Are you following the excellent new Alex Blumberg podcast series, Startup? Alex is documenting the evolution of his new podcasting company and in this episode we hear all about naming your company. If you’re new to naming this is a great introduction. Alex and Matt eventually settle on a name, Gimlet, suggested to them by the folks at Lexicon Branding who agreed to help despite there being no budget. Alex alludes to the normally hefty fee for these naming services but doesn’t mention a number. I would suggest that it would normally cost $50-75k at least, to hire someone like Lexicon. [For reference, see my 2010 post, Naming Names at 75k a Pop] Interesting to me that they meet at the NY Athletic club… members only… no jeans etc. I think that a lot of what you’re buying from a high-end branding firm is the feeling that you’ve entered an exclusive club where an elite force of genius wordists conspire to generate a magic spell that will launch your company into the zeitgeist. At the end of the day, if having spent $100k you feel like you got a great name and everyone is more or less happy with it. Maybe it was worth it.
But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you were forwarded here by typing a name you’re researching into your browser bar. The takeaway is that both you, and I, someone who has been naming/domaining since 2008, agree that that name is valuable. How valuable? My under-the-radar techniques for researching and acquiring great names for good prices means that most of mine are for sale in the lower to mid 4 figure range. Less than you’d probably pay for a day in the office of a high-end naming firm.
After he and his partner sold their bootstrapped company, Goldmine, for close to $100MM, Jon Ferarra took 8 years off to raise kids. Now he’s back with a new startup called Nimble. It’s an all digital CRM platform with a thick layer of ‘social’. A single seat is free so check it out. Jason expertly extracts in story and detail, the history of Goldmine and Jon’s plans for Nimble. It was refreshing to see a founder with some grey hair for a change and encouraging to hear him liken building his company to a guy building a project car in the garage. I was fortunate to catch Jason’s eye in the chatroom with a direct question about Jon’s domain. Here’s how he got Nimble.com.
Click arrow to play audio. Jon Ferraro on getting Nimble.com
I’m still here. Still have a few hundred what I feel are awesome names for sale. Others I’m getting closer to being able to develop myself. I sell a handful a year. Some of the names on this blog have sold. I keep hoping one will turn into a Unicorn. But a few things have happened that have caused me to pull energy out of domaining.
I have absolutely no interest in the new gtlds. None.
It seems to me the market has gotten a lot tighter over the last year. It’s harder and harder to pick up a decent dot com using my previous methods. The wholesale prices I’m seeing being paid for crap domains makes me feel like a handful of players with deep pockets and clever bots are intent in owning the entire domain space (though Chinese domain investors are certainly adding to the froth).
But what led me to cut back drastically on my domaining is that Godaddy quit displaying closing prices on domains in my Watching List! It started in March. A Godaddy Twitter response said it was due to the ‘quiet period’ around the IPO. Then the IPO ended.
Aww C'mon @godaddyauctions@Godaddy The IPO is over. Give us back closing sale prices in our Watching list. You're taking the fun out of it!
If I spend an hour combing through thousands of domains to find a handful that are interesting, shouldn’t the platform reward me by allowing me to confirm my hunches? Or conversely, If Godaddy doesn’t value my time on their platform enough to even share price data on the domains I decide to watch, what does it say about their attitude towards me, their loyal customer?
I would guess that a new manager took over the auctions at Godaddy after the IPO and decided that too many domains were slipping through their fingers for $12. And so decided to pressure users to make bids in order to see results. That’s what it felt like and that’s low!
And then they bought Afternic! Plunging head first into the domain resale business. Yuck!
How long do you think it will be before they start warehousing drops and putting premium pricing on those?
Godaddy was the last bastion of the fair shake for the little guy when it came to domains. But the lure of just a little more profit seems to have dragged them into the slime with all the rest.
We came up with hundreds and hundreds of names, so many names, it was such a grueling exercise. We had naming parties at our house, an we brought our friends over, and we had pizza and beer, and we’re like, ‘Come up with names!’.
Tony Conrad is an entrepreneur and partner in True Ventures. In this excerpt from an interview with Kevin Rose, from Kevin’s awesome Foundation series, Tony shares the details around how he was able to get two fabulous domains, About.Me and Sphere.com.
Code name About.Me was incorporated as Pumpkinhead.
Tony sold About.Me to AOL.
About.Me had been reserved by the .Me registry.
Strategic deal making over time. 14 late night calls!
Sphere.com owner loved his domain! ‘Impossible to track down.’
Tech support dude was a Yankees fan.
Equity deal. ‘He made great money.’
‘It’s all in a name.’
I recently reached out to a popular podcaster (Brandon from Automate My Small Business, awesome podcast!) when I discovered a valuable keyword domain dropping in his niche. We were able to acquire the domain in auction. I hope to blog in the future about our experiments to discover how best to put it to work. In the meantime he mentioned to me that he and a partner were in the midst of developing a new business. Basically, the company would capitalize on their design and marketing experience to help inventors bring their products to market. They had both decided that they liked ‘Mind To Market’, but the domain was gone, and would I care to help them look for a name? But of course!
Let’s refresh, from my last post… I’m looking for a name that invokes the spirit of the experience the company hopes to create; Passes the ‘radio’ test (could type it in your browser after hearing in a podcast); Is ‘easy to remember’; Has the exact-match Twitter handle; No Trademarks; And is available for $8 on GoDaddy!
My sandbox: ideas, invention, imagine, engineer, incubate, tinker, prototype, innovate, iterate, lab, garage, market.
Very broad! Also challenging in that we’re not building a ‘better mousetrap’ here. The concept is easily understood and communicated, but there aren’t a lot people doing this as a business, so you face the additional challenge of trying to communicate what it is you do in the name.
I looked around for inspiration and found a couple of amazing stories. The Russians Used a Pencil tells the story of how two guys built a physical product – an iPhone tripod, from idea to market in five months. They used Kickstarter to fund and market it! They used 3d printing to prototype!
And there’s Quirky! This is so amazing! Founder Ben Kaufman turned the experience of creating hit iPod accessories into a business built around the process of discovering new hit products. The Quirky community comes up with the ideas, vets them, evangelizes them, and buys them! Ben tells the story here.
Alright! Creative juices flowing and a clear picture of our naming goal. Let’s get busy with the tools. Market Samurai for keyword, niche value, and competition. A whole lot of Thesaurus.com, MoreWords.com, TheFreeDictionary.com. Throw in a little Rhymezone.com. my Excel column combination spreadsheet, and voila. Over 1200 possible candidates. Run through the GoDaddy bulk checker and… Hmm, a smattering of acceptable candidates. Now the Twitter check and… a pretty miserable collection of leftovers.
With one exception. I mentioned I listen to a lot of podcasts. Over the last few months I’ve tracked down at least a half dozen Eric Ries interviews. Eric has worked very hard getting the word out about his book. There’s a startup education in these interviews. This Week in Venture Capital #65 with Eric Ries, Author of ‘The Lean Startup”mp3 audio Eric Ries of The Lean Startup on This Week in Startups #199mp3 audio
Eric Ries (BestSeller) – On Mixergy mp3 audio
Eric Ries (LeanStartup) – On Mixergy mp3 audio
Evangelizing for the Lean Startup – Eric Ries (Author) Stanford mp3 audio
There’s actually quite a few others, but that will get you started. At this point I’m well versed in the notion of ‘lean’, which derives from the idea of ‘lean manufacturing’ pioneered especially by Toyota in the 90s.
Eric applied it to startups and called his book, “The Lean Startup”. The idea so perfectly captured the idea I was going for, and it was available.
So did they like it? Yes, but not as much as a name they’d found in the meantime. I’m having trouble remembering it 😉 (I know there was an animal in the logo!) I’ll post a link when they launch and you can tell us what you think.
Update 4/14/12 One of the names I looked into for this project just dropped.
MakeItToMarket.com @MakeItToMarket Like it? Update 12/10/12 Or perhaps this is closer to what you had in mind.