Leah Busque – How RunMyErrand Became TaskRabbit

Leah Busque

From the always excellent Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series at Stanford, this excerpt from a recent talk by Leah Busque describes how RunMyErrand.com became Taskrabbit.com.

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!’.

Click arrow to play audio. Leah Busque – Naming TaskRabbit

Branding With Available Domains – An Incubator

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.

The Lean Inventor
cc by fostersartofchilling

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 #199  mp3 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.
Make It To Market

How To Find A Killer Available Domain Name – Code School

Coding is being called ‘the new literacy’. If you love to code, think you can teach it, and have a twist on how to do it better, let’s get started. First, you’ll need a name.

ibm-1620-by-twid.jpg
IBM 1620 by Twid

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 press just keeps on coming! (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 CodEcademy CodeAcademyintense immersion how-to-code course in Chicago. Oh oh. What? CodeAcademy.com now 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.

My basic toolkit?
MarketSamurai for keyword/value/competition research. Thesaurus.com. MoreWords.com which is great for searching words that end with or start with. And my weird brain.

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…

Acodemic.com @Acodemic

Codsy.com @CodsyCom

 

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 TeachMe.comTwitter. (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?

[Update 4/12 I’m a couple of weeks into the Udacity CS101 class (free and now open enrollment). It’s awesome! See Also: O’Reilly School of Technology, (article, school), Bloc, Hitchiker’s Guide To Python, HackerSchool, really liking InventWithPython and LearnCodeTheHardWay.]

 

Kevin Rose on Naming Websites

Update 12/12/11 Hey @KevinRose & @OinkApp people. My social media experiment doesn’t seem to be working. I noticed Oinck.com in the GoDaddy drop a few weeks ago and picked it up for you. I tweeted you a couple times but, well, either you didn’t notice, or you didn’t care.

From Glenn McElhose’s  Random Episode 15 with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferris which was shot mid May 2011. At around the 27 minute mark, Kevin begins to discuss the difficulty he’s having naming a new company. (HatTip to DomainShane)

(Click arrow to play audio) “Dude, this has been my hell for the last month and a half.”

kevinRoseDomains
Tim Ferris & Kevin Rose Discuss Naming Your Website

Notes and quotes.
It’s a combination iphone app slash destination site, meaning that there will actually be a dot com destination for it as well.
I want it to be short, like 4, 5, 6 characters.
Good names now are like, $100k.
Fred Wilson’s post about what you should spend on a great domain name. (‘Finding and Buying a Domain Name‘)
I’m trying to find something for around 20(k), trying to go on the cheap, crazy as (that sounds $20k being cheap!).
I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, so if you’re looking for a domain name, I’ll be glad to share.
Sedo.com > Advanced Search > Dot com > 5 characters max >Order search results by bid (previously declined offers- weeds out low interest domains)
Great names that end in mo, be, ly, es or start with lo. Look for them on GoDaddy.
GoDaddy.com Auctions > Advanced Search (right hand panel) > # of bids- none > Keywords- End with ly (for example) > Characters- Exactly 5 no dashes no numbers (for example) > Type- Select All >  Extension .com
Kevin zips by discussing ‘getting them to agree on price’.
Now you have to do a trademark search (Search Marks)
Now you have to check to see whether the iPhone app is available. (I like uQuery for this).
Easily understood in a crowded bar and easy to spell. Obvious spelling.
He’ll run a name by someone as though it already is an app or site, “Dude, have you tried —, it’s awesome. And they’ll be like, Oh, what’s that? Well what did you think it was?” To gauge other people’s response to how the name might sound, even though you don’t own the name.
Kevin suggests that if you have a great domain that fits the bill, (though he doesn’t mention the niche the product is in) you can send him your suggestion using the Twitter hashtag #krdomain. However, this was shot in May of 2011 so we can probably assume he’s already found it.

Update 9/9/11 Was it Oink.com? Is that what Kevin found? It appears to be a mobile voting and ranking app. Thoughts?
Kevin Rose Tweets Oink.com
Also, Kevin’s video interview site got a facelift and a new domain. Used to be Foundat.io/n is now Foundation.bz
I wasn’t sure so Googled it. “Did you mean: .biz domain
BZ is the country code for Belize.   I guess the .Biz was taken!
Just spotted 12/2/11 Now Foundation.kr! I guess as in Kevin Rose!

 

CrowdNamer.com, or is it CrowdName… CrowdNaming?

[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?

Are you my CTO?

crowdNaming.jpgCrowd NamerCrowd Name

Crowd Namers

 

Is $2000 Too Much To Pay For A Great Startup Domain?

As an example to startups especially, I wanted to highlight this recent auction as an example of the kinds of domains that can be acquired for reasonable prices. If you’re getting ready to launch and are facing the difficult task of finding the right name consider enlisting my help. I know where and how to look for great names at reasonable prices.

I recently participated in a domain auction for the domain Penance.com. I actually have content that matches the domain perfectly. Previously I’ve hosted it on other URLs but I’ve been keeping my eye open for a better one. For my purposes you couldn’t have a better url than Penance.com, and with a ‘category killer’ domain like that it would be much easier to roll out more content in the event the idea started to get traction. But besides my (fun and basically no-profit) idea, Penance.com could make a great domain for all sorts of things (perfume, fashion, feature film title, etc. etc.) so, in my opinion, it would be a smart buy even as an investment- depending on the price.

I hopped in the auction, which was at Sedo. The domain was part of a collection being offered by a single domainer and all the domains were no or low reserve (meaning the owner was prepared to let them go for whatever the market priced them at).

Here’s what happened…

penance-Auction

Penance.com went for $2075, in my opinion a great price. A little over my head but a great deal for the new owner.
If you’re a developer I’m sure you see some obvious and interesting potential for the HockeyScore.com names.
Doodling.com strikes me as a good (not great) branding opportunity for an art related site or blog.
The point is, there are great domains out there for reasonable prices. If you could use a little help finding them, drop me a line.

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.