In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a man named Yun Ye scooped up tens of thousands of domain names as their owners let them expire. His company was called Ultimate Search Inc. Ye, a shy man who kept an extremely low profile, was a hero to other domain investors, particularly after he scored a $164 million deal two years ago to sell his portfolio to Marchex Inc. Until journalists started reporting on the Chinese-born Ye (my favorite piece is here), some domain investors didn’t believe he was a real person; perhaps, they thought, there were 10 people working for Ultimate Search, and Ye was really just an alias for the firm. Still, little was known about Ye the man. Now, some new details are slowly emerging, thanks largely to the power of public records. Here are a few of those details:
- Ye was born in June 1972, which means he was merely 32 when he negotiated the sale of his portfolio to Marchex.
- In 1995, he received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Brandeis University, a very good private school in Waltham, Mass. He graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
- In 1998, he earned a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland in College Park. That certainly helps explain why he was so good at writing computer programs to snag freshly expired domain names.
- Not long after he finished graduate school, Ye and Jin Lu, his wife, started a domain-name business called noname.com. They lived in a condo in Fremont, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lu has played a major role in Ye’s business ventures; interestingly, she once did an interview with the Denver Business Journal — in May 2001 — for a feel-good story about how noname.com donated childabuse.org to a Colorado nonprofit. A month later, Ye and Lu sold their Fremont condo, by which time they’d formed Ultimate Search, which listed a Hong Kong address and was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
- In recent years, Ye and his family lived for at least some of the time at One Wall Centre, a skyscraper in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, shown here. His specific whereabouts these days are unknown.