up.

Michael: You’ve got that potato now and every 24 hours that goes by, once you’ve got him into that seller mindset, is a 24 hour period that you can lose the deal unless you’re doing your due diligence and executing proper… Which is why I recommend an attorney and broker if you’re actually doing something on a project that you’ve got a lot of time, money, and emotion into, because sometimes you might not be able to get to the email or the phone call exactly that time. I mean, if you’re good enough and do this regularly, of course, you can, but… Yeah, the attorney and broker can help you. The right attorney and broker can help you improve the likelihood of you acquiring the name.

Tess: So what happened when he became a seller? Did any of the folks you spoke to, did your competitors tell you why they passed? And then how much time passed because it sounds like you went back to the table with him quite a few times? Like he was a seller, but he wasn’t a seller at a viable price or what happened next?

Michael: The way it went down is he came to us on December 16th. It was actually the one year anniversary of my mom passing, and I say that because I believe in the universe kind of conspiring to help things naturally just come forward when you’ve earned it, and it was a special day. And he came and said, “Look, this is what I want. This is what we need,” and that was it. And then we were kind of just, you know, taken back because this wasn’t anticipated, this is, you know…the broker had been knocking on the door for nine months, I was three years, so it kind of shell-shocked us.

So we took a week to put together the paperwork, the Escrow information, and then the actual offer and terms. So there was probably between that week and then the following 10 days to the time that we signed it, which was January 5th. So it was a little longer than that. There was about a three-week period between seller switch to I’m the owner. And, again, that’s probably the most important period of time once you’ve got him. I wish I had collapsed it to three days or three hours, but when you’re doing a deal like this and you have terms involved, you can’t rush it, but you need to be quick, if that’s the right way to say it. You need to be quick. So…

Oh, yeah. Very nerve-wracking too. Very nerve-wracking. Yeah, well, I mean, looking at it through Drew’s lens, you know, Drew owns a lot of domains across a lot of articles and for him, a good domain might be just an improvement in this particular niche he owns domains. And for me, it had been my entire life that I had devoted this strategy and budget and every dollar that I had into this. So I had to have the name to make this work. So for those three weeks, it was very nerve-wracking, and then when I heard after the fact from these other providers that price was the primary reason that they walked away, these providers have hundreds of millions of dollars in their accounts or moving through that on a yearly basis and you’re telling me you got shell-shocked on a measly seven-figure price tag? I mean…

Tess: And how much do you think you’ll make of it? Each single one of them, how much are they gonna be paying you in affiliate links? They’re gonna pay for your domain for you, right? I mean, that’s where your revenue’s coming from.

Michael: And with this space, kind of like what you were saying earlier, Tess, the transparency piece is extremely, extremely critical. So, you know, people who are looking for security products, we don’t need to give them a reason not to come to VPN.com. So we have to really build the correct authority for our name. But with us and what we were doing at the time, if we didn’t get it, if we didn’t, you know, secure it from the buyer, it would have been impossible to do what we’re trying to do now.

So the affiliate piece would have never even been in… If Hotels didn’t buy Hotels.com, they would have never been able to do, you know, what they do for every hotel room in the world. And that’s why for this vision, that domain name was the single most critical just pivot point for the entire company to have, because if you don’t have it, you have nothing.

Tess: Yeah. And I hear you saying, you know, world domination, the empire of VPN, and with all of the love in my heart, even your other business, ProxyServer.net… Like if our Sherpa Network is sitting at home thinking of whatever it is that they have a business in, whatever industry, when you think of, “Gee, what would the expense, the time, the energy, the effort, the investment for world domination in whatever be,” even when you think of that, “What would it be?” I wanna take ProxyServer.net and make it number one globally in something that I believe is gonna absolutely skyrocket in the next 10 years. When you think of that versus when you think of the exact same thing but for VPN.com, there is this like…the overwhelming factor is gone. Right? What?

Michael: Right. It doesn’t even begin to translate. I mean, it’s so much more powerful that it doesn’t even compare, because all my competitors, all consumers who look for VPNs, any partners, anybody who’s heard of a VPN before, VPN.com, and now no matter what else comes out of my mouth up to the next, you know, 20 seconds of me introducing the brand, you’re just thinking, “Shit, this guy has got VPN.com.” And that’s it. You know, I could sell you whatever. I’m VPN.com. I mean, with good intentions. The box is checked in the consumer’s brain and that’s very important for a model like ours.

Tess: Yeah. Yeah. So what are your plans for world domination? How are you gonna get there? What are you gonna do in the next 12 to 18 months?

Michael: We just launched the kind of phase one of our Hotels.com play. So we’ve acquired a lot of information over as many providers of VPN services as possible, so people can come to us to find that if they’re looking at one, if they’re looking at a few. We really wanna expand our breadth of information of VPNs, so going into topic-specific reigning pages, best VPN for China, for Netflix, for different use cases.

So we can really put our tentacles of the domain and leverage that, that very critical strength we have in Google, acquire all of that traffic once we understand how that works, how the model works, then start moving out into other services that are extremely related to VPNs and secure internet connections, like anti-virus, like password management, maybe even look at getting into some of the business offerings depending on how that traction goes. But there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of direction we can go, and for us, we’re gonna let our traction kind of pull us in the direction where this is going to go.

We think what we’ve got on the site now is going to go viral, I would say, in the next two to three weeks, just because of how in-depth the research is. We built it with Wikipedia quality citation in mind. So this is something that people would cite on a Wikipedia article, this is something would cite on a forum, people would… When you’re talking about VPNs and Drew needs to know where to go, VPN.com is the no-brainer solution that you bring up in that conversation and that’s what we designed this solution around. And for us, our next 18 months is really acquiring that authority to then leverage into other channels that we believe our name is a great, great fit for.

Tess: And you have an enterprise model? Because I’m just thinking to all the businesses, you already said, you know, government, businesses, and personal use, and VPN.com is something that you can bring up in a boardroom with your friends in China. It doesn’t need a…like Hide My Ass probably needs a translation in Chinese or something, right? But…

Michael: No. Exactly. And we are looking at that, about 25% of our traffic is coming from a small business or larger and we believe there’s a lot more opportunity for the model to grow on the business side. Just the amount of traffic we get is mainly consumer, so we’re still figuring a lot of things out on that front. We’ve got some phenomenal affiliate offers already.

We’re not really too concerned with generating affiliate revenue right now because we just wanna really establish our reputation as the provider of the most accurate VPN information first, and then once we have the traffic, once we have the authority, once the consumers know that they can trust us, kind of like Google did when they first started launching ads. They had built up that rapport and that just… Okay, I’m searching something, Google, and that was it.

We’ll look at the model at that point, but for us, I mean, the opportunity is endless if we nail the step one piece of the consumer offering now. So that’s where we’ve kind of started and wherever that takes us, you know, the universe will take us. So we’re excited.

Tess: That’s really cool. I’m so glad that I learned more about VPN than I’ve ever thought I would know and I think that your understanding of exact match domains has really shaped this whole space for you in a really unique way. So I’m excited for you.

Drew: Such a big advantage. [inaudible 00:59:01] really built a moat around the business by having that name because nobody else can have it. You are the only VPN.com.

Michael: Absolutely.

Drew: But anyway, listen, Michael, seriously, the information that you’re spinning, the opinions about future domains, why these domains put wind in your sails, how your business was…you had a business on day one. The first day you opened your doors, you had customers coming through. I mean, that’s gold. That’s what [inaudible 00:59:28] here because, you know, people are scared.

Domain investors right now are scared. They’re scared about, you know, changes in the way that people use the internet, changes in who’s controlling the dollars on the internet, changes of about internet access, and people coming from mobile phones or desktop, changes in type-in traffic. You know, they’re just scared. And, you know, I’m sitting here, we’re buying, we’ve been buying names this year more than ever in history because people scare. When there’s blood in the streets, you know, it’s time to clean up.

Michael: It’s easier. Yeah.

Drew: But I think this is gold, man, because this is what people need to understand, is that domains are fundamental. This is the backbone of the internet. Domains are fundamental. Without domains, there is no internet, without the internet, there is no domains. Internet is not going anywhere. So, you know, it’s exciting stuff. This is great.

Michael: Well, Drew and Tess, I really appreciate you both having me on today. Chris was the one who actually referred me into you guys, Chris Seeker [SP]. So thank you, Chris, for that. I hope the viewers have enjoyed the story and learning a little bit more about the future of VPNs and how just secure internet is the way to get online. So, guys, thank you so much and I’d love to be back and share some more knowledge if you think that’s [inaudible 01:00:52].

Drew: Absolutely. We wanna get an [inaudible 01:00:54]. You know, you’re predicting world domination, we’re bringing you back on here 12 months from now to hear how it is up at the top.

Michael: I’ll have a good quality yearly update for you guys. Okay?

Tess: Cool. So if our viewers want to ask any questions or, you know, comment below, Michael, I’ll probably ask you if you wouldn’t mind jumping online on secure… What do I say? Jumping securely online and…

Michael: There you go. There you go. I like that. I like that.

Tess: Okay.

Michael: [inaudible 01:01:30].

Tess: Yeah. So, well, if you wouldn’t mind, come and answer their questions. I’m sure a lot of questions about VPN or about your background, your exact match thought. And if anyone wants to contact you, do you have the contact info you’re comfortable sharing? Or what are your thoughts?

Michael: The best way to get in touch with me is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best way to get… I get too many emails to attend to with my just business now but LinkedIn, I’m on it all the time. Tess, I think you even have my LinkedIn, if you could put that in there just for the viewers as well. And then if you want any information on VPNs in the future, you know, feel free to go to VPN.com and search for whatever VPN you guys are looking at because we’ve got the information for you guys to uncover.

Tess: Thank you. Thank you so much for being a Sherpa for others, for taking the time to share your expertise and understanding and really open the world up for our Sherpa Network. Thank you. Thank you, Michael.

Michael: Of course, Tess. Thank you, Drew. Thank you, Tess. You guys have a great day and let me know when this goes live and we’ll make sure we get [inaudible 01:02:36].

Tess: Okay.

Drew: I’m excited. Thanks a lot, Michael.

Tess: Thanks a lot. Bye.

Michael: Bye, guys. I enjoyed it.

Watch the full video at:
https://www.domainsherpa.com/michael-gargiulo-vpn

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53 Responses to “VPN.com: Masterful Negotiation Techniques and a Crucial Entrepreneurial Pivot – with Michael Gargiulo”

  1. Bar says:

    This was a very insightful episode that really drove home the value of these home run domains. I played back the “time is the enemy of all deals” part a bunch of times because it was so insightful!

  2. ben pedri says:

    Tess is great ,but michael has to be part of this

    1. Hey Ben,

      Thank you for watching.

  3. Vito says:

    Incredible Interview everyone. Drew and Tess I am so glad you (Media Options) have bought Sherpa. I am so happy it is back and Cyger decided to sell it and not just let it R.I.P. Tess, you bring such a refreshing new take to the show. It is very very nice seeing your role here. Hope you are on each and every future Sherpa Show. Drew, your raw commentary and Q and A shoots as straight as anyone can ever be.

    Michael, Thank you for sharing your story. Congrats on your acquisition of such a MONSTER, beautiful EMD, (Exact Match Domain)! Love your story, 4 years chasing, 1 week to make it happen which wasn’t easy, solid biz plan, then huge pivot. Your honest sharing of all good and bad throughout the chase and catch is nothing short of inspirational to anyone ever.

    This is such a great interview showing how important owning the absolute best domain is to a Start-up or even an existing Company. I wish I could send people over here to watch the entire 62 minutes to show them how important it is when starting out securing the BEST possible domain they could have. I don’t know if they would be as in awe as I was since I am a domainer throughout entire 62 minutes but If you guys could edit this to 5 minutes, 3 minutes, whatever possible I honestly think anyone I would send this to who knows nothing about domains would at least really start to “get it”.

    Awesome Show, Thank You!

    1. Michael says:

      Hello Vito,

      Thank you for the wonderful comments. The domain is one of the BEST domains on the internet and the timing of our purchase couldn’t have been any better. The VPN/crypto spaces are getting very hot to say the least.

      Your comment about a shorter version is great and I will mention that to Tess and Drew. Maybe they can do this for future content as well.

      Anyhow, thanks again for listening and feel free to reach out on LinkedIn if I can ever help with any of your projects Vito.

      –Michael

    2. Tess Diaz says:

      Thanks Vito, it’s been great getting to know you here!

  4. Rod says:

    Great job Tess. Great interview. It is mind boggling to me how much money a domain like coolmathgames.com can be worth if utilized correctly. I just don’t get why more businesses will pass on opportunities to acquire a perfect match domain for their brand for what are mostly pennies in the grand scheme of things.

    Michael, VPN.com will kill it and I am happy to hear of your acquisition.

    1. Michael says:

      Hey Rod,

      Thanks for the comment. And yes, CoolMathGames.com is a very unique domain with a lot of branded search behind it. In fact, “cool math games” is on of the top three most searched gaming terms in the US due to its popularity in grade schools.

      Anyhow, thank you again Ron for the kind words and good luck with your projects too.

  5. Platey says:

    Mike and I are so on the same page in the way that we think

    The way that he speaks about his vision for the domain that he just had to have irrespective of price etc

    It’s a joy watching someone talking about their vision

    I am an ideas guy but I don’t go out of my way to have business and or tech ideas etc but I can be going about my daily life and an idea comes to me as I see something that I reckon I could do better and within 5 minutes the two or three keyword dot com is purchased for reg fee and in my account

    I have quite a few concepts that I had the idea for and the vision for and have secured the keyword dot com of the idea that just sits on the virtual shelf until I decide if I want to do anything with the idea or just sit and wait until someone else has the same idea and or vision for the idea and then tries to buy the keyword dot com of the same idea I had but realises that it has already been bought (by me) I obviously and may be for sale subject to price because I will obviously like the idea and concept and vision behind the idea and the dot com domain more than anyone that want to buy them

    My dot com domains of my ideas give me automatic organic front page of Google and any potential competitor has to effectively pay Google ad dollars to compete or pay me to buy me off automatic first place in Google

    1. Michael says:

      Hello Platey,

      Thank you for these kind words. It really is all about the name and brand of your project. This is one of the first decisions you make about a new idea and you don’t realize the power behind it unless you value domains like we do. Thanks again for tuning in Platey and good luck with your projects in 2018.

  6. What a great interview!

    Drew & Tess, I DEFINITELY hope you have Michael on again for updates or discuss about other related facets of the domain industry.

    Very motivational, informative and Michael definitely knows how to deliver the info the viewers are looking for in a clear and smartly simplified way. All-around pleasure to listen to.

    I think Mr. Cyger (his professional DNA will always be part of Sherpa- at least for many of us anyway) is proud of the way the show is continuing to develop :)

    Thanks guys, looking forward to the next shows!
    Saro

    1. Michael says:

      Hey Saro,

      Thank you very much for tuning in. I am glad you found it enjoyable. This is one of my favorite interviews not to mention I was happy to see DS posting again. I know Michael is proud too.

      Reach out on LinkedIn if I can ever help you, Saro. Thanks again.

  7. albert says:

    All I can say is that Drew, you could not have picked a better person to replace Michael.

    Congrats. Tess.

    1. Michael says:

      Agreed! Thanks for listening Albert. More great shows on the way.

  8. tldboss says:

    Thanks Michael, Drew and Tess for a great interview. Well done and congrats Michael – vpn.com wow nice name. Appreciate the information shared.

    1. Michael says:

      You are very welcome, happy to share with viewers who care.

  9. Shadi says:

    Thanks Tess, Drew and Michael!

    Great show indeed

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks for watching Shadi

  10. Tess Diaz says:

    Great news, Audio Only files are now live! Thanks for your patience as we migrated servers! Sherpa Review: https://domainsherpa.com/wp-content/audio/SherpaReview011518AudioOnly.mp3 and Interview with Gargiulo: https://domainsherpa.com/wp-content/audio/AudioOnlyMichaelGargiulo012218.mp3

    1. Michael says:

      Hey Tess,

      Please check the MP3 and RSS links. They both appear to be broken based on a few comments I am responding too. Thanks again for a great show.

  11. Darko says:

    Hi everyone,

    great interview and nice to see the positive energy Michael is putting into his business.

    The domain VPN.com has great potential. I’m from Europe and I was searching with Google the terms “VPN” and “Virtual Private Network” and VPN.com didn’t show up in the search result for the first 20+ pages.
    Therefor content with proper SEO will skyrock this domain to the top.

    Wish you all the best an thanks for this great show!

    1. Michael says:

      Hello Darko,

      Its funny you mentioned this. Not but 48 hours after this video went up we started to appear in the top 100 results for “VPN” in Google.

      Feel free to check again, I am seeing us at number 45.

      We have a solid content strategy that will be rolling out in the next 2 months as well. Stay turned and reach out on LinkedIn if I can ever help you with anything.

      Thanks again

  12. Terrific show ,guys[and girl ],moved along nicely …plenty of usefull information !!
    Question for Michael ,I own “VPN.africa” and wasn’t sure what to do with it ,
    After watching the show ,i was wondering if this domain would be good for using as a ”VPN.com” type of website ,purely for South Africa .
    If so , i would be interested if anybody could assist me or partnering with me to build the website properly and maintain it .
    Any advice is appreciated .
    Thanks in advance .

    1. Michael says:

      Hey Frank,

      Thanks again for the follow up on LinkedIn tuning into the show. Happy you found it valuable and please keep tuning as DomainSherpa releases more shows.

  13. Mike says:

    Thank you, Michael, for sharing. learned a lot! Thank you too, Tess and Drew.
    FYI, Tess, your audio was cutting out a few times

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks for tuning in Mike. Glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Great story and great interview!

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks again for listening Michael. Let me know if I can help on any new projects you are working on too. Happy to see DS alive and well again.

  15. Thanks Tess, Drew and Michael,

    This was a very informative show for anyone interested in both VPN and domains. Michael was a pleasure to listen to. His immense passion and knowledge of the VPN space along with his relentless pursuit of the exact match domain will surely serve him well going forward. The manner in which he presents himself is a direct result of his upbringing and background and should be an example to all. I look forward to seeing vpn.com dominate their market and rise to the top.

    Michael, I recently lost my mother as well. It is simply put… the most difficult thing I have ever faced. For you to have accomplished all you have at your young age under these circumstances, I know she would be VERY PROUD!

    Awesome show Tess and Andrew… keep them coming!

    John Magavern

    1. Michael says:

      Hey John,

      Thanks for these wonderful comments. We worked very hard to bring this project to life and few people actually understand what went on to just acquire the domain much less complete the research you see on it now.

      I showed this comment to my father and he was happy to read your words as well. I am sorry about your Mother and I will send some thoughts and prayers your way along with everyone facing similar situations in our life.

      Our family and our projects are our lifeline. Thanks again John.

      1. Your very welcome Michael. If I had a son he would probably be about your age. Unfortunately I don’t, but while I was watching your interview I couldn’t help thinking of how well you carried and presented yourself for a man of your age and generation. I truly have great respect for all you have accomplished and wish you all the success in the world. Your parents did a fine job raising you and surely had a great influence on the strong young man you have become. Keep up the great work and positive energy and enjoy your ride to the top. GO vpn.com

  16. Niz says:

    Thanks Everyone, Great show.

  17. Kassey Lee says:

    Very informative. Please note the audio file is an old interview with Rod Atkinson Strahovka, not Michael Gargiulo. Can you fix it? Thanks.

    1. Michael says:

      I believe they are working on getting this fixed. Thanks for listening though Kassey. Very happy you enjoyed it.

  18. Mark says:

    Another great show!

    Very informative and fun.

    Thank you Tess, Andrew and Michael!

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks for tuning in Mark. Glad you found it valuable!

  19. Rafael says:

    Glad you guys are back. Good information. Drew discovered the “gold” and made several good points.

    1. Michael says:

      Happy to have been one of their first episodes back, Rafael. Thanks for tuning in.

  20. Richard says:

    Hi – just letting you know that the Android RSS feed for this podcast is not working correctly. The last two episodes including this one are pulling up old Mike Cyger episodes even though the listing is correct – i,e. its title is: ‘VPN.com: Masterful Negotiation Techniques and a Crucial Entrepreneurial Pivot – with Michael Gargiulo’ but it plays the episode with Mike’s announcement that Andrew is restarting DS.

    1. Michael says:

      Hey Richard,

      I believe Tess and Drew are working on this. A few kinds with RSS and Audio Translation as well. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you found it valuable.

  21. Eric says:

    Great episode with many excellent points! This is further proof, that with few exceptions, the value of .com reigns supreme versus dot “what”? Even more so in a crowded space such as VPN.

    Thanks Michael for sharing all your info. and another reason for a great domain is when you share a name with a serial killer…kind of hard to brand your name when it’s lost in a sea of news about someone else!

    Thanks Andrew & Tess for a great restart of Domain Sherpa!

    1. Thanks for this Eric. I am working on my personal exact match Google results… you are not the first to point this out!

      Glad you enjoyed it though. Exact match .coms will always be worth something, especially if there is large search volume behind the keyword.

      1. Thanks Michael for advising me what options I have with my domain

        VPN.africa

  22. brand says:

    Great show, very informative. Thanks everyone for your time.

    1. Thanks brand, glad you enjoyed!

  23. Jivan Bansi says:

    VPN = Virtual Private Network

  24. Andee says:

    Great interview!

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks Andee. Keep tuning in. Tess and Drew have more good shows on the way.

  25. Rob Stretch says:

    Hey just a heads up, that “Download Mp3” link downloads an older episode.

    1. Michael says:

      @Drew or @Tess anyway we could check this out? Thanks for tuning in Rob.

  26. Sinisha says:

    Great show guys, thank you Tes, Drew and Michael!

    1. Michael says:

      Thanks for listening Sinisha, glad you enjoyed.

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