03|31|2009 06:54 pm EDT
Rob Monster made quite an impact in the domain industry when he started Monster Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that backed more than 20 early-stage companies – many of which were based on high quality domain names such as Alerts.com, HealthCare.com, and Complaints.com. But now, two years later, MVP’s Bellevue office has shut down and Monster has started a new web 3.0 firm, Epik.
During his two years in the venture game, Monster spent $7 million of his personal funds to help a wide range of startups get going. But in the end, the economic environment caused the investment market to change dramatically and contributed to the fall of MVP.
“MVP’s model was to fund the seed and early stage — what I call ‘North of an angel, South of a VC,’” Monster told TechFlash in an email. “Investor appetite for this asset class largely disappeared during Q4 2008. With capital markets still relatively frozen so far in 2009, the prospects were limited for raising our first outside fund to supplement what to date had been personal capital.”
The firm had planned to raise up to $40 million, which clearly didn’t happen. But thankfully, most of the companies MVP invested in either transitioned to being self-sustainable businesses or raised capital from other sources.
Now, at the age of 40, Monster is ready to move on and is busy creating a new “Web 3.0 media company” called Epik. Through email correspondence with Domain Name News, Monster outlined the purpose of Epik as well as the company’s plans:
“Epik is building out what I describe as a platform for the User-centric Semantic Web. In the first phase, we are combining a solution for portable identity (Identity.net) with a network of descriptive domain names that are intelligently cross-linked using a proprietary content management system that dynamically adjusts the user experience in a way that is user-aware. You might describe this as a Web 3.0 platform.
To better appreciate a Web 3.0 content network, imagine a future state where a site knows a little but more about you and can now dynamically adapt the user experience to your preferences, even if you choose to be anonymous. This is where the web gets personal…Epik, by leveraging the Identity.net back-end, seeks to create a more seamless web which leaves the user control of who knows what about them, while also making it more intuitive to navigate content using direct navigation.
Domains are a key part of the vision of the Web 3.0 network we are pursuing – and as more and more traffic moves from the laptop to personal mobile devices (like the iPhone), there is an opportunity for direct navigation to make a triumphant return.”
Monster’s journey to this point was an interesting one. In 2007 he started out with practically no knowledge of the domain world except from buying company domains for his previous company, Global Market Insite (GMI). In June 2007 he pursued some domain-related ventures including working with Matias de Tezanos on HealthCare.com for 18 months. He then became an investor and partner in Internet Real Estate Group and had the opportunity to work with Andy Miller and Mike Zapolin. These ventures showed Monster that significant value could be created by taking an undeveloped domain and turning it into an operating business.
During 2008, Monster became more aware of search engine optimization strategies and applied this knowledge to Patents.com and Complaints.com, using Google to establish significant organic traffic. He also invested in EVOLanding and SharedReviews.com, watching both mature into popular sites and credible businesses. All of this knowledge has influenced the vision for Epik, and Monster’s plans to establish partnerships and use technologies to take the Web to the next level.
“The opportunity for domainers is to align their best domains with this emerging user-centric semantic web in a way that delivers aligned incentives, whether through shared ownership or shared revenue,” Monster said in an email to DNN. “Epik will also work very hard to prevent redundant domains from being included in the network [such as Hobbies.com and Hobby.com]. So in effect, domains will occupy de facto exclusive status within the Epik network. Domains in the network can be either ‘hub’ domains such as WiFi.com or “spoke” domains such as BostonWifi.com. There is value in both domains – the construct of a hierarchical semantic map of domains is a significant part of the content management system we are building in order to power a scalable content network that injects new relevance for domains, and offers a new economic model for the people who own them.”
Although it’s unfortunate to see Monster Venture Partners come to a close, the future of Epik.com certainly holds a lot of promise within the domain industry. The company controls some very impressive domain names and is leaps ahead of others in empowering the use of direct navigation.