Dom Wells was teaching English and didn’t have much money when he started his website buying and investing journey.
And even though he didn’t make more than $1,000 in his first 18 months with website investing, instead of giving up, he kept learning, writing articles, doing SEO, and slowly hiring a team.
Today, Dom runs a multi-million dollar portfolio of income-producing websites through his website buying fund Onfolio.com, and he’s looking at raising funds for a potential listing on the NASDAQ!
Watch the video, or read the transcript below, to get Dom’s insights and advice.
How Dom Wells from Onfolio went from bootstrapping to creating a multi-million dollar portfolio
Matt Raad: Hi, everyone. It’s Matt Raad here. And I’m really excited about today’s special guest, Dom Wells, from Onfolio.com. Dom has an absolutely fascinating and inspirational story for our community.
Today you’re going to hear Dom’s story in detail, where he basically started out with nothing, to today, he’s now raising millions of dollars to buy websites and build up a portfolio of websites.
And we’re going to look into not just Dom’s incredible success with Onfolio.com, but also have a look at his background as some inspiration for our readers to see where this journey can start.
So, thank you so much for coming along, Dom.
Dom Wells: Thanks a lot for having me. I’m looking forward to it.
Onfolio attracts passive investors for high-yield income
Matt: It was really great having you speak at our recent Champions Bootcamp event, and that’s why I wanted to do a follow-up interview with you. We had a lot of fun, and you inspired many people with your story.
Where are you now with Onfolio.com? Because you’re buying and selling websites for profit, aren’t you?
Dom: To date, we’ve raised about US$4.5 million, and we use our money to buy online businesses. Some of them are content websites, a couple are e-commerce, some courses, communities, etc.
The idea is that we want to buy, hold, and create an online Berkshire Hathaway type holding company. So, that’s what we’re doing there.
Onfolio may even be listed on the NASDAQ
Matt: Awesome. So, you bring onboard passive investors; is that part of the plan, and you presumably give them a return each year?
Dom: Well, that’s how we started out, but we’re hoping to take Onfolio public later this year. When that happens, then investors would just buy our shares and hope that the share price appreciates over time.
Matt: Now that’s a big start!
Dom Well’s journey towards raising a multi-million dollar portfolio
Matt: We’ve got a whole range of people in our community in their online journey. There are advanced people, intermediate, and total beginners. And there are a lot of ex-professional real estate investors etc. We also have a lot of people who are trying to bootstrap their buying and building websites and building up a portfolio of money-making websites.
So for you, looking at your success of where you’re at, where you’ve raised millions of dollars; and possibly going to an IPO (which is listing on the stock exchange to buy websites), which is seriously impressive.
Dom didn’t start out as an entrepreneur – here’s the moment that changed…
Matt: Was it always like that, Dom? That’s the bit that I think our community probably wants to hear. You probably don’t look back at those times, but how long ago did you start with websites? What’s your original background?
Dom: Originally, my background was in media. I studied media at university back in 2003. I graduated in 2006, and in 2008 I moved to Taiwan to teach English.
Up until this point, I don’t think I had any entrepreneurialism in me, or if I did, it was buried deep down. I thought, “Okay if you want to build a business, you need to study business in the sixth form. You need to do an MBA or be a genius like Steve Jobs or something.” And so, it just wasn’t on my radar at all.
Then at one point, I read the Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The 4-Hour Workweek books. And what they taught me was not so much a blueprint of how to succeed, but they just made me realise that anyone can succeed if they just learn.
So, you must start reading. I mean Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he just wants you to buy more of his books. But the general message I got from it was if I keep working at this for 5-10 years, I can get somewhere. This was all back in 2012, exactly 10 years ago.
When I got started, I didn’t have much money. I was teaching English, which was an okay life. Every month I basically saved around US$200 per month, so I didn’t have much savings, and I discovered affiliate marketing.
At that stage, I was basically bootstrapping. I was in debt, and I couldn’t spend any more money. All I had was time. So, I would write articles, watch videos, learn SEO etc.
Bit by bit, I started earning a bit of money, paying off the credit card, investing in better website design software, etc., and then slowly building a team.
Dom learned how to flip websites and built his first million-dollar online business
Dom: Things accelerated for me in 2014 when I came up with the idea for Human Proof Designs, a business I sold in 2019.
Back in 2010-2012, Flippa was full of garbage websites; these turnkey fake websites often sell social media likes, etc. I thought, “Oh, this business sells Facebook likes. You can become a millionaire.” I saw that they were just selling the same business repeatedly for $197. So, I thought, “Well, why don’t I create actual starter affiliate sites?”
There are loads of businesses now that do this. Human Proof Designs does it, Niche Website Builders does it, and a couple of others. We (Human Proof Designs) were the first to do it, and the others either copied us or had the same idea.
It was fairly unheard of back then, so I started blogging about how to succeed with affiliate marketing. I was making around $2,000 with my own websites by that stage. I was saying, “I’m making a bit of money here. Here’s how you can get started. I can build you some sites.”
So, we created a service, which really changed my life. By 2016, we were doing around $1 million in revenue a year, making maybe $200,000 a year.
Matt: All right.
Dom: In my first 18 months, I didn’t even make $1,000 a month. It was very, very slow in the beginning. But I had seen enough sales trickle in to teach me that if I can make $500 a month, maybe I can make $5,000.
It actually accelerates quite quickly. Once I made $1,000, the very next month I made $2,000, and then the next month I made $4,000. Then I fluctuated between $5,000 and $10,000 for a few months, thinking, “Oh wow. I’ve made it.”
Are you thinking about when to quit your job to work online?
Matt: I know we’ve got a lot of people reading this who are thinking, “Right, when can I quit my job?”
You’re an English teacher in Taipei and still in Taipei now, aren’t you?
Dom set an intention for when he wanted to quit his job
Matt: And at what point did you quit your job? Do you remember?
Dom: This is a funny story. In Taiwan, obviously, we have Chinese New Year, and my school didn’t pay a salary; it paid just hourly. So if I didn’t have any classes, I didn’t earn anything.
So Chinese New Year was always a rough month, especially in February. That’s because there’s another public holiday in February in Taiwan, along with my wife’s birthday and Valentine’s Day. So, it was a pretty expensive month, and I didn’t earn anything.
In February 2013, I basically made no money that month. And I had been trying to build my online business for about six months. I remember saying to myself, “Okay, by this time next year (Chinese New Year), I don’t want this to be an issue anymore. I want to have either quit my job or not have any anxiety because I’m now earning enough on the side.”
I was super impatient the following year. I’d be teaching, and I’d have a naughty student in my class, and my brain would just be thinking, “Just a few more months, and I’ll be earning enough to quit.”
How Dom transitioned from full-time work to part-time work and reached $5,000 per month in website income
Dom: I was mentally checked out for the final six months, but I couldn’t break past $500 a month. I got one website to $500 a month, and then another one started going up.
I got my wish, though, because my boss retired just before the next Chinese New Year, and she shut down the school. I received job offers from other schools, and I thought, “I don’t want to go full time at another school, but I can’t go full time with my online business.”
There wasn’t this significant moment of, “Oh, I’m going to quit my job.” It was a transition where I went from full-time to part-time to very part-time.
And then it was weird because I started earning $5,000 a month, and I didn’t need to teach anymore, but I also didn’t want to fire my students. I didn’t want to quit because I was paranoid that something would happen with my business the second I left, and then I’d be like, “Oh no. Now I’ve got no students and no business.”
I also felt like it was a little bit of a slap in the face to my students. They didn’t know, but they had really saved my bacon when they agreed to let me teach them at home. And if I had then turned around and said, “I don’t need you anymore,” I just felt like that was a bit of a slap in the face.
So, I kept teaching them, and about six months later, they said, “You know what? I don’t need a teacher anymore.” And I just didn’t take on any new students. Over the next year, I gradually phased teaching out.
Matt: It’s a nice transition for you then to earning a full-time income off your website and building your website portfolio.
How Dom leveled-up his monthly income online and built his identity through his business
Dom: When I started, I said, “If I can just earn $3,000 a month,” which in Taiwan dollars was NT$100,000. It felt like a huge amount of money to me.
I said, “If I can just earn NT$100,000 a month, I’ll hire someone to run the business, and I’ll just go play golf all day.”
Matt: And did it pan out that way for you, Dom?
Dom: No, because it turns out $3,000 is not that much! Also, my identity is in my business.
I don’t mean the business is wrapped around my brand. I get my place in life from what I do in my business. If I quit my business, I’d be like, “what do I do now?” Of course, my daughter would take over the priority.
You want more and not necessarily from a greed point of view, but from a success, validation, satisfaction point of view. You just want to keep going. And 10 years later, I’m still going.
Matt: You’re a legend in the industry. You’ve been around, and you must pinch yourself to see that story unfold from an English teacher living in Taiwan and building these portfolio sites, bootstrapping them, literally maxed out your credit card, to now raising millions and millions of dollars to buy websites.
Why Dom choose to raise money to buy websites
Matt: Let’s jump to today. So obviously, you’re successful at this, and, interestingly, you said that your identity’s tied up in what you do. You’re obviously passionate, and (like all of us do), you love building website portfolios.
How did you make the transition to raising money? What made you want to do that?
Dom: I realised I should be able to do something bigger. I’ve learned in the last two years that it takes the same amount of effort to build something small and something big, so you might as well swing for the fences.
Dom: So I asked, “What am I good at? What do I like doing? I like buying websites. Can I do more of that? Yeah, but it takes time because if I buy a website, I have to build up my cash reserves again and buy another one. So how can I do more of it? Maybe I could raise funds.”
I had no idea. I was thinking, “How do funds work?” But I was also thinking, “Maybe I can use other people’s money, and we can take a profit share, or I can charge a management fee or something.”
I started learning about funds and portfolio holding companies and followed my nose to just being like, “Yeah, this is what I’m going to do.”
I decided against the fund structure, but the vehicle is the same. Raise money and buy websites and investors get a decent return hopefully. It allows me to build a substantial thing that justifies all the effort.
Onfolio focuses on buying established quality websites for a diversified portfolio
Matt: And for the sites you’re buying, what do you mainly focus on now?
Dom: We’re always evolving, and it’s quite a dynamic deal flow. But we like content sites, just not those rinky-dink affiliate websites.
We just bid for a $4.5 million course business (a digital course), and we’ve bought a couple of e-commerce businesses. We also have some service businesses like SEO services, including some websites about dogs.
So, it’s a wide range, and one of our challenges is thinking, “Okay, let’s narrow our focus a bit.” We’re trying to hone our philosophy. But essentially, we just want good quality online businesses, which is quite an ambiguous term.
Will Onfolio consider building websites from scratch?
Matt: In light of your background, you bootstrapped earning money online basically by building websites. I know you buy websites (versus building). What are your thoughts there? Are you interested in building websites again? Would you do that?
I’m thinking that for the sake of our readers, some of them will be where you were 10 years ago. But you’ve been on that journey for over 10 years. What are your thoughts on building versus buying websites? Would you do that in Onfolio?
Dom: I’m actually thinking about having a division of Onfolio, which does ground-up sites using Ewen Finsers model.
But if we were going to start a new vertical (a web agency or something in crypto, etc.), we would start from scratch because there are probably not as many good things on the market.
The other advantage of building is you can control everything. You don’t come in and think, “Oh, this site’s a mess. I got to fix it up.” Instead, you get to control everything from the beginning. In the short term (in the beginning), building takes a long time, but it pays dividends in the long term.
The benefits of buying smaller established websites when you’re learning to make money online
Dom: Thinking about what Matt and Liz Raad teach at eBusiness Institute, you could also buy a business for a few grand. Obviously, you’re still risking money, but it’s a lower risk, and you get all the advantages of buying a business that’s already established. You don’t have to wait six months to see if your idea has traction. You’ll also find less to fix up for these smaller sites.
I’m bearing in mind who your audience is most likely to be. The challenge with buying a website is if you don’t know what you’re doing, then it’s pretty risky. For example, if you buy a $500 site (or a few grand) and you can afford to lose that, okay, that will be the fastest way to learn.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing and you buy a $50,000 website, you’re probably going to lose $50,000. So, it really depends on what people want. If they want the fastest lesson possible, I’d say buy something small. But also learning how to build does give you skills that will benefit you later when you become a buyer. So that’s the path I took.
Matt: And that’s your journey. You met our Champion students at our recent Bootcamp, and you said to them, “It’s really worthwhile in this market to learn properly how to build good websites. Whether or not they make your money, it’s the learning part.”
Then you can apply that knowledge to much bigger sites, and they’ll actually know how to run them.
What Onfolio looks for when buying websites for profit
Matt: How small do you go in terms of business size that you’ll buy for Onfolio? I’m just thinking for people in our community – several of them own good six-figure websites. We also have students with sites worth $50,000-$100,000, and some are worth a lot more than that.
Do you ever buy sites off people like that at a smaller level? How small would you go?
Dom: It really depends on the niche and the circumstances of the site. We might go down to that level, but typically the P&Ls and the profit margins work better the bigger we buy because they have more of their expenses built-in.
But it really depends. If it’s a new niche that we want to enter (or related to an existing niche we’re already in), then we’re less concerned with the price. We tend to ask, “Okay, does this add value to our existing portfolio?”
So yes, we would consider it, but typically we buy $500,000 and above unless there’s a compelling reason for us to go lower.
Scaling Big – Why it’s important to hire a team of operators
Matt: One of the other things we talked about at the Bootcamp is that our students are learning to build really good websites and renovate existing sites to fix them up and improve them.
And they’re learning the skills of building a team and being what you call an operator.
So, I’m interested in your organisation; is it a big thing for you to find suitable operators? And how do you go about that? When you’re raising millions of dollars, presumably you’re not the one running these websites yourself; you’ve got a team of operators. So, how do you attract someone to run multiple website businesses?
Dom: I just Tweeted today about how the better I get at business, the worse I get at SEO because I’ve abdicated that responsibility to other people now. So, I’m definitely not the one running these businesses.
Why would someone consider being a website operator over owning their own online business?
Dom: How do I attract these people? When we talked about this at your Bootcamp, people in the audience said, “Yeah, why would anyone want to work for you if they have built these skills for themselves?” I wasn’t too offended!
Matt: Yeah, say they get it to six figures; that was the question, wasn’t it? If they’re successful, making $10,000-$20,000 a month off their websites, how do you attract someone like that? What’s the attraction to them to come over to you?
Dom: It’s the ability to do something bigger. For some people, if you can get a website to a value of $100,000-$200,000, then you’re probably making $5,000-$10,000 a month. So, why do you need to work for me?
I would say most people don’t. But some people want to do something bigger without necessarily having the entrepreneurial stresses that come with it.
Maybe they want to just focus on running a portfolio of websites. Still, they don’t want to deal with paying freelancers, or they don’t want to deal with the insecurity of running a portfolio when it’s also directly responsible for your salary. Maybe people have been burned by a Google update before. Perhaps someone doesn’t have SEO skills; they’ve got business skills instead and want to run a portfolio.
Maybe they think, “Wow, Onfolio’s doing something cool. I can get shares in a public company while they’re still cheap. I’m going to come along and join.”
It turns out there are actually more people in the world who want to be employees than people who want to be entrepreneurs. Many people start out being entrepreneurs and then go, “Actually, you know what? It’s kind of lonely being an entrepreneur. I’m ready to throw in my chips with some other people who are doing something awesome.”
What attracts talented operators to work for Onfolio?
Dom: So I said, “Man, I need to hire operators. That will be impossible, but I’ll post some jobs and see what happens.”
The more that Onfolio has gained prominence in this space, it becomes a self-fulfilling thing where the larger the team grows, the easier it is to attract people because:
- Talented people have peers who are also talented, and they then also attract talented people.
- They’re not saying, “Oh, I’ve got to go work for this Dom guy.” It’s like, “Wow. Look at that company. They look like they have fun. I’m going to join them.”
And so, I allocate them a few million dollars from our next raise and say, “Go build a portfolio for us.” Obviously, we loan it (it’s not your own money), but could you do that by yourself? Maybe. But do you want to have to do it by yourself? Maybe not.
How growing your team is building their dreams too…
Matt: I can see there would be a big attraction to people who’ve been successful, but they want more security. But at the same time, they’re being handed a couple of million dollars and told, “Right, go for it. You run this business now.”
So, they still get to be entrepreneurial in that they’ve got to build that website up and get a return, but it’s not their personal millions of dollars on the line. I guess that would be very attractive to people.
Dom: It’s not just operators either. For example, my president (who I hired as a COO and then promoted her to president) was at a mastermind early on. She always treated Onfolio like it was her own company because she came in, essentially building the company with me. And I gave her enough shares later on to justify that.
But early on, someone said to her, “Just remember you’re building his dream, not yours.” And my response was, “Well, how can we make it so that Onfolio builds both of our dreams?” I’ve always tried to create a company where it doesn’t just build my dreams but also the people who join.
I think we also help build people’s dreams when we buy their businesses from them. So really, without sounding a bit woo-woo, that’s the idea behind Onfolio. If someone’s dream is to do their own thing, then stay that way. But if their dream is to be part of an awesome company and they think we’re that, then that’s all that should matter.
Is now a good time to sell your passive income websites?
Matt: What about finding deals in this marketplace then, Dom? How are you finding the process because that’s an interesting one, isn’t it?
Dom: There’s an abundance of businesses for sale. That’s always going to be the way. I’m hoping the prices will come down somewhat now that the public markets are here. What you currently see in the public markets is usually three or four times as bad in the private markets.
Private equities aren’t going to be forcing up the multiples as much. So if there are people in your audience who are thinking about selling their business, I would say sell it sooner rather than later because you might get a better price.
Matt: Good advice.
Dom: You might get a 3.5 to 4x multiple now, but it’s not going to be higher in six months. It might be the same.
You might think, “Okay, well, I could grow the business in six months, so I’ll wait.” But it might also be in six months that you can only get 3x for it, so you have to do a little bit of mental arithmetic and think, “Well, I could grow it by $3,000, but if I get only get 3x multiple instead of 3.5x etc.”
So, you just have to ask yourself what you think is a good thing to do. From our perspective, it’s great because we’re hoping we won’t have to pay as much. But for sellers, I would say it’s probably better to sell sooner.
What will your online journey look like over the next 10 years?
Matt: Dom, it’s awesome finding out where you’re at and your background. To finish with, you mentioned a favourite quote of yours that we actually say here too. I think you corrected me on who actually said this, but can you share that with everyone?
I think it’s particularly relevant considering your journey, 10 years down the track. So, can you tell us that quote that inspired you?
Dom: I think it’s Bill Gates. You said you thought it was Tony Robbins and I Googled it and it was attributed to Bill Gates, but you never know. But the quote is:
“People overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and they underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years.” Bill Gates.
And I’ve lived that exact 10-year period and it’s definitely true for me. So, to translate that quote for your readers is to just keep going. You’ll probably be disappointed in the first year because you’ll think either you haven’t seen any results or really underwhelming results. But 10 years is a long time if you do keep going.
And it’s not going to be nine years of sucking. It’s going to be maybe two or three years of slowly getting better and then you’ll look back after 10 years and be like, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.”
So, remember that quote. And when you have those dark times, when you’re questioning yourself and wondering if you are ever going to make it and you can’t sleep at night, and you’re just like, “Other people have made money, why can’t I do it?”
Remember that it’s supposed to take a long time, and you can get there if you keep going.
Matt: Awesome. Thank you so much for that, Dom. It’s just unreal. What a perfect example of someone who, 10 years ago, started out bootstrapping this (building websites), to making your first $500 online.
And as Dom says, it is a journey. As you all know, this is what we teach; it’s a journey that goes up and down. But then, 10 years later, you’re making millions and building a million-dollar portfolio.
So, thank you very much, Dom, from Onfolio.com. Thanks for sharing your journey of raising $ Millions to acquire a portfolio of online businesses.
Dom: Thanks for having me. It’s been great.
This article should not form the basis of an investment decision. This is not a recommendation or endorsement to invest in Onfolio nor is it financial advice. This is merely an educational style interview with the founder of Onfolio so they can explain what they do and how they operate. Assume we have not done due diligence on Onfolio nor have we independently verified any statements made in the course of this interview. You must do your own due diligence and seek independent financial advice before acting on anything mentioned in this interview.
We receive no affiliate commissions or incentives from Onfolio. Links in this article are not affiliate links.
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