Introducing the newest addition to the team – Mark Smith

2021 is gearing up to be one heck of a year at and with that comes the addition of new writers that I couldn’t be more excited to add to the mix. The writer I’m announcing today is one that I think is going to add some pretty amazing contributions to the blog as he helps me, and you, understand the Handshake domain space better.

Mark Smith, who goes by @NamesakeMark on Twitter is one of the people that has been the most helpful to me personally when it comes to learning the basics of all things Handshake. Not only does Mark know his stuff, but he’s also a great teacher and really open to sharing and giving back to the community.

I wanted to add a writer with Handshake expertise to my blog, I asked Mark, he said yes, and the rest is history. Before Mark’s first post I thought it would be good to do a little interview with Mark so all of you can get to know him better, and this is that interview – enjoy!

[MORGAN] Before we dive into Handshake I’d like to learn a bit more about you. Could you share a bit about your background?

[MARK] My background is in sales & service for financials of all sizes, state government, & insurance, which provided me a lot of institutional perspective as well as over 10,000 hours of experience speaking with people from every walk of life.

[MORGAN] Okay, now for Handshake. When did you first hear about Handshake and what got you excited about it?

[MARK] I read about it in this article fist –

I’d been watching crypto from the sidelines and had a budding interest in domains, so when I discovered Handshake & realized I could possibly become a registry by getting into crypto domains, I was hooked!

I’ve always loved the minimalism & context of nTLDs, how formats like brand.industry can be formed. Now here was this thing that could blow the doors off & make anything.nearlyanything!

I felt like a fish in water 🐠 🌊

[MORGAN] As an investor, what kind of Handshake domains do you invest in and why?

[MARK] This is really difficult to summarize. I try to account for as many probabilities along the adoption/narrative curve as I can, then focus on a small subset of each, loosely categorizing them into early, middle, and late.
Industry defining brandables like .Gin were an obvious choice as a super early adopter & so I made a game of filling in the blanks where I saw them in the current set of gTLDs.

Searching for a term + .com on Google, then gauging how many pages of .coms end in that term is a good way to get a feel for how much demand there may be for it.

Those are probably long term holds for mid to late adopters & names with more immediate uses may be different.

For those, I like terms that communities, especially ones feeling constrained on the current web, can rally around. This means different things to different people which is where you can really leverage your perspective.
A good exercise is thinking “would it feel cool to have this as the latter part of my handle or email? Can I see myself paying $10-$20 for an SLD of that?”

If so, you probably have a good consumer facing, relatable name, which is generally what I’ve been looking at lately.

[MORGAN] I’ve recently jumped into the discussion about emoji domains, I don’t get it, what are your thoughts on them?

[MARK] Oh I love them! But you need to know what you’re doing. There are official & Alt codes, different skin tones that make some 1/6, some resolve differently on browsers than they render on devices, and some have extremely nuanced differences that make them unsuitable for uses like in wallet addresses.

This is an area I’ve been in and continue to be in, especially with the conversation happening around which you recently covered.
People frequently identify with emojis in their Twitter handles, clubhouse pages, and other platforms. There’s a whole NFT community using 🥬. Many crypto projects use an emoji to self identify & their followers do the same. I mean we often use 🤝, which was purchased by Handshake Jesus for the Handshake Institute.

There are influencers that if you type the two emoji combo in their username in the search on Twitter, they’re the first result. I’ve used this to find them before when I forgot everything else about their handle. Images stand out and it becomes a personal brand.

The reason yats sold for so much isn’t so much about what they currently are as much as the promise of what utility is to come, & I see a similar narrative with Handshake, though because we’re dedicated to decentralized DNS & already have a lot of utility built in, I believe we have the better infrastructure & more defensible moat for the narrative.

With email & OAuth functionality continuing to develop in Handshake, having a single emoji as a handle is a huge social flex. It’s like the digital equivalent of having a Rolex or Lambo, if only in certain circles. The same can be said for certain items in video games or in VR. Same concept.

Handshake emojis are especially unique because by owning the keys to the punycode that render them, you can own them to the same degree as Bitcoin, unlike all predecessors, and can also issue SLDs of them.

So if you have a single, double, or even triple emoji combo that’s irreducible and signals involvement in a community, lifestyle, or idea, having an ID, email, and/or page with your handle ending in that combo is extremely desirable because it says something about you. It’s social signaling.
Most brands may not use them & they probably won’t take over as a primary namespace, but their novelty, context, & exclusivity certainly have a market.

I’ve had 13 total offers & several 5 figure $HNS offers for an emoji of mine & I have no plans of parting with it anytime soon.

[MORGAN] Do you invest in $HNS, the token itself or are you mostly focused on domains?

[MARK] Mostly domains at first and mostly $HNS now, though I still start a few auctions a day.

There’s so many auctions going on and my strategy is so niche right now that I can be very economical. Much of what I’m winning are also for gifts, which I think is an extremely important part of our culture.

[MORGAN] Handshake domains are different from regular/legacy domains as they are more like domain name extensions/gTLDs, do you this limits the pool of names that are truly investment-grade?

[MARK] No, I think it expands it because the context of who is issuing left of the dot, to whom they’re issuing to, and why they’re issuing, assuming they’re issuing anything at all, can be virtually anything.

You can basically apply some of the same investing strategies of SLDs and tack on at least an order of magnitude more utility.

“Investment grade” is subjective & depends on the buyer & market. The emoji I mentioned receives more & higher offers than any other name I have, which is considerable. I don’t know of anyone else with 13+ offers on a name & if you do, let us know! So, I think that’s an “investment grade” emoji.

The possibilities are so endless that there are whole categories we’ve barely unlocked, or that don’t even exist yet, and you really need to clarify your vision for the future, form a thesis, strategy, & pick some niches, or you’ll either get paralysis by analysis, or you’ll bid on anything that moves.
You can be a lightbulb or a laser with the same energy & to cut through the noise of “ending soon” auctions, you really need to be a laser & start your own auctions with purpose & vision.

If you can’t do that, you’re better off holding your HNS than investing in names.

[MORGAN] If you were to start in the Handshake world today, and you had say $10,000 – where would you put your money?

[MARK] Personally, all in on $HNS via dollar cost averaging in. Watch the sold domains page, watch the stats page for highest sales in the last 24hrs (lockups mean nothing), watch the “bid now” section on Namebase for popular auctions, see which names make it to Encirca & 101Domain from the registry program, and calibrate, calibrate, CALIBRATE!

As any domain investor will tell you, there’s a learning curve, & because $HNS is deflationary, your screw ups get more expensive over time.
Get a feel for the market, validate those feelings or any hot take you have with data either from Handshake, prior legacy domain sales, or the NFT space, develop a thesis & strategy, identify a niche or two, and *slowly* start accumulating with low-stakes names first.

TLDs may not even be for everyone. Get your name & a few of your friends or family names as TLDs if you like & then if you want to invest but are unsure of a niche, or can’t afford great names, hold HNS as long as you can & look at SLDs where you can buy with a card.

This will be like the first domain land rush but on an intergalactic scale! Much like now, I think resale of SLDs will capture the bulk of the value and that, plus a nice bag of HNS, may end up being a safer bet for newcomers.

[MORGAN] Okay, I always like to end my interviews with something fun – tell us a fun fact about you that likely nobody knows, or at least it’s unlikely that any of us would know.

[MARK] I can solve a Rubik’s cube in around 2 minutes (haven’t gotten into speed cubing algorithms yet) & will often do that while pacing on a call to help me focus, almost like a fidget spinner. 😅

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton