Who is John Gotts?
The man who made millions by selling spyware and spam killers at Adware.com is less "serial entrepreneur" and more "massively parallel entrepreneur." While running his first site, along with Searching.com, FightClub.com, and others, Gotts recently bought Wiki.com for $2.86 million.
How was he going to profit from a domain named after wikis, a largely not-for-profit industry best known for powering Wikipedia? The same way Gotts and his two-person company ("There's me and there's my secretary," Gotts tells me) profit from his other sites: working up ideas and hiring another company to make it all work.
When the news broke to social news site Digg, Gotts replied to naysayers who claimed this was a sign of the bubble. In a comment thread, Gotts wrote: "To start we will license JotSpot software." But JotSpot told me that they made no such deal. I wrote that JotSpot must have shot him down. Losing that partnership, I wrote, could kill Gotts's deal.
I was dead wrong, said Gotts. And he offered to set me straight.
Gotts had called JotSpot, and offered the deal, assuming they'd jump at the chance. But the wiki company told him they didn't want to work with a competitor. Gotts thinks they could have been partners — but now he doesn't even want me to mention them. Now he's partnered with MindTouch, a 15-employee company that took Wiki.com live in 48 hours.
The self-styled "netrepreneur" says this is the most press he's ever gotten — and he says my first story on Wiki.com was the first media coverage he'd gotten. I had to remind him of a Business IQ story from last year. Nevertheless, Gotts says, "this all took off thanks to you."
Scary words for a skeptical blogger to hear. But does he mean them? Who knows. Gotts sounds so giddy with the success of his business — "Wiki.com is getting a new signup every five seconds," he tells me when he calls at 9:30 PM, "and we've only been live for 24 hours" — that any exaggeration comes from excitement, not manipulation of the press.
But Gotts is loving the press. He boasted of today's media frenzy like a proud indie rocker pointing to his first Pitchfork review. In the last few hours, Wiki.com earned articles in Wired News, TechCrunch, and Business Wire. Three easy outlets, naturally, but a possible lead-in for more objective coverage.
The story is this: Gotts buys domain. Gotts pumps traffic. (Before the press, it was 150,000 unique visitors a month, says Gotts, which seems low — but he's the one who made millions by buying domains.) Gotts thinks up what to put at that domain, then hires a company to do it. Gotts rakes in cash.
With Wiki.com, the plan is to give away hosted wikis, run ads on them, and share the revenue with users. The partner, MindTouch, does all of this grunt work, while Gotts makes the deals.
His funding comes from angel investors, who are putting together a round of $30 million that will give them 25% ownership of Gotts's entire business. "They've been extremely generous with giving me freedom to do what I want to do with their money," he says.
His voice is energetic, high on the drug of moving millions. Buy space, make ideas, hire out the work, gush to the press. Sounds like a fun way to make a living.