Ebola.com Owner Jon Schultz Racks Up A Profit From The Deadliest Diseases That Exist
Now that Ebola has made its way to the U.S. and other parts of the globe outside West Africa, people are likely trying to read as much about it as possible. Believe it or not, therein lies a lucrative business opportunity. In an exclusive interview with the Washington Post, Jon Schultz reveals why he owns Ebola.com, among other disease domains, and how he makes a living off of global illnesses, earning him the nickname "the Merchant of Disease" by the paper. In short, the more deadly the disease, the more money there is to be made.
Schultz runs Blue String Ventures, a Las Vegas–based "Internet real estate, development, and brand-assistance firm," based on its own website. The page also touts, "We turn great domain names into great websites." What kind of domain names? AfricanMango.com, RaspberryKetones.com, and GreenCoffeeExtract.com, to name a few, The Washington Post reported. Seems harmless enough, but there's a darker side to Schultz's domain business.
According to the Post, Schultz purchased Ebola.com in 2008 for $13,500, and he's been waiting for an outbreak just like the current one ravaging West Africa in order to cash in — an investment reliant on a death toll. Now that the disease has claimed more than 4,000 lives and has made its way into the U.S. and parts of Europe, Schultz has appraised the domain for a much higher figure: $150,000, which he told the Post's Terrence McCoy was an appropriate price.
According to our site meter, we're already doing 5,000 page views per day just by people typing in Ebola.com to see what’s there. We’re getting inquiries every day about the sale of it. I have a lot of experience in this sort of domain business, and my sense is that $150,000 is reasonable.
It's easy to imagine Schultz sitting in a room, pitch black save for the glow of his computer, as a sinister smile spreads across his face while reading headlines of the latest deadly outbreak.
What Other Diseases He Owns
Besides Ebola.com, Schultz also owns birdflu.com, H1N1.com, as well as domains for Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease currently spreading in the Caribbean, and Marburg, another virus disease from the same family as Ebola.
Schultz revealed to the Washington Post that even though Ebola is dominating headlines right now, his bird flu domain is much more valuable, precisely because it hasn't broken out yet, but if it does it would wreak much more havoc than Ebola. Schultz told McCoy:
Our domain, birdflu.com, is worth way more than Ebola.com. We're definitely holding onto that one for the event. That one’s airborne and Ebola would never go airborne in the United States like bird flu can.
In the meantime, Schultz hopes he can sell Ebola.com soon before something "ameliorates" it and the disease fades away into the past. Basically, he's wishing for the exact opposite of the rest of the world.
Why It's Not Just About Profiting Off of Death
But it's not all about the money, Schultz insists. In fact, according to Schultz's business partner, Chris Hood, the two hope that their sites will help save lives and use this vision as their business model. What's more, Schultz says that they sacrificed profit by including informational links about Ebola on their parking domain, Ebola.com, instead of advertisement. And there's even a link to donate to Doctors Without Borders.
Other Domain Names He Might Consider
Besides diseases and fad diet supplements, Schultz also owns other Fukushima.com, indicating that his business follows wherever death and disaster go. So when McCoy asked him if he'd consider buying a domain for something like ISIS.com, he seemed to seriously consider it. And given that Schultz also owns the one-stop-shop-sounding terror.com, that would totally make sense.
Images: Getty Images (2), Ebola.com