By Joe Salkowsky
Matthew Grossman’s domain name speculation has netted him a free vacuum, several six-packs of soda and a case of ice cream packed in dry ice and shipped to his Arizona home in the dead of summer.
But those prizes, collected in return for surrendering the rights to dirtdevil.com, 7up.com and Breyers.com, pale in comparison to the bounty Grossman could collect from the auction of his most valuable Net name: www.wallstreet.com.
The name, owned by Grossman and two other men, will be auctioned off Tuesday by New Commerce Communications, a company that usually brokers purchases of Internet Service providers. The minimum bid: $300,000.
“It’s the most recognizable and memorable ftnancial domaln out there,” said Grossman, who works as a project director at StarNet. “The financial industry is obviously our target market, and they generally have marketing dollars to spend.”‘
Grossman shares ownership of the name with Ehud Gavron, part owner of Tucson-based Internet service provider Aces Research; and Erlc Wade, vice president of marketing for Really Easy Internet, an Albuquerque ISP.
Neither StarNet, The Arizona Daily Star nor Tucson Newspapers has any stake in the name.
Gavron registered the name in September 1994 on behalf of Wade, his high school buddy. He did it to provide a memorable e-mail address for his friend, who was working as a stockbroker at the time.
“I thought that sounded pretty good – [email protected] – and it was still available,” Gavron said. Gavron signed up for the domain under the name “Wall Street Consultants Group” because Network Solutions, the company that issues most Web addresses, wouldn’t give .com domains to individuals.
Though the company never really existed, Gavron and Wade entertained thoughts of launching some sort of financial service site under their catchy domain name.
“We just never put any real effort into it,” Gavron sald. The pair gave Grossman one-third ownership of the name in 1996 in exchange for the rights to www.tucson.net, an address Gavron wanted but has not yet developed.
At the time, Grossman said. he figured he could help them run whatever site they planned to locate at wallstreet.com.
Later, though, Grossman began planning for the possible sale of the name. He made a few calls to ad agencies and financial services companies, but concluded it would be best to auction off the name.
He also began logging how many people tried to visit ‘www.wallstreet.com’ by typing the address lnto their Web browsers; the number ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 or more each day.
An unsolicited offer is made
Gavron and Wade say they didn’t seriously consider selling the domain name until December, when the operator of a porn site offered them $250,000 for it.
“I wish I could say I had that kind of forethought (about the name’s value),” Gavron said.
“But it wasn’t until someone offered us $250,000 that I thought it could be worth even more.”
Tom Millitzer, owner of the company auctioning off the name, says he’s already rejected pre-auction bids for more than $300,000. He believes the final bid could exceed the record $3.35 million Compaq paid for the rights to www.altavista.com.
“What you need in today’s society is something that is known, something you can remember as you’re driving down the road. When you hear it on the radio, you don’t have to get out a piece of paper to write it down,” Millitzer said.
“I don”t know how you can have a name better than that if you’re on Wallstreet.”
Indeed, the name might be the most valuable domain name still held by private individuals looking to sell. While domain name squatters have snatched up thousands of names that might be marketable, none is likely to be quite so appealing to so many companies that have so much money.
The name www.wallstreet.com also is safe from the copyright and trademark enforcement lawsuits that invariably surface when some joker registers an address like www.pepsi.net. Nobody owns Wall Street but the taxpayers of New York City, and so far they haven’t decided to sue.
“I challenge anybody out there to find a name as versatile and that has as much instant meaning to everyone in America that’s still available,” Wade said.
“We waited long enough; if this is a gold rush, then we’re the tortoises instead of the hare.”
Wade says he’ll contribute some proceeds of the sale of www.wallstreet.com to a charity – run by his wife – that provides birthday parties for homeless children.
Gavron, meanwhile, plans to remodel his kitchen and install a hot tub in his back yard.
Grossman may have the most appropriate plans for his money: “It’s probably going to end up in the stock market.”
StarNet Dispatches is the online magazine of StarNet.