In August 2016 many in the domain industry were bidding in expired auctions, searching the closeout lists, creating brandable names, speculating in new or repurposed extensions, and chasing elusive single word or very short .com names. Joseph Ciprut was taking a somewhat different approach. Joseph uses extensive research to guide hand registering names, particularly those from emerging technologies. One name he registered in August 2016 was CognitiveAutomation.com. His approach recently paid off with the $300,000 sale of that domain name. The purchase is being made over three payments. With a curious mind, degrees in both psychology and business, and employment as a market researcher and branding specialist, Joseph has a strong base for selecting great names. One area of particular interest to him is the intersection between cognitive processes, artificial intelligence, and automation. While many aspects of the name, sale and negotiation process are fascinating, possibly the most significant is that category-defining domain names in the business-business sector can fetch stellar prices. These category-defining names bring to the holder the respect of owning the domain name that defines an area. I reached out to Joseph, and he generously shared his approach, as well as more about this specific name and sale. Who Is The Buyer? The domain name is already in redirection use by the buyer, Aera Technology. It redirects to their existing website AeraTechnology.com. From their website, Aera understands how your business works, makes real-time recommendations, predicts outcomes, and takes action autonomously. The private company AERA Technology operates from 9 offices, with between 251 and 500 employees currently according to Crunchbase. In 2019 the company raised $80 million in series-C funding. Total funding raised to date is about $173 million. They hold a number of trademarks within the cognitive automation field, including Self-Driving Enterprise and Cognitive Operating System. They do not own their direct match AERA.com which is used in redirection by AERA Energy. The .net is used by the century-old American Educational Research Association. The .org is in use by an engine builder association. It is interesting to me that the company invested in the category-defining term, rather than their direct business name. It would appear that their immediate plans are redirecting the name to their existing two-word .com. The other direct match to their company name Aera.technology has a coming soon notice, and, from DomainIQ data, seems to be held by the same owner as aera.org. Joseph had this to say about the company and their domain name acquisition. A New Era For Category-Defining Technology Names? While there is no doubt that this sale will propel interest in cognitive, artificial intelligence and automation domain names in general, more specifically I wonder if it will set a precedent for technology-related category-defining two-word domain names at elite prices. When mention is made of exact match names, most first think of consumer products and services, and the search engine boost that may, or may not, come from owning such names. The term category-defining is often associated with broad consumer services or products, such as insurance or pools. In the case of CognitiveAutomation.com, we have a category-defining domain name that is a narrower area, and one where the target audience is businesses as opposed to consumers. In this case the purchase of the domain name is primarily for industry respect, rather than for search boost, I would think. Joseph described the benefits of owning the category-defining domain name this way. He went on to add What is Cognitive Automation? This recent article on cognitive automation says It goes on to differentiate cognitive automation from robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning. The idea of using unstructured data is key to most implementations of cognitive automation. Joseph shared statistics on the economic importance and growth rate of cognitive automation. The field is predicted to reach close to $16 billion within 5 years, with a compound annual growth rate of over 12%. This growth rate is likely to increase, as the COVID-19 crises causes companies to automate at an increased pace. Aera Technology is sponsoring a virtual Cognitive Automation Summit in September 2020. A few years ago the Deloitte Insights Review had an overview on cognitive technologies, a broader topic than cognitive automation. NickB started a thread for NamePros members to share cognitive domain names they own. That discussion also includes additional background on the field. Two Words Can Be More Powerful Than One While a single word domain name can have much broader application, that also will limit how precisely it targets a niche. Joseph went on to add the following. In this case cognitive as a single word is powerful, as is automation of course, but both of them are very broad. This is how Joseph describes the combination. Rethinking The Lander If I told you someone was trying to sell a 19 letter, 2 word, 7 syllable domain name without a buy-it-now price and without a lander, I think many would consider the approach unwise. However, that is exactly what Joseph did with respect to this name. It had no lander. He cleverly forwarded the domain name to Google search results for cognitive automation so that anyone who entered it into a browser would see an up-to-date list of articles and sites on the topic. The buyer reached out to Joseph through his LinkedIn profile. Joseph’s Portfolio Joseph recently shared on NamePros some of his domain names that include the word cognitive. There are many great names in that list, names such as CognitiveAssurance.com, CognitiveAutomationSystems.com, CognitiveCulture.com, CognitiveDesk.com, CognitiveDisruption.com, CognitiveInnovation.com, CognitiveMindset.com, CognitiveServices.com, CognitiveSentry.com, and CognitiveSummit.com. I asked him to expand on the list of cognitive names, and share some of the other niches that interest him. Among automation-related domain names he holds are AutomationSentry.com, EmergingAutomation.com, MarketplaceAutomation.com and SequentialAutomation.com. He has a number of branding-related names such as BrandKingdom.com, BrandMystery.com, BrandQuiz.com, YouthBrand.com, HipBrand.com, WinWow.com, and IdeaCreation.com. A few of his contemporary holdings are NewEraSocial.com, Remoteism.com, VeryHappyAtHome.com, and ShoppersAtHome.com. His total current portfolio is about 650 names, of which more than 450 were hand registered. The vast majority of his names are .com. The Negotiation Process There are many different negotiating styles, but in this case there seemed a perfect match between the buyer and seller. A research driven, respectful, flexible and unhurried approach, on both sides, helped. The overall negotiations took about four months. One of the aspects that most struck me is he seemed remarkably calm, considering the amount involved. His attitude was if the deal did not complete, it meant that it was either not the right time or the right buyer, and he still would have the high-value name if he had to wait for another day. He did not disclose details, but had previously turned down offers from a couple of huge technology companies for other names in the cognitive area. While the NDA did not allow the release of details, in addition to the direct sale price, some equity in the company was also included in the deal. Ongoing interaction with the company in a consulting capacity is a possibility. The deal also included a company T-shirt. Demonstrating his tough negotiating stance when required, Joseph held out for two T-shirts, one for his son too! Joseph shared with me his insights and advice regarding the domain name negotiation process. The Domain King, Rick Schwartz, approved of Joseph’s negotiation style, writing on Twitter Advice to Domain Investors I asked Joseph what advice he would offer, based on his own experience, for domain investors. Here is part of what he shared. Search the intellectual property databases to prevent potential legal and financial complications and to make sure the terms you are considering have not been trademarked or come close to infringing on existing trademarks. To be able to hand register or buy technology-related, category-defining terms smartly, it is crucial to know what categories there are currently before you start registering what you think are category-defining terms. Invest in sectors you know about, those that interest you and you are curious about. Look at intersections of those sectors that gets augmented by technology. That is the sweet spot. Also, double check your spelling before registering! To know what is in the horizon, you need to perform a lot of desk research, read vertical online sectoral publications, create Google Alerts for specific key words and phrases, pushed to you a few times each day. Allow certain words, phrases, concepts to appear on your radar screen and if one of them generates a spark of interest, dig further to uncover a gem. Stick with dot coms, but some dot tv and if you know the language and market, with a few select dot .de, dot co uk or dot ,nl. Still, best to think global, not local. Research enough to know what is in the horizon, and a bit after that. Be curious, then check facts through several sources to verify them. Remember, it may take a few years before the term becomes popular, or it may never be popular. Diversify and be prepared to invest for the long run. Do not expect overnight success, but if you identify a word or term that gets ‘hot’ very quickly and you can foresee that at the very beginning to register the domain name before anyone else, a good payday could come sooner. It is a calculated risk. If you are averse to risk, then domain investing would frustrate you too much. In any case, invest no more than what you are prepared to lose. Remember, domain names need to be re-registered each year. How large a portfolio of domain names can you carry and for how long, without any returns? Think about that, hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Hold on to the technology-related category-defining terms you have registered, but with the full understanding that technology is very fluid, very fast moving and something new is just around the corner. See also his advice in the preceding section on negotiating the sale. Final Thoughts Joseph has been a NamePros member since 2011, and his handle is domainsterr. He is also active on Twitter and The Domain Social. He recently posted that he planned to be much more active on NamePros going forward, and that is indeed good news for all of us. Joseph did a one hour interview with Josh Reason in a podcast (see episode 94 at Josh.co. That interview provides additional details about the sale, buyer, strategy and negotiation process. Joseph is clearly a deep thinker, and I think we can all learn much from his reflections and approaches. Sometimes it is too easy in domain investing to fall into looking at all of the metrics, and I sense in Joseph someone who really looks at the beauty and utility of the names beyond the numbers. That is not to say that research was not critical in propelling that possible name to a place on his list. The domainer interview series introduces readers to domain investors who have enjoyed recent success. The goal is to introduce the people behind the sales, and to share their insights and approaches. Sincere thanks to Joseph for this interview, and so clearly and eloquently sharing his in-depth reflections.