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Handshakin' Founder: Matt Holmes Interview

Brett McKay
May 19, 2020
Domain names have an important role for businesses not only as brand facings and housing online store fronts, they can provide many opportunities for building new business leads. Matt Holmes, the founder of Handshakin', helps entrepreneurs and businesses with lead generation, leveraging their personal brands. He also has a strong reputation for his connections with billionaires and politicians built over the years while living up to his business name getting handshakes from these prominent figures. We caught up with Matt to talk about Handshakin, along with questions about his experience investing in domains and how domains play an important role in his business.



To start things off, let’s talk about the origin of Handshaking. What shaped the initial idea and turned it into the business it is today?

Actually, the business started as the Handshakin Video Series when my friends started calling me Handshakin Holmes for shaking hands with Paul Ryan and other famous politicians when I was working on Capitol Hill in 2013. We later improved Handshaking to be about helping our clients shake hands with more local customers rather than just having a video series that would inspire them to shake more hands! We do this by funding local lead generation websites. For example, a concrete site based in Lowell, MA, or a window tinting site in Denton, TX.


You clearly have a passion for networking and meeting people with your impressive connections made over the years; what sparked that interest? It seems like it’s one of the foundations of your strong personal brand.

Ever since a young age I believed in a quote from Porter Gale, "your net worth is your net work”. Later my favorite quote evolved into "a rising tide lifts all boats." For me, I felt the biggest boost in my entrepreneurial career from networking and assuming the best in people. For example, assuming your friend with an idea is a potential partner, not potential competition, when you’re in the really early stages of entrepreneurship. Learning to provide value first to others without asking for anything in return also helped me score an interview with many famous, very wealthy entrepreneurs, including Billionaire Jeff Hoffman, one of the entrepreneurs behind Priceline.com. He agreed to meet with me off of a cold LinkedIn message.

You can see my interview on WPSoar about how I connected with him. I sat him down and I said: “Jeff, I sent you a message on LinkedIn. No one introduced us, why are you sitting down talking to me?”. He told me “Matt you have a strong personal brand, I could see who you were through your videos. Your posting blog posts on your LinkedIn that I am interested in, of course I’ll sit down with you buddy.” That’s when it clicked for me that I could help connect people, and not just average people, but hard to access, busy, famous people. Because these same people taught me that if you are relevant and provide value before making an ask, it will open doors that 99% of others don’t understand how to open.


What’s been your experience with the domain industry and domain investing? Has it played a role in helping your clients generate leads?

Absolutely! Even though it took me almost a full decade to get my first five figure domain sale, domains were valuable to me financially also before I flipped them. I come from a residential real estate background, so for years after studying my master's, I bought assets, improved them, and rented them out. After almost four years doing that, though, I sold off most of my equity and launched Handshaking, where we now develop online assets, instead of real estate assets, much thanks to Dynadot’s easy to use domain registration and very competitive website builder.

We use Dynadot’s website builder to develop lead generation assets, and then sell the leads to local service providers. And the first step to building an online asset, is buying or bidding on a domain name. We also pick up many of our domains from the Dynadot domain auctions.


Speaking of domains and networking, from your perspective, what role do domains play when establishing a personal brand? Any tips on how to leverage domains to build a personal brand?

Domains are important, because even though you can buy many domains, there's only one 'lowellconcrete.com' for a contractor in the city of Lowell, TX. Do you think there's only one concrete contractor in that city? There's more. That creates demand, because any concrete company that grows up will experience confusion. If they go with a .net, or if they go with a 3 word .com domain, that may be harder for the customer to remember. The same goes for your personal brand.

Your personal brand is your FirstnameLastname.com, right? So if your name is available you should buy it today. I’ve tried to buy my name with an offer 3x higher than market value, but unfortunately, Matt Holmes dot com is taken by… another Matt Holmes!

So my site lives on MattHolmes.io, which means long-term I will have to invest more time and money to clear up confusion on what .io is, or why I didn’t receive the email that they sent to Matt at mattholmes.com (which actually the other person would receive) - big problem!

Go buy your domain for your personal brand so this doesn’t happen to you.


Developing a personal brand has shifted over the years as technology becomes integral in establishing a brand. With the new decade only just starting, how do you think creating a personal brand will evolve over the next ten years?

No longer will individuals have the choice to not disclose their past work history, as time goes on people will realize that taking control of your social accounts, and keeping them active, as well as owning a domain name that you can publish your content on will become a bigger and bigger priority.

For example, we have a team page on Handshaking, so it’s best for one of my staff members to start their personal website today since when someone searches for the name of one of my staff members, it may actually be my site that shows up and can influence that user, instead of the staff’s personal website.

You must be active online and ideally have your own personal website and domain in order to have a chance to fully own and manage your reputation, where right now, the general public has not realized that.


Lastly, where do you see the Handshaking brand in the next five years? Any big plans on the horizon?

Well, that depends if handshakes get permanently banned or not with COVID19. However, I personally plan to simply shake hands with gloves. Previously it might have felt weird, but I think that handshakes are the most natural and respectful greeting and individuals would rather do that safely than learn some weird foot bump or elbow dance.

Joking aside, we plan to scale our lead generation development process to ten websites per months and this year we’re currently pursuing our goal of selling one lead generation website per month. So far this year, I’d say we’re going slow but steady, even with the pandemic. Luckily, we were already a remote company, and our profit margins are high due to selling organic leads, instead of having to pay for advertising for the leads we acquire.

I do hope that we can make another music video and improve our company theme song, which I personally created in April this year in lock-down while stuck in Philippines.

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