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I was born to a Hakkanese family. The Hakkanese (the guests) is a special tribe in China who some 2,000 years ago were driven away from the north. We came to the south and then many also migrated to various parts of the world, and so our influence spread. Some famous Hakkanese that you may not know are Sun Yat-sen (founding father of modern China), Tsai Ing-wen (current president of Taiwan), Martin Lee (founding chairman of Democratic Party in Hong Kong), and Lee Kuan Yew (founding father of modern Singapore). There's a word to describe the Hakkanese: humility. Here's the post.

July 5, 2016 (Tue)

Bill Ding is the reason why Line.com is worth more than $10m


As Line Corp is gearing up for 2016's biggest tech IPO in the US, its CEO Takeshi Idezawa must be troubled with a burning issue: how to secure Line.com. Messaging app Line users all over the world recognize the company's brand as Line, and they expect to find the brand at Line.com. (The company currently resides on Line.me and Linecorp.com.)

Unfortunately, the answer to Idezawa's question may not be that simple. Once he realizes who the owner of Line.com is, he may have to prepare himself for a very tough negotiation, because Bill Ding (丁海森) is the owner and he is no ordinary domain investor.

Ding is an MIT-educated Chinese entrepreneur and domain investor. He was on the Top 100 Global Future Leaders list of World Economic Forum 2003. Ding co-founded World Brand Lab with Nobel prize winner Robert Mundell and just recently had a successful World Brand Summit held in Beijing.

Ding also understands the importance of domain names and their relationship with brands. He said, "Without the correct brand name and domain name, entrepreneurs are like erecting a building on sand. The grander the building, the more tragic the fall will be." and "In the digital age, a domain name is sometimes more important than the CEO of a company."

He is a keen domain investor. He noted, "In the physical world, we speculate on properties. In the virtual world, domain names are the virtual land which attracts more and more investors and speculators." He owns a lot of valuable 'land', such as Top.com, City.com, and Brand.com in his 2,000+ domain portfolio.

Ding is used to multi-million dollar domain names. In 2013, he spent $2.1m to purchase 114.com to start 114 services (114 is the phone number to call for yellow-page type services in China). He has seen dramatic increase of domain prices and top brands in China spending millions of dollars to acquire JD.com, VIP.com, 360.com, etc.

Commenting on Universal Music Group's sale of Uber.com for $1m, Ding said the company should have kept the 2% Uber shares to enjoy a return of $1b few years later. He's not in favor of selling a domain name for cash.

In 2008, he bought his first domain name Choice.com for $160k. Soon he received an offer of $800k but he rejected it after his research revealed that a lot of large companies use this name. He has kept the domain name ever since and plans to use it in his new concept angel investment: giving cash plus domain name to a new startup he likes. So far, he has already invested in more than 20 startups using this concept.

Knowing how Bill Ding treats his domain names and seeing how badly Line Corp needs Line.com, here I venture to speculate that Ding will not let go of Line.com for less than $10m. I'll go one step further and predict that he will not even sell the domain name. Instead, he may want to use Line.com to own part of Line Corp if he likes the company. Whichever way it goes, Line.com will certainly be a very expensive acquisition for Line Corp.