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How Chris Clark Made a 10,000x Return on Pizza.com



The Frontier Days of the Web

Back in ‘94, the www was the wild west when it came to registering domain names. A person could purchase pretty much any dot com they could think of, and premium, one-word domains were prevalent.


In 1994, Chris Clark was 29 years old and living in North Potomac, Maryland. At the time, he was a consultant and was starting to get more clients inquiring about the Web – what to do and how to use it.


The Gamble on Pizza.com

Randomly, Chris decided to register the domain name pizza.com. For a cool $20 bucks, he secured the name, not thinking much about what would come of it. Initially, Clark hoped that the domain would help to get contracts with pizza businesses who wanted to take on the internet.


The domain did drive some interest, but didn’t result in anything fruitful. Eventually, Clark decided to monetize his traffic with ad revenue – it wasn’t much, but it was something. Chris sat on the domain for years – 14 to be exact – and kept paying the modest renewal fees.


In 2006, Chris turned pizza.com into a tech-driven startup, and took on the role of CTO. His hopes: for pizza.com to become a platform, specifically the primary search engine for pizza on the internet. During this time, he started to get more interest and offers for the domain, but not the business he was building. Offers would come and go, but nothing was all that appetizing.

The Auction Frenzy

By 2008, the domain market had started to heat up. Clark caught wind that vodka.com had sold for $3M, and he decided to put a banner on his site, stating that it was for sale. When he started to receive offers in the six-figures, and he knew it was time to contact Sedo to explore what it would take to sell the domain through an online auction.


Clark was 43 years old and he hadn’t had a breakout success with any of his entrepreneurial endeavors. On March 27, 2008, the name went up for sale through Sedo. The opening bid was $100 and, by the next morning, the auction had already reached $500,000. Eventually, the winning bid came from National A-1 Advertising, a company known for acquiring high-value domain names like Free.com, Babies.com, and Cash.com. To add some spicy toppings to this pizza story, A1 was later convicted of money laundering. Not the way you’re supposed to handle dough, guys… Regardless of A1’s fate, Clark had secured the bag – $2.6M in liquidity – when they purchased the domain name.


The Aftermath

For Clark, the money was life changing. But, that wasn’t the thing he found most exciting. Naturally, he was blown away at getting a ~10,000x return on the investment he’d made by purchasing and renewing the domain over the course of 14 years. It truly was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for Clark.


Today, pizza.com is still listed for sale, and the site hasn’t really evolved in its aesthetic or appearance. Frankly, it still looks like a dot com company that was founded in the early 2000’s.

If you think about it, it’s a bit mind boggling that the site didn’t eventually become a marketplace like Slice, or wasn’t snatched up as a digital asset by a company, like Dominos, that has leaned into eCommerce to grow revenue and marketshare substantially over the past decade.


Regret Minimization

Looking back on it, and how much of a latent goldmine the net was back in 1994, Chris’s only regret is that he didn’t secure more digital real estate. Everyone has stories about “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve…” and some missed opportunities that hit harder than others. Whether you’ve got domain stories, or bitcoin tales about “the one that got away,” just remember to act when you see opportunity. And, most importantly, foresight and patience will win every time.


What domains still have the opportunity to provide massive returns?

Only time will tell.


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