Kevin Ham Reinvent Technology Kevin Ham is far too low-key and modest to invite comparisons to Donald Trump. But by quietly amassing a stable of more than 300,000 web domain names, including laptop.com, attorney.com and weddingcatering.com, the CEO of Reinvent Technology is a virtual real estate titan. Having put together a portfolio with annual revenue estimated at $70 million, the 38-year-old visionary now plans to leverage these assets to become a leading force in the Internet’s next generation – web 3.0. The son of Korean-born dry-cleaners, Ham graduated from UBC’s medical school in 1998 and began building his dot-com empire on off days during his residency at an Ontario hospital. “I was on call one of every three days and found the time when I wasn’t on call,” he explains. “I spent nights and weekends teaching myself technology, programming and web design.” After familiarizing himself with the web, Ham started HostGlobal.com, a website offering reviews of web-hosting companies. When he started earning $20,000 a month from the venture, Ham decided to put off his medical career. In 2000, after creating DNSindex.com, an online service helping people find and buy domain names, Ham became aware of the huge revenue potential of pay-per-click advertising and began accumulating web addresses dirt-cheap after the tech crash of 2000. Ham’s main company, Reinvent, makes money when web surfers looking for, say, an HDTV box or Spanish lessons type HDTV.com or spanish.com into the address bar of their web browser and then click on the ad links supplied on those pages. A page bought for $8 can generate thousands of dollars a year in Google and Yahoo ad revenue.
Another innovation that helped Ham win the 2007 Domainer of the Year award at the annual World Association of Domain Name Developers conference was his clever agreement with Cameroon, the West African country that owns the .cm country domain suffix. Web browsers who mistakenly type, say, google.cm or gawker.cm are automatically rerouted to Agoga.com, a Vancouver-based advertising page run by Ham. Both Ham and the government of Cameroon benefit from the agreement, which differs from traditional typo-squatting (the practice of occupying misspelled versions of popular websites) because no specific dot-cm domains are occupied. He is hoping to work out agreements with Colombia (dot-co) and Oman (dot-om) as well. Ham has reinvested his domain riches into privately owned Reinvent and is currently excited about linking artificial intelligence with online searching to produce what he describes as a “knowledge engine,” which will better link online searchers with advertisers. Another big project is the recently purchased vancouver.com domain. Reinvent is working to launch the site sometime before the 2010 Olympics as a three-dimensional replica of the city’s downtown core and key neighbourhoods. “There are so many applications,” says Ham. “With real estate, people can view the home with their avatars. Tourists can come and look at the attractions and plan out where they want to go. There could be virtual storefronts. We’re aiming for something that’s better than Second Life.” Vancouver.com, Ham suggests, could be a model for 3-D cities around the world. A devout Christian who remains an accredited physician, Ham also continues to practice medicine on missionary trips to countries such as Mexico and the Philippines. He plans to use sites such as god.com and heaven.com to create the Gospel Media Network. “I built a lot of my business on very eternal principles that are laid out in the world and scripture,” says Ham. “I pay tribute to that.” AND THE JUDGES SAY... “When this MD got restless, he started designing websites. Now he buys and sells domain names building an enormous empire and becoming a leading ‘domainer’”