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 â€˜radio’ test (could type it in your browser after hearing in a podcast); Is â€˜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 â€˜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.
I’ve tried most of the online tutorials. I broke my brain getting Ruby 1.92 on my Mac. I have Eclipse set up for PHP and Python. But so far I end up bailing out of the book, tutorial, video course. They’re not working for my brain! That’s why I was so excited to hear about Codecademy. Codecademy is a Y Combinator startup. They’re a couple of young guys with a great idea who seem to have caught a wave. The thing is, now four months and $2.5 million invested, they have all of three courses that took me an hour to complete. Yes they’re good, but… Meanwhile the pressjustkeepsoncoming! (Isn’t this a startup no no – getting all this press before they really have a product?)
The namer/domainer in me couldn’t help but notice… Look at the spelling, codEcademy. Not codeAcademy. Not only that but CodeAcademy.org is a Chicago startup that has an intense immersion how-to-code course in Chicago. Oh oh. What? CodeAcademy.comnow forwards to CodEcademy.com. They somehow acquired it in the last month or so (I’d like to know that story). When I first looked, there was a forum there. IMO it would be hard to trademark Code Academy, I think (too generic), but looking around today I found that the CodeAcademy.org people seem to be in the process of obtaining one for ‘CA Code Academy’. The plot thickens- and gets murky, and maybe they should merge now before too many lawyers get involved. (Might a Domain Diligence Report from DomainNoob have saved a lot of trouble and headache?)
[Update 6/21/12: The lawyers have spoken! Andrew Allemann of DomainNameWire puts it succinctly: “The panel ruled that it (Code Academy) didn’t show it had any trademark in the term “Code Academy”. It was a victory for Codecademy, but the fight may have devalued both names. In making its argument, Codecademy suggested that Code Academy is merely descriptive. That could come back to haunt it as it tries to fight off cybersquatters in the future.” Here’s the actual WIPO ruling.]
[Update 10/6/12: Again from Andrew Allemann. Codecademy rcenetly bought CodeClass.com for $1,000.]
Anyway, the media attention Codecademy is getting should serve as a siren song for entrepreneurs. Coding is being called ‘the new literacy’. If you love to code, and think you’re a better teacher, or have a twist on how to do it, let’s get started. First, you’ll need a name.
First, a look at keywords.
Initial keyword research indicates that ‘code’, as a verb, isn’t as popular as ‘program’.
‘Learn’ helps a keyword phrase score for larger click payouts, i.e. makes it more ‘valuable’.
Ads don’t really start to pop up until you drill down past ‘program’ to specific languages.
Running my list of keywords through the GoDaddy Bulk Checker. Hey! A couple of keepers.
LearningHowToProgram.com, Market Samurai tells me, is potentially the most valuable of the available keyword domains. LearnToCodeOnline.com This strikes me as the best of the availables in terms of branding a keyword domain. OnlineCodeSchool. Like this one too. Also CodeSchoolOnline.com.
Not bad! But they’re all more than 15 letters, so the exact-match Twitter handle is off the table. I’d still buy them. While the definitive word is still out on domains and SEO, they could be useful for focused mini-sites and Adwords experiments.
Then a look at what the competition is doing for “Learn to code online”.
Top Scoring Organic: lcwo.net (Morse code!), codeschool.com, & w3schools.com
Mostly you’re getting articles about learning, rather than actual places to learn. The articles lead to online Berkeley, MIT, Mozilla and Google’s Code University. Paid (that mention coding specifically, not just online learning): www.polymathlectures.org, programming.justanswer.com
CodeSchool.com is by far the best url we’ve seen so far. Kind of ideal. They’re a subscription based video/tutorial/community ‘learn by doing’ site with a very popular free tutorial Rails For Zombies (interesting, which came first?). While we’re here, we should mention Treehouse, (TeamTreehouse.com), which launched recently (with help from VC money) and is gaining a lot of traction. They have a two-tiered subscription model. And of course there’s Lynda.com which has 69,000 tutorials for $25 a month!
Next up in our naming process is keyword combos. This is where I match the word ‘code’ with my collected list of internet destination words like ‘hub’, ‘works’, ‘planet’ etc. Very hit or miss, but in this case–it’s picked clean! Nothing worth mentioning available. Just as well, they’re not very good.
On to the brainstorming session. This is where I dig into the thesaurus to create brandable made-up names, portmanteaus, domain hacks, and word tricks. I’m playing in a ‘learn how to program code’ sandbox.
Let’s go over the criteria: Evokes the spirit of the experience your product hopes to create; Passes the ‘radio’ test (could type it in your browser after hearing in a podcast); Is ‘easy to remember’ (this often simply translates into ‘short’); Exact-match Twitter handle; No Trademarks. And again, in our case, $8 on GoDaddy!
And the winners are…
I really like Acodemic. Codsy is a little bit trendy (Artsy, Etsy) but it’s five letters! Try and forget it. You can spell a five letter domain out loud (radio test). Pity about the Twitter, but five letter Twitter handles are pretty much a thing of the past. I also picked up three of the keyword domains, for SEO and Adwords experiments. CodeSchoolOnline.com, OnlineCodeSchool.com, and LearnToCodeOnline.com.
So what do you think? What would be a fair price for this package of domains? Think you can do better? I’d be happy to list your newly-registered domains in this post. I do think I got a little bit lucky with this niche–not picked quite as clean as most. For comparison, here’s something just in today from Twitter. (Will be interesting to see if Bill manages to get the Twitter as well.)
Is there a niche you’d like me to do a case study on?
I look at a lot of names, usually around ideas of my own, but often around a trend that’s breaking. Here’s a couple of names I found irresistible today. ‘Collaborative consumption’ is a buzz word around the phenomenon of sharing things rather than owning them outright. It’s estimated, for example, that the average electric drill will see a total of 12 minutes use in its lifetime. “What you really need is the hole, not the drill.” (Rachel Botsman, Collaborative Consumption at TED) People are starting to figure out how to share locally. Cars, for instance, sitting in garages while you’re at work, or in the driveway when you’re home for the weekend have become a target for peer to peer sharing. It’s kind of obvious the minute you think of it. There seems to be quite a lot of activity in the startup community around sharing cars. I was surprised to find that my first choice for a name, P2PCar.com, was available. I hope that, as new companies come into the space, one will be happy to find that a great name is available for a reasonable price.
As for MowFo? I saw that it dropped recently. I put it in my interesting list. And then I tried to forget about it. But I couldn’t. I just kept picturing a gardening truck driving by me with MowFo.com on the side. Or wouldn’t it be a great name for a grass cutting Roomba?
[Update 12/10/14 Just heard about someone who’s doing this. Wonder how much better they’d do with a great name of their own? Dockname.com ]
[Update. This is ready to test NOW. If you are looking for a name for your startup (or a better name) I will hand pick a posse of knowledgeable domain and branding professionals, and in a private, invite only chatroom, we will post our finds and suggestions. You only need to feel comfortable explaining clearly what you’re looking for in a name.]
Probably the main motivation for getting into domain names, at the time (about 3 years ago), was to scratch up some extra cash in order to self-fund a startup. I’d just sold one of the 4 domains I owned for more than I earn in a couple of months at work. “Really, could it be this easy?” Well, it’s not. Or hasn’t been. I used that money to buy a couple of hundred domains. Most of them were bad choices- experiments around keywords where there might be traffic (but not cybersquatting). I was trying to think outside the box, and indeed that’s about all there is left to think about when it comes to domains, as I’m sure most of you know.
Anyhow… Tough to start something without any capital, especially when you’re not a developer. But one of the great things about domains is how they can ‘lock in’ an idea. It’s not just an idea if you have the domain name as well!
CrowdNamer.com, CrowdNamers, or is it CrowdName.com. CrowdNaming.com? (Either way I’ve got it covered but I think CrowdNamer is the one). The idea starts out pretty straight forwardly. Get feedback from the crowd on choosing a name for your business. Let the wisdom of crowds help you name your company and find a domain for it. Along the way domainers might suggest one of their names, with a price. The crowd might help you find out who owns that Twitter handle someone is sitting on. They might help determine a fair price for a domain.
I’d really appreciate any feedback you have about the idea. Which of the three domains do you think makes a better brand? What do you think the minimum viable product that would provide enough real value to get started might be? Do you think reputation in a community would be enough to drive participation? Do you think a business model could be built around taking a small percentage of sales between domain sellers and buyers?
When you have a ‘great’ idea, one of the first-actions you can take is to register the best domains you can find to brand the idea.
Even if you don’t execute, the perfect domain name may turn out to have some value later when someone else discovers the idea and decides they want to build a business around it.
Domainers have a phrase, ‘category killer’, they use to describe a top tier name that exact matches a search term, especially when it’s higher up on the search chain–like Shoes.com. The ‘long tail’ version would be domains like RedSpikedHeels.com.
Category killer generic domains are long gone. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to new idea websites. If the idea is fresh enough, you can create the category killer name for it.
It gets a little subjective at this point, but what I look for first of all is a domain name that is easy to remember but that also conveys the purpose of the site. Ask.com, eHow,com, Savings.com are good examples of almost perfect domain names.
While the internet may be young in many respects, with over 113M active domains currently registered, I can assure you that domain names have been pretty much picked clean.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a decent domain name available for registration prices. I am saying you’re going to have to work very hard to find one (or hire me to do the looking for you). Most likely you’re going to be better off having a budget set aside to buy a decent domain name. While a ‘category killer’ might cost you hundreds of thousands or more, for $2-5k you can often find a great domain.
The rest of this article is going to show you how I went about branding an idea for a new site. The idea is for an online tip jar service. Authors would create an account, paste a little code into their site, and users would donate with a single click. Pretty obvious idea right? I don’t understand why it hasn’t been implemented at the web 2.0 level. Let’s get started.
[Update July 8, 2010: Flattr is doing just this – an all-internet tip jar. Wishing them the best of luck with it.]
TipJar.com Originally registered in 1996 as a place for members of a small organization to pay dues. It’s the category killer domain name for this idea. At least it hasn’t been developed, although the owner appears to have ideas for it. This domain might be available for the right price.
iTip.com Doesn’t resolve. Whois shows a 2000 registration. iMac was introduced in 1998 so it’s likely that by 2000 people were starting to buy up every iDomain that was available. This is another domain I’d make an offer on if I were a startup with some funding.
eTip.com Doesn’t resolve either. Whois shows a 1997 registrations. Another candidate for a purchase offer.
And here’s a list of other unavailable domains, going farther and farther away from the perfect domain as we go down the list.
If you want to see the entire list (if only to know what kind of crap is already registered) have a look here.
So what did I find available that wasn’t horrible?
Did I actually buy any of them? Yes, and why.
HATPASS.COM As in, Pass the hat. Sounds good out loud. Also I like the word ‘pass’ as in ‘season’s pass’. Try this on for a tag line, “Get a HatPass”. It’s short, associates well with the idea and is somewhat memorable. TipJar it’s not. But it’s okay.
So, for reals?
I would be building, testing, and talking about HatPass.com. It would be my working title. But if/when/as attention built, I would be looking for a little Angel money to go shopping. And when I actually launched I’d have one of these: TipJar, iTip, or eTip. Something like…