Top Level Domain Holdings has raised £21 million with an institutional investor share placement to help it win some new gTLD contention set auctions.
Its total war chest following the $33.6 million-ish placement will be about $63 million, albeit with $15 million of that earmarked for a single, as-yet-unspecified auction.
The company is currently in 43 contention sets, most of which it apparently wants to resolve via private auction. TLDH said in a statement:
The Company believes private auctions provide a significant opportunity for the Company both to increase the number of high-value gTLDs within its portfolio and to generate cash from those gTLDs which it chooses to relinquish. Under the private auction process, the winning bid is divided equally and paid to the losing applicants net of the auctioneer’s fees.
As part of TLDH’s transition from a revenue-free penny stock to a trading company, it’s going to change its name to Minds + Machines Limited, via a reverse takeover of its subsidiary of the same name.
The company said the move will help with “stakeholder communications and branding”.
Finally, TLDH said that founding director Guy Elliott is to leave its board of directors and be replaced by new non-executive director Elliot Noss. Noss is of course CEO of rival registry/registrar Tucows.
Top Level Domain Holdings has signed up 12 registrars to sell its forthcoming gTLDs, seven of which are to also use its recently announced OPEN pre-registration platform.
While TLDH is operating vertically integrated registrar/registrar business, Minds + Machines it’s also built a pre-registration service that it wants other, higher-profile registrars to access.
OPEN, for Online Priority Enhanced Names, allows pre-registrations to be purchased on a more-or-less buy-it-now basis. Names blocked or claimed in Sunrise will be refunded.
The company also said in a market update today that 12 registrars have signed Registry-Registrar Agreements, and that it expects it first new gTLDs to launch in the first quarter 2014.
Top Level Domain Holdings will announce its go-to-market strategy — including .tv-style premium names pricing and its launch as a registrar — at an event at ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires this evening.
The company, which is involved in 60 new gTLD applications as applicant and 75 as a back-end provider, is also revealing a novel pre-registration clearinghouse that will be open to almost all applicants.
First off, it’s launching Minds + Machines Registrar, an affiliated registrar through which it will sell domain names in its own and third-party TLDs.
Instead of a regular name suggestion tool, it’s got a browsable directory of available names, something that I don’t recall seeing at a registrar before.
Searching “murphy.casa”, I was offered lots of other available domains in the “English Surnames” category, for example.
Until TLDH actually has some live gTLDs, the site will be used to take paid-for pre-registrations, or “Priority Reservations” using a new service that TLDH is calling the Online Priority Enhanced Names database, which painfully forces the acronym “OPEN”.
Pre-registrations in .casa, .horse and .cooking will cost €29.95 ($40), the same as the expected regular annual reg fee. It’s first-come first-served — no auctions — and the fee covers the first year of registration.
If the name they pay for is claimed by a trademark holder during the mandatory Sunrise period, or is on the gTLD’s collisions block-list, registrants get a full refund, TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said.
He added that any applicant for a new gTLD that is uncontested and has an open registration policy will be able to plug their gTLDs into the OPEN system.
PeopleBrowsr is already on the system with its uncontested .ceo and .best gTLDs, priced at $99.95.
No other registrars are signed up yet but Van Couvering reckons it might be attractive to registrars that have already taken large amounts of no-fee expressions of interest.
TLDH plans to charge registries and registrars a €1 processing fee (each, so TLDH gets €2) for each pre-registration that is sold through the system.
For “premium” names, the company has decided to adopt the old .tv model of charging high annual fees instead of a high initial fee followed by the standard renewal rate.
Van Couvering said a domain that might have been priced at $100,000 to buy outright might instead be sold for $10,000 a year.
“Because we want to encourage usage, we don’t want to charge a huge upfront fee,” he said. “We’d really like to make premium names available to people who will actually use them.”
Looking at the aforementioned English Surnames category on the new M+M site, I see that jackson.casa will cost somebody €5,179.95 a year, whereas nicholson.casa will cost the basic €29.95.
Two other new gTLDs, .menu and .build, have already revealed variable pricing strategies, albeit slightly different.
Top Level Domain Holdings made less than $12,000 in the first half of the year, but says its new gTLD business may start generating revenue in the fourth quarter.
In its interim financial results, published this morning, the company also revealed that it plans to launch its own domain name registrar and, via a partnership, web site building tools.
Revenue for the six months to June 30, which was almost all due to monetization of its second-level domains portfolio, was £7,000 ($11,295), compared to £346,000 ($558,000) a year earlier.
TLDH’s loss for the period grew to £1.8 million ($2.9 million) from £1.5 million ($2.4 million).
But in a lengthy statement chairman Fred Krueger assured investors that he is “confident” that the long process of getting TLDH’s applied-for gTLDs to market is drawing to a close.
Looking forward, I am confident that ICANN will broadly continue to sign contracts in line with the timelines we announced in July 2013, allowing .LONDON potentially to begin its launch and initial marketing as early as the first half of 2014. Given the recent signing of contract between .KIWI and ICANN, we may see our first revenues as a back-end registry operator as early as Q4 2013, and revenue from the sale of domain names from our first wholly-owned new gTLD by Q1 2014.
The company currently has interests in 25 uncontested gTLDs and has applied for 48 more, according to Krueger.
With more private and ICANN new gTLD auctions coming soon, TLDH has cash on hand of £7.4 million ($12 million).
Given the average selling price of a new gTLD is currently $1.3 million, there’s seems to be little chance of TLDH securing its entire portfolio of applied-for strings without additional funding.
Losing private auctions could be a way to generate cash to win more than the nine auctions that its $12 million implies, however.
Krueger also revealed TLDH’s revenue plans beyond its Minds + Machines registry services business.
As we enter into this final phase, we are pursuing other potential revenue-producing ventures by developing our own registrar, and, in cooperation with the website-building company Needly, providing a clean path for users to get a complete online solution – a web presence and email, as well as a domain name.
Krueger is also CEO of Needly, which makes a web content management platform.
Top Level Domain Holdings and Tucows have made a complex deal on new gTLD applications for .store, .tech and .group.
The partnership will see TLDH take a majority stake in .group, which it hasn’t also applied for, while Tucows will take minority interests in .tech and .store, which it in turn has not also applied for.
All three strings are heading to auction, with four applicants for .group, five for .tech, and six for .store.
How much each company owns of each registry will depend on how much they contribute to a winning auction bid.
TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a press release:
By combining our financial resources on these three domains not only are our chances of success improved in the auction round, but TLDH has the opportunity to acquire an interest in an additional top-level domain, .GROUP.
Tucows already plans to use TLDH subsidiary Minds + Machines as the registry back-end for the five new gTLDs it has applied for.