Excellent Domains: Ilze Kaulins and female domain power from Canada

Ilze Kaulins, founder of Canadian firm Excellent Domains, has been buying, selling and investing in domains since 2001, and is very active in the Domain-Internet community.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ilze – along with fellow domain investor, KW Boswell – during TRAFFIC in Ft. Lauderdale,  and she was kind to grant us this very educating interview.

Domain investors, Ilze Kaulins & KW Boswell, at TRAFFIC 2012 in Ft. Lauderdale.

DomainGang: On a given day, what motivates and drives you to continue investing, monetizing and/or developing domain names? Is it just about money?

Ilze Kaulins: For me, it was never about the money, and that has not changed. I registered my first domain, a dot ca, about 11 years ago for a project. I had no idea that there was an entire business behind this registration. The registrar, Internic, at the time explained to me how the sunrise period operated, and how the drops would work as .ca’s would become available to the public.

It was about that time that I realized that no one was really registering .ca aggressively. Of course, Visionaries like Frank Shilling and Peter Maxymych of Emall.ca were already way ahead of me, but there was an entire dictionary to mine; a veritable domain gold-mine!

I would hand-register a few domains every day, mostly travel related, i.e., seatsales.ca. When the CIRA “tbr drops” were offered daily, that was when I became addicted. It was a rush; searching for gold, bidding, winning, losing. The credit card made it less associated with “money”, so I probably did not realize at the time that I was getting in over my head.

I started registering domains and working drop lists and auctions 24/7. My kids and husband got used to seeing me at the computer instead of the kitchen. I maxed out every credit card I had, and then maxed out every card my husband had. I had accumulated a very impressive portfolio in a short span.

The problem was that no one was buying domains. The concept of buying a domain had not yet hit the mainstream. Ironically, the thing that saved me was PPC. It was about the time that I was seriously considering dropping many, many domains because I could not afford to renew them.

Chris Stewart was the Angel that saved me. He connected me to Ron Sheridan and Domain Sponsor. I will never forget the amazing feeling of watching – and I was watching all the time – pennies accumulating on my domains. The money at the time did not make me rich, but it reminded me that I was on the cutting edge of a business that was not yet really defined, but had some serious potential. I think I am more motivated by discovery and new concepts, than by the end result of money.

Right now, I just finished revamping my website, ExcellentDomains.ca and I plan on adding a Brokerage Arm to it, called GoldDomains.com where I will start to contact End-Users directly. I also just placed a nice ad advertising my website in Marketing Magazine that targets decision makers in Canada.

How hard is it to be a female domain investor, in what appears to be a “boys club”? Are the opportunities equal or skewed?

I feel the Opportunities are very equal. If you have a serious portfolio, or cash, gender does not matter.

The “boys Club” that you might be referring to are the 95% of attendees at TRAFFIC or DOMAINFEST. Most of those gentleman have been nothing but wonderful to me and show a genuine interest in what I do.

If anything, being Canadian would be more of a drawback, as my portfolio for many years did not have the respect that perhaps it does now. More and more PPC and Auction platforms are welcoming the .ca tld. I think it is hard to be an investor if you do not have cash-flow, male, or female.

Please share with us a turning point during your domain investing tenure. Was it a self-discovered moment or did you have a mentor?

There were a couple of moments that were definitely turning points. The first one was when Chris Stewart introduced me to Ron Sheridan and Domain Sponsor where I discovered the immediate payoff of PPC. Wow!! Back in the day that was the saving grace for most domainers.

The next turning point was discovering the value of acronyms. I asked Fernand Camire, a Fellow domainer, who is now a very, very close friend and confidant, why he was registering 3-letter acronyms. They made no sense to me at all. I immediately started to go after any 2-letter acronyms aggressively and then the 3-letters ending in A, E, I, S, L, M. I had my registrar run a list for me of available 3-letters and that was when I hand registered hundreds and hundreds of domains one afternoon. My current sales are 80% acronyms.

Another turning point was discovering that there were other “addicted” people like me, when I heard about the Targeted TRAFFIC conference.

What is it that you extract, obtain or benefit from attending domain conferences?

I have been attending the Targeted Traffic Conference for many years now, and some of my most interesting and good friends are domain related. I meet new friends every conference and always seem to be lucky enough to walk away with a domain. I Love, Love, Love the auctions!! It is at the auctions that the real opportunities occur for me as an Investor.

I cannot thank my lucky stars enough for being involved in the domain business. The people I meet and that are generous enough to share their time and expertise with me are far more valuable than money can ever be.

What is the future of domain investment? New TLDs, improved/better selling platforms, or “exporting” the domain industry to tech, education and finance industries?

As much as I am a fan of the Canadian tld, .ca, I am even more of a fan of the .com If I can grab a dot com, within my budget of course. I will aggressively bid.

With the advent of the new tld’s, I am even more convinced that .com rules. Of course, a few domainers have had successful .co sales, but for me it will always be .com and a solid country code like .ca or .de. What I am seeing is that companies and registrars are trying to “create” new tld’s with less interest in their sustainability, and more interest on self- serving profit. If Apple want to create and manage .Apple, that is nice for them. They can afford it, and perhaps it makes sense for them.

However, extensions like .travel, .pro. mobi were not mainstream successful, and I do not see how adding more tld’s to the mix will serve the regular guy on the street looking for relevant information.

I believe the normal guy on the street will still only value the .com above all else. I know that many of my friends at the TRAFFIC conferences will disagree, but this is my opinion.

I also wish there were more selling platforms with less of a cost to the domainer for listing. Commissions as high as 30% is just gouging.

Thank you, Ilze, for sharing with us all this valuable information. Wishing you all the best for more success in the future! 😀

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