“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.

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

Naming Your Company – A Venture Capitalist Tells You How

TWiVC-04-Mark-Suster-Dave-Travers-Mike-Bracco

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.

A Great Domain Name Is a “Signal of Quality”

Again from ThisWeekInStartups.com, the Jason Calacanis ustream.tv show. It’s a great show, and the experience of watching it live has turned out to be a little bit addictive. Check out #TWIST on Twitter. Jason is simply Twitter.com/Jason.

In this audio clip from ‘Jason’s Shark Tank’, Jason tells caller/developer Kevin, of pikk.com what he likes about what Kevin’s created so far.

Signals of Quality

Jason Calacanis: Everyone should follow you on Twitter obviously, Pikk. You have that up and running, and you have a four letter domain name. These are, again, signals of quality for me. You have a decent domain name decent web design. I’m  not crazy about your web design, to be totally honest with you I think it’s a 7 or 8 out of 10 but, listen, Mahalo was a 6 out of 10 at one point, now it’s a 10 out of 10, so, it’s progress you know, and I can appreciate that. Smart enough to pick a four letter domain, great – how did you get the domain was that available or you bought it.
Kevin: I bought it.
Jason: Yeah, how much did that cost you?
Kevin: Ah, I’ve been told I got the bargain of the century, this cost me about twenty-five hundred dollars.
Jason: That’s a great deal.
Kamran Pourzanjani: Yeah.
Jason: For a four letter domain…

You’re Going To Wind Up With A Dot Com

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s another Jason Calacanis audio clip from This Week In Startups, episode 29.

Jason on ‘Dot Com’

The context is a domain/brand a caller mentioned in a previous ‘Ask Jason’ segment.

Jason Calacanis: Isn’t it amazing though Tyler? The people with the naming.
Tyler Crowley: I just found out… I think lean.ly is available. With the dot L-Y which seems to be the hot new…
Jim Lanzone: Hmm!
Jason: Oh…
Tyler: Don’t get you started with that?
Jason: gov.ly? (refers to earlier in the conversation)
Tyler: gov.ly?
Jason: gov.ly
Tyler: lov.ly gov.ly
Jason: lov.ly gov.ly… I hate that nonsense.
Tyler: Yeah.. L-Y’s catchin’ on, so is dot F-M
Jason: (Sighs)
Tyler: But it gives people more of an option to come up with names… You use Bit.ly all day long!
Jason: You know what, De.licio.us did this as well, and then when they were successful they wound up buying Delicious dot com.
You’re going to wind up with a dot com anyway, You might as well make the effort and spend the money to get it early. So you don’t have to re-brand it!

Entrepreneurship 101 – Name Your Company The Same As Your Domain Name

From Jason Calacanis of Mahalo and ThisWeekInStartups.com TWIST Episode 16.

Listen to the clip

Jason Calacanis –   … Number one, the name is terrible… If the name of the company is Aardvark you should own Aardvark dot com. They only own Vark dot com. I mean this is like 101 entrepreneurship stuff like name your company the same as your domain name.  I don’t know, what’s the domain name of Challenge Post?
Brandon Kessler –  It’s ChallengePost.
Jason Calacanis – (sarcastic) Oh is it? Really? Do you wanna know the domain name of Mahalo, by chance? It’s Mahalo.com. Do you know where to find This Week In Startups?  That dot com. You know where to find Aardvark? Drop the a-a-r and the d,  and then put a dot com.
Aaron Vohen – What if they were thinking people don’t know how to spell Aardvark? They would try A-r-d-v-a-r-k.
Jason Calacanis – It wasn’t available obviously, but I mean if you’re…

[Follow-up from TWIST 31]
Listen: Vark ll

Walking the walk.

Calacanis then laid out $11,000 for the domain name Mahalo.com, which, at one point, had been a nude-celebrity site.

Of course there are exceptions (when you’re a seed investor and on the board perhaps?).
TWiST #17 with Ryan Block and Peter Rojas 32:30

Listen to the clip

Jason Calacanis –  I love the logo to g-d-g-t… and you can call it gadget
Ryan Block / Peter Rojas – You can call it gadget,  yeah.
Jason – People can just call it gadget.
Peter Rojas – I say g-d-t-g just so people know how to spell the url.
Ryan Block – I’ve been saying gadget a little bit more lately, but…
Jason – Yeah, people will get it. Anyway… Great to get a four, was that four letter domain available?
Ryan Block / Peter Rojas – We had to buy it but we didn’t have to spend very much. We had to buy it but… surprisingly affordable.
Jason – Under a G?
Ryan – Yeah.
Jason – Oh perfect. I mean, it’s not even a rounding error.
Ryan – So what it actually was was they had like a catalog of just letters. You know, so like g-d-g-t, g-d-g-s, g-d-g-r…
Jason – Oh there just waiting for people to buy them. They’re like, (as in company receptionist), Hello, Domain Squatting Scumbags, how can we help you?  Which domain did we take of yours… bastards… that’s quite a business idea… I think I  ought to do that. Let’s do it with five letters. Probably didn’t get to five letters yet.

Little bit of a disconnect here considering Jason’s comments in TWIST 16. But certainly understandable considering what Gadget.com or Gadgets.com might cost (guessing $400k). Looks like Gadget.com is a real site, but Gadgets.com is parked. Perhaps Gadgets.com owners Domain Capital would consider some sort of equity/lease-to-own deal.
Jason is obviously kidding when he refers to the previous owners of GDGT.com as “Domain squatting scumbags”, but he’s been around the interwebs for a long time. A lot of people do see domain investors as squatters. But only be because someone else has registered a domain name they want. At least a domain investor (or ‘domainer’) is looking to sell the domain! Better a domainer than a competitor who has bought up all the keywords in your niche for the sole purpose of keeping them out of your hands!