Do you recognize that sound? If you did, and if it made you cringe while simultaneously bringing a slight smile to your face and maybe a flood of happy memories, then this podcast is for you. The sound you heard was the sound of the worldwide web 25 years ago. Okay, it wasn’t the actual sound of the web, but back then when you heard those tones you knew you were about to get access to a rapidly growing source of information and entertainment, the likes of which the world had never seen. For some people that sound also represented an enormous business opportunity, and those opportunities are what this podcast is all about.
My name is Aaron Dinin, I’m a serial entrepreneur, I launched my first internet business in 2002 when I was a sophomore in college by buying and selling super primitive smartphone like devices called PalmPilots back on eBay. I went on to build some successful and some not so successful internet businesses in the form of websites and blogs and SAS apps, and now I teach entrepreneurship at Duke University.
These days my classes are filled with aspiring entrepreneurs who want to build the next Facebook or Google or Uber because it’s a prestigious and potentially lucrative thing to do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s part of why people want to become doctors and lawyers too, right? And here’s the thing. The more I teach, the more I feel like my students and entrepreneurs in general are too limited in their approach to tech entrepreneurship because their imagination for what’s possible is limited by what they already know and use every day.
That wasn’t always the case for internet entrepreneurs. You see the entrepreneurs who built the first wave of successful internet businesses weren’t doing it by copying what everyone else was doing, and they certainly weren’t doing it because it was the cool thing to do. There were people like Scott Maslowe.
I did not want to be an electrician for the rest of my life, and this is the beginning of the internet. In the beginning a lot of the technologies that are around today didn’t exist. And when you see something like that, you see something that raw, it’s obvious, or it’s easy, to have all these ideas that you think will be really lucrative. And it’s also easy to put them into practice and whatnot. So when I saw the internet I kind of figured I’d do something in that. As silly as that sounds it just seemed like a good place to go.
That former electrician who just thought the internet seemed like a good place to make money would go on to pioneer many of the email marketing techniques and strategies companies around the world use every day. Or how about the story of Yoni Belousov? Yoni was 13 when his family moved him across the world. Suddenly living in a new country with none of his friends, Yanni started spending lots of time online and soon discovered the worldwide web was more than just a thing a teenager could surf, it was something a savvy teenager could also invest in.
Yeah, I tried I guess different things online, somehow domains stuck for me because it seemed both interesting to me, but also something that was valuable, and value was not realized by everyone. Because to me it seemed obvious that it’s valuable for many different reasons. And it was even productive because especially back then, there was a lot of type in traffic, people would just type in the domain name and you would have almost this traffic coming in every day, that you can convert to revenue from monetization. So effectively buying a domain was almost like buying a property, and the traffic was rent. So that kind of became interesting because it seems like you can leverage it in different ways, and it also seemed almost the most potent way to market yourself online.
Today Yoni owns thousands of highly lucrative domain names, giving him one of the largest and most valuable private domain portfolios in the entire world. And yet domain names are an asset class most people have never even thought about. Heck, a lot of my students don’t know what a domain name is, and almost none of them know what HTTP stands for.
And that’s why I’m launching the Web Masters podcast. I want to show a different side of internet entrepreneurship than what most people see or think about. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the attention tech entrepreneurship gets. It’s amazing to see billion dollar internet Goliath’s like Amazon and Twitter dominating headlines and inspiring more and more people to launch their own companies. But the internet is full of incredible opportunities to launch businesses, opportunities you probably don’t even realize exist. I certainly can’t tell you what all those opportunities are because honestly I don’t know them all myself, but we can learn to think differently about internet entrepreneurship by talking to the people who have been building internet businesses for decades. Back before people thought it who net entrepreneurs were cool, back when people thought they were actually a bit crazy.
And if I’m being honest a lot of them were crazy because you had to be a little bit crazy to think that building an internet business was a good idea at a time when most people assumed the only thing you could get by entering your credit card information onto a website was, well, a stolen credit card. Ready to hear some interesting stories? Subscribe to Web Masters now wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, and you’ll get the first episode as soon as it’s released in just a few days. Sound good? All right, let’s get dialed in.