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.

Crowdsourced Recipe Platform Wecipe.com / Wecipes.com

Sure it’s a little wonky to say, but in fact, it is a perfect name for a crowdsourced cooking site. Short, defensible, and unforgettable. A recipe we made, a wecipe!

Perfect name for a crowdsourced cooking site. Short, defensible, and unforgettable. A recipe we perfected, a wecipe! Wecipes.com as well, best to have both!
@Wecipe @Wecipes

Thai Sweet Corn Fritters - Ingredients
Creative Commons License photo credit: Emily Barney

Branding With Available Domain Names – A Case Study

Photo by Michal Osmenda

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.

TIPPER.COM
TIPPED.COM
2CENTS.COM
ITIPPED.COM
TIPR.COM
HATTIP.COM
TIPWIDGET.COM
ISPONSOR.COM
ISUPPORT.COM
TIPTO.COM
TIP2.COM
TIPOUT.COM
TINYTIP.COM
TIPTIP.COM
TIP.ME
CHIP.IN
OPENWALLET.COM
TIPD.COM
HATTIPS.COM

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?
HATPASS.COM
PASSTHEHATAROUND.COM
TIPAPPS.COM
TIPGADGET.COM
TIPGADGETS.COM
OPENTIPJAR.COM
EKICKIN.COM
IKICKIN.COM
ICHIPPEDIN.COM
ICHIPPED.IN

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…

TipJar.com
Saving the internet. One ad at a time.