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…

Domains ARE Brands!

I’ve been listening to a LOT of startup related podcasts. Especially ThisWeekInStartups.com mentioned earlier and Andrew Warner’s Mixergy.com. I’ve pretty much spent the last month going over every one of Andrew’s podcasts. It’s surprising how many startups miss the boat on domains and how that can impact marketing efforts. I think this clip from an interview Andrew did with Grasshopper.com founder Siamak Taghaddos pretty much sums up what I hear over and over again.

Siamak Taghaddos

Seems pretty obvious, right? But here’s an example (from another excellent Mixergy interview) of what so often happens.
Noah Kagan

Matt (WordPress / www.Ma.tt) had to get it. Would like to know more about that story.
Matt Mullenweg

Otis (of Goodreads.com) definitely gets it. Exactly, “a good domain will give you a 30% extra chance of success”.
Otis Chandler

Sure, domain names can be expensive. But the trouble is, the larger you grow your company, the more you
run the risk that someone is going to hold that domain name hostage (and why shouldn’t they, really?)
I guess my point is that getting the right domain name upfront will save you a lot of money in the long run.
If you would like help finding or acquiring a domain name for your startup please drop me a line. I love to
brainstorm domains and can help broker a deal for a domain that’s already owned.

In The News.
From: DomainNameWire.com

Social gadget company upgrades its domain name.
Sedo
has brokered the sale of Poken.com for $75,000 to a company that bills itself as a mobile social business card.

According to the web site, “poken is your ’social business card.’ it’s an easy way to share your contact details and online social networks in the real world. just hold two poken palms together – high4! – and you’re connected.”

The web site makes it look like a product primarily for teenagers. This domain is a big upgrade, as it appears the company has been using DoYouPoken.com as its web site.

From: DotWeekly.com

Ad.ly Purchases Adly.com Domain Name
Ad.ly is becoming a very popular in-stream advertising platform for Twitter.com users and they just purchased what would be considered a typo of their domain name, Adly.com for $6,000 at Sedo.com .

Adly.com was first registered in late 2001 and changed hands to Adly Inc. on 10-31-2009.

This is a very wise purchase for Adly Inc. because not only could the domain name be considered a typo of it’s Ad.ly domain, but it also matches the company name exactly.

I think Adly Inc. got a Great Deal on the new domain purchase, as Adly is a nice 4 letter brandable domain name… Just like Ad.ly decided to name their company!

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