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Johns Wu – Founder, Developer, Sole Employee, and eventual Seller of Bankaholic.com

Founder, Developer, Sole Employee, and eventual Seller of Bankaholic.com, a consumer banking portal, to Bankrate, Inc.

October 2008.

For nearly $15 Million.


From his LinkedIn profile:

“Retired Internet Marketer”

Before his 23rd Birthday.

If you’re an Internet entrepreneur or giving real thought to chasing that brass ring, the success achieved by Johns Wu, in less than 3 years, is the story that will keep you awake late into the night and get you up well before the sunrise. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview with one of the best Internet success stories you’re likely to read. However, if you’re anything like me, it will have you sitting straight up in your chair and will leave you super charged to take YOUR business to the next level.

You and I crossed paths a while ago because we both had an interest in a certain domain name. However, I was well aware of your story prior to that email meeting. I’m about 6 weeks into blogging about entrepreneurs on MO.com; it excites me to know, based on your story, I’ll get to cash out for millions in just another couple years . . . ahem.

In all seriousness, your story has inspired and continues to motivate countless entrepreneurs and bloggers to make their run at glory and financial reward. First, how does that feel to know your success is being used by others to give them the drive they need to chase similar dreams? Second, is it realistic for folks to believe they can achieve such lofty results or did you just hit “the perfect storm” with Bankaholic?

Johns Wu:
I am thrilled that my story is inspiring others to build online businesses. I myself was motivated by ShoeMoney when that infamous picture of him [Jeremy Schoemaker] holding a big AdSense check was circulating the web.

As more and more commerce moves from real-life to the web, there will be countless opportunities for niche marketers to strike gold.

In your LinkedIn profile, you state you are retired. How accurate is that? My hunch is you’re still very much “online” and selectively filtering out opportunities and seeking out that next homerun. Am I close?

Johns Wu:
HA! You are very much correct! Entrepreneurs who heard of the Bankaholic sale often contact me on my LinkedIn, and I’ve been collaborating with people on various projects. I am far too lazy these days to do any actual “hands-on” development, but I am very active in “high-level” roles on many exciting projects.

I’ve been working on getting a GRAND SLAM in the works. My idea of a grand slam is: category killer domain + SEO [Search Engine Optimization] traffic + monetization. In the next couple years, I’m hoping to build a web property in the same league as Hotels.com and Wine.com. I’ve been in talks with domainers who own valuable portfolios, so hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later ;)

You have a very strong, and clearly proven, background in search engine marketing (SEM), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies. These skills were a big part of your accomplishments in building out Bankaholic.com. Your banking portal became an acquisition target for Bankrate, Inc., primarily because you had built the property into a real powerhouse for generating big traffic in the highly competitive and lucrative banking sector online. You also had a good working relationship with Bankrate so they knew first hand what the traffic levels were and the type of conversion the traffic to Bankaholic.com was producing.

Do you believe your “blueprint” for generating big traffic to a website is repeatable in other competitive niches online? My focus for MO.com is to produce quality relevant content on a daily basis and to build and attract links to my site. So simple, yet . . . solid strategy? I know people reading this interview will be looking for that one big takeaway they can use to apply to their own online empire building. Here’s where you give us all that one cosmic silver bullet that knocks our traffic through the roof :-).

Johns Wu:
Definitely. I am already executing my “blueprint” in other niches. They aren’t quite on the scale of Bankaholic, but once they are running at full steam, they should pull in enough traffic and revenue to culminate in a profitable liquidity event.

Unfortunately, there is no cosmic silver bullet for successful domain development. Companies like Marchex have attempted to automate domain development, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Above all else, successful development requires tons of EFFORT and DETERMINATION. In fact, my current projects have been suffering because of my lack of effort—I’m not as hungry for success these days so I haven’t been as aggressive and successful as I’d like to be.

When the story broke about your sale, the word on the street was you lived in a modest apartment and existed on food from Subway deli. It’s been a bit more than a year since your big payday, how has your “day to day” changed on the home front? Eating lobster and caviar for breakfast now or just getting extra cheese on your sub sandwich at lunch? When I had a decent sale a while ago, my standard line was that it had really changed my life because now I bought 2 pairs of Levi’s jeans at a time instead of just 1 pair :-).

Johns Wu:
My lifestyle is pretty much the same. The harsh reality is that I am raking in pretty much $0 income these days. Plus, seeing my stock portfolio going up and down like a rollercoaster has taught me how fleeting wealth can be. Don’t get me wrong . . . I spare no expense in making the most of things, but life as a millionaire is far less exciting than people imagine. It’s a mind-blowing high for a couple months, but then you kinda just get used to it.

When I was in the process of selling Bankaholic, I dreamed of all the Ferraris and Lambos I was going to buy, but for the record, I’m still driving the same car today as I did before the sale… which kinda surprises me. Right now, I’m kinda on the fence about buying a white Ferrari F430… I think it is the ULTIMATE sports car, but I’m reluctant to pull the trigger because I’m afraid that I’d get bored of it after a couple months . . .

I’ve definitely upgraded from Subway though. Eating and drinking are my favorite hobbies, so I’ve been spending my time discovering new cuisines. In fact, over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort building up a valuable cellar of high caliber wines and champagnes.

Domain names. I mentioned in the opening that we met due to mutual interest in a domain name. As someone who has invested in and developed businesses on premium domain names, I had to smile when I learned that a real SEO expert was investing in domain names also.

What is your strategy in the domain space? Are you primarily interested in dot com domains? Are you looking at domains for the purpose of a potential build-out should you “un-retire”? Do you look at domains as an opportunity to buy low and sell high? Most SEO folks currently believe google gives some solid love to “exact match keyword” domains in their rankings. Is that your belief also?

Johns Wu:
Domaining is my main focus right now since it is crucial to my GRAND SLAM effort.

Thankfully, the cash from the Bankaholic sale has enabled me to become a player in the domaining space at a time when domain valuations have corrected as speculative capital has dried up and parking revenues have taken a nosedive.

My strategy is acquiring category killer exact match keyword names in high paying and high traffic niches—and yes, Google gives these domains much respect. I am always acquiring domains with the intention of one-day developing them. My online marketing experience has given me an extremely keen and accurate sense of valuations & development potential for domains… I constantly cold-email domain owners and make aggressive offers. 60% of the time I get no reply. 39% of the time I get an outrageous counter-offer. But the 1% of the time I succeed is worth the effort! All it takes is 1 solid domain to build a multi-million dollar web property.

Now that I have dazzled you with my interviewing prowess, the chances of me luring you out of retirement and into a joint venture on MO.com are . . .??? ;-)

Johns Wu:
Sure thing! What role can you imagine me playing in MO.com?

( MO: check your inbox :-) )

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