This time last year, the four-letter .COM domain craze was just about to start. It’s a period of time that saw prices of four letter .COM “Chips” climb from under $150 to over $2,500 each at their peak. One of those responsible for the acquisition of thousands of four-letter .COM domains was Daniel Chen. Today, we have the privilege of bringing you an interview with Daniel, one of the most influential people in Chinese domain name investing. Daniel Chen is the CEO of 190.com, the largest digital asset exchange in China. Since last year, Daniel and his team have largely been interested in the acquisition of domain names, focusing mainly on four-letter .COMs (4L), with 190.com becoming the largest 4L .COM portfolio owner in China at one point last year. In this interview, Daniel gives us his views on many different subjects including his views on the value of 4L and 5N (five-number) .COM domains and his opinion on the future of domain names as an investment. NP: Can you describe 190.com, and what you do? Daniel: 190.com is the first and the largest “Digital Assets Exchange” in China. We basically focus on all kinds of digital assets ranging from things such as “domain names” but also digital assets such as mobile numbers, QQ numbers, etc. Our vision is to become the “Amazon” in Digital Assets business. I’m the chairman (CEO) of 190.com and I’m also in charge of the domain investment of 190.com. Regarding all types of digital assets within the business, domain names are definitely one of the largest digital assets that we deal with within the company, and seem to be the most popular (although there is activity in all areas). We are now an ICANN accredited registrar and our registration platform will be launched on 15th April. We have a transaction service, an escrow service, a brokerage service and all the other domain names supportive services. An English version of 190.com is also on scheduled to launch soon, and we look forward to connecting investors from every area of the globe on the platform. NP: How long have you been investing in domain names? Daniel: I only have been heavily invested in domain names for just a little over a year now. NP: What changed in recent years that made domain names a desirable investment asset in China? Daniel: There have been three changes that made domain names a desirable investment asset in China. First of all, Chinese government started to promote the “internet plus initiative” which pushes traditional enterprises to embrace internet more actively (becoming more E-commerce). Secondly, the Chinese government started encouraging more people to start up their own online businesses, which brought a very large demand and need for domain names. Third, there has been a drop in stock market across the world in 2015, (especially in China). Investors saw domain names as a safer asset to invest in, and it is where I came from as well. NP: Do your Chinese domain investors invest with the expectations of eventually selling the domains to end users or are they planning to resell them to other investors? Daniel: Traditional investors tend to sell the domains to end users, however many of the large investors who just entered this market are in favor of short term hold transactions (“Quick Flips”). As it’s quite similar to the stock market, which they just left. NP: What makes a domain name valuable to a Chinese investor? Daniel: 1. Domains already have potential end user (the bigger the better), if end users fall on other extensions it also makes them more favorable. 2. Domain extensions that have always been “King” such as .com and .cn 3. Short “Chip” domains (Pinyin acronyms). Prefix single syllable pinyin domains examples such as Bao, Yao, Tao. These create hundreds of different possible uses as they can mean many different things. Also the standard short domain NN,NNN, LL, LLL’s. NP: Does the stock market play a roll in the rise of domain values and increased interest in domains? If so, in what way? Daniel: Not really, the stock market does not play a roll in the rise of the domain values but the P2P market does have impacts on the rise of domain values. NP: Which domain names are 190.com users currently most interested in buying? Daniel: There are mainly two types of users in 190.com, the first type is enterprise “End users”. 190.com belongs to Shenzhen EIMS Culture and Technology CO., Ltd and EIMS is one of the leading cloud computing providers in China which has more than 70,000 SMEs customers. The enterprise “End users” are interested in buying domain names related to their company or business. The other type of users are “middle to high class” domain investors, they are interested in buying domains with valuable extensions such as .com and valuable prefix (domain name). 190.com is also starting to attract the attention from foreign investors as well. NP: What do you think is the 5 year plan of a Chinese domain investor? Daniel: Chinese investors will keep looking for valuable extensions like .com and the interests would fall on nnn.com, nn.com, lll.com, ll.com. and other domains similar that will continue to increase in value over time. Some thing to keep an “eye out for” is ccTLD’s, and the right “New GTLD’s” as they are becoming more popular replacements. A few that I see having long-term investment popularity here are .app and .co. NP: What's the best time of year for you for sales? Do numerics sell for more if a certain holiday is happening or right after certain holidays? Daniel: For us, anytime is a good time to sell the names, but when you buy domains, you should be more cautious. Regarding the price change surrounding numeric domains and the time of year; “in general”, prices tend to increase when it’s getting close to some global sports events such as World Cup, Olympic Games, it varies in different countries. NP: What do you think will be the next trend in domain investing? What advice would you give investors be looking to buy into the next big trend? Daniel: I would suggest the investors to continue to focus on 4L.com and also 5N.com (as they are heavily undervalued). 190.com created a very large network of clientele, with domain for all types of domains. 4L.com “chips” were a huge demand last year, and 190.com heavily influenced its promotion, and was the largest owner of 4L.com domains in China. 5N.com domains still have use for other investors in China and potential end users as well. NP: Recently, there has been a large decline in prices of Chinese premium domains. Do you think this decline will continue? Daniel: I don’t think the decline will continue, I’m still very confident on the Chinese and Global domain business market. Our users are buying 4L.com and 5N.com, “as we speak”. NP: What are your domain investment predictions for the next 12 months? Daniel: From my personal opinion, 4L.com and 5N.com will increase in the next 12 months. Some new extensions “new gTLD’s” also have potential for growth, such as some focused around china like .xin. — Thanks to Daniel for taking the time to speak with us, and thanks to @mdtaylor for translating. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.