Will Your Startup Do Better If It’s Easy To Pronounce?

My takeaway is a simple extrapolation: The easier it is to pronounce, spell, and remember your company’s name, the better off you are, especially at launch.

Arming The DonkeysI’m loving all the data coming out of behavioral science. It really does turn out we’re biased towards idiocy. Fortunately, by studying our biases we can keep ourselves from acting on them. A favorite source of fascinating and useful psychological insights is Dan Ariely,  Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University and author of two excellent books, The Upside of Irrationality, and Predictably Irrational. He’s also the host of a podcast series called, Arming the Donkeys. In this excerpt from an interview with Princeton University psychology professor Danny Oppenheimer, they discuss the findings of a study [pdf] where Danny’s team discovered that the difficulty of pronouncing a stock’s name predicted how it would do on its IPO. The area of inquiry is called fluency. Fluency is the property of a person or of a system that delivers information quickly and with expertise.

(Click arrow to play audio) Easy for you to say?

My takeaway is a simple extrapolation: The easier it is to pronounce, spell, and remember your company’s name, the better off you are, especially at launch.

How Much Of Marketing Is The Name?

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Jason Calacanis interviewed Jamie Siminoff recently on This Week In Startups.
When Jamie’s Simulscribe.com (phone message to email transcription service) changed their URL to
PhoneTag.com
, “…our sales tripled overnight and just kept going.”

JC “Why did you come up with the world’s worst domain name?”
JS “Well I was sort of a cowboy at the time and felt like, it doesn’t matter, the name – just get it out there and if it’s a good product…”
JC “You were wrong.”
JS “Oh I was totally wrong.”

Jason suggests that your name is 50% of your marketing.
Unsubscribe.com was owned by someone who had bought it as a kid in 1994. He had an emotional attachment to it. He’d had many offers for it. Why did he take Jamie’s?
(Click arrow to play audio) A name is a key foundational block to making a great business.

“So I Did What Anybody Would Do” – Domaining IS Mainstream!

Why would you advertise your company during the Super Bowl if your target audience wasn’t average Americans? GoDaddy’s phenomenal growth over the last few years is evidence enough- domaining is mainstream! While the average person might throw their arms up in frustration at not finding an available name they like, they certainly won’t hesitate to register a name, phrase, portmanteau or new business idea they come up with either.

This was brought home to me recently while listening to a Long Now Foundation podcast. Listen to best-selling author and neuroscientist David Eagleman tell us about Possibilian.com. Notice the audience reaction when the subject of domain names is introduced.

(Click arrow to play audio) David Eagleman

My Rule Is Something You Can Spell

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Jason Calacanis & Steve Huffman

Steve Huffman, co-founder of Reddit and Hipmunk was recently the guest on This Week In Startups with Jason Calacanis. In this audio clip, Steve and Jason share their frustration with acquiring good dot coms and discuss their minimal criteria for choosing a domain. Funny that but for the random passing of a S. American tourist, Reddit might have ended up being called Read.ly or something worse. This is a great episode where Steve tells the story of how Reddit got made, and then sold. He was 22 when he and a co-founder sold Reddit to Conde Naste for a rumored $25M. You can check out the entire episode, with show notes, here.

(Click arrow to play audio clip) Steve Huffman My rule is something you can spell.

I Should Ask For $5 Thousand – My Favorite Domain Story Ever

What’s so impressive about John’s story is that he learned from it and moved on.

John Reese photo by Ralph Zuranski
John Reese photo by Ralph Zuranski

Unfortunately I don’t know which podcast this clip came from. There’s no intro or outro, it’s from an interview I stumbled upon through a search for John Reese after I heard about the $million dollar launch of  a product called Traffic Secrets. What’s so impressive about John’s story is that he learned from it and moved on.

(Click arrow to play audio clip) John Reese’s Million Dollar domain story.

Domains For SEO- Do They Still Matter? Kelvin Newman’s Take

A fun podcast I never miss is the Internet Marketing Insider from SiteVisibility.com. Great insights from the internet marketing trenches featuring Kelvin Newman and Andy White. I borrowed this clip from their recent Want a Sticky Website episode because it deals with a subject I know to be near and dear to domainers. Especially if you’re interested in selling domains to end users for SEO purposes, you need to stay on top of what’s working. I’m not sure I agree with everything Kelvin is saying in this clip, but I’m glad to have his perspective. Check in out.

(Click arrow to play audio clip) Domains-SEO-Micro-Mini-Sites.

Startup Social Proof Number One – Your Domain Name!

Marco used credit cards to put 30% down on a $36,000 domain name. Financed at 6%, he used Moniker’s escrow service to purchase Thumbtack.com – before he even had a product!

Marco used credit cards to put 30% down on a $36,000 domain name. Financed at 6%, he used Moniker’s escrow service to purchase Thumbtack.com – before he even had a product!
Jason Calacanis tells you why it was a smart move in this discussion with local services hub Thumbtack.com’s Marco Zappacosta.
Excerpt from This Week In Startups #68.
(Click arrow to play audio clip) Domains as Social Proof.

jason-calacanis-marco-zappacosta.jpg

Takeaways: People who know startups know domains well enough to have an idea of what you paid for it.
Save countless dollars and hours in branding/advertising costs by buying an easy-to-remember domain.
Some registrars (In this case Moniker) will finance your domain acquisition. If you’re not getting traction you can default on the purchase and only be out the down payment.

How We Acquired Groupon.com

Mixergy’s Andrew Warner recently interviewed Groupon’s Andrew Mason. This clip discusses how Groupon got Groupon.com.
Full interview with video and transcription can be found at Mixergy.
Andrew calls it ‘the perfect name’, but another fellow with a similar idea already owned Groupon.com. He didn’t want to sell it and he didn’t want to work together. Only later, after obtaining a trademark for ‘Groupon’, which extended to the domain owner’s home country of England, were they able to talk him into selling. Did they pay too much? Andrew doesn’t think so. It helps to remember that Groupon is now doing hundreds of millions in sales annually, but in the interview he states, “We bought it in May of 2009 or something like that, for maybe $250,000 dollars, which seemed like a lot at the time, but now seems cheap.”

(Click arrow to hear clip) How We Acquired Groupon.com

Is a Hyphen Worth $15,000 Dollars

Mixergy’s Andrew Warner recently interviewed Blank-Label.com‘s co-founder Danny Wong. This clip discusses Danny’s frustration with trying to acquire the domain BlankLabel.com
Full interview with video and transcription can be found at Mixergy. [Note: Danny was Skyping in from China so the audio clip is a little funky.]

Danny calls the owner of BlankLabel.com both a ‘squatter’ and an investor. Using the real estate analogy, a squatter would be someone living in a house someone else actually owns. The person who owned the house might be a ‘slum lord’ but nevertheless, anyone can see he’s holding the property as an investment.  So sure, in my opinion, the guy who registers Gooogle.com would be a squatter- looking to profit from someone else’s property, but the guy who owns BlankLabel.com (and 29,000 other dot coms) is an investor. The problem seems to be that when people’s passions around building a business are involved, they lose sight of the fact that domain names are simply another product a market grew up around. That some domains are available at registration price somehow allows people to imagine buying the domain they want at that price. Well, you can get a house in Detroit for next to nothing! It might have all the pipes and wiring ripped out, but the city is giving them away in hopes people will move in. That doesn’t make anyone think the house in Beverly Hills should be free does it?

(Click the arrow to hear the clip) Is a Hyphen Worth $15k?

PS $15k seems like a lot, but it’s all relative. IMO it would be worth maxing out a few credit cards or doing another round of friends and family to get the domain.

Naming Your Company – A Venture Capitalist Tells You How

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Mark Suster is a 2x entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company to Salesforce.com. He focuses on early-stage technology companies. He is also the host of This Week In Venture Capital, a new show on Jason Calacanis’s ThisWeekIn.com network of web shows. In the chat room recently I had the opportunity to post a question both he and his guest, fellow VC, David Travers spent a few minutes answering.

(Click arrow to play audio clip) Naming your company.

1. Choose a name that doesn’t box you into a corner. (i.e. As a startup your focus may change over time.)
2. Make sure your website matches your company name.
3. Is your name pronounceable in other languages.
4. Don’t pick a name that sounds like bunch of other companies, ie. don’t use the word ‘blue’ or ‘labs’ or ‘360’. (Or a word that ends with ‘ly’)
5. It does take some capital but for $10-15k (a lot of money for company with no funding, but once you’ve raised a little bit of seed capital) you can get a reasonable name.
6. The money you save marketing an easy to remember name will more than make up for the $10-15k you spend to buy the name.
7, If you’re using the hyphenated or the not exact match domain, expecting to purchase the parked version you really want later on, remember that the price will be correlated to your success.
8. You can make a deal with the domain owner. $5k plus 2% of the company.  Or a payment stream tied to success with installments towards an agreed upon price in the future. If you don’t pay the agreed upon amount by a certain time, the domain remains the sellers. Get creative.

Especially interesting to me is the idea of not naming your company too tightly around the focus of your initial startup intentions. I really like a name that is a close fit with a company’s product or service. It makes marketing easier and less expensive. Also it’s been shown that online ad campaigns are much more effective when the company/url matches what the person was searching for. Mark uses the example of a company he’s working with who purchased Bedrock.com. They also discuss the name WildFire.com. These are great names with obvious metaphoric significance that lend themselves to branding but also leave enough room for the company to shift focus if need be.