When coming up with a name for your startup, or contemplating a rebrand for your current company, do you think about domain names? For too many founders, names are an afterthought—not integrated into the fabric of the brand story or brand promise, or, equally dangerous, paired with a subpar domain name or extension (translation: anything NOT a dotcom). Even those founders who do carefully consider naming, might not be giving domain names their due—or thinking about them in the right way.
Smart founders use domain names to build their brands, while improve their bottom line and overall company valuation. Founders like Noah Kagan (Sumo.com), Aaron Patzer (Mint.com), Jamie Siminoff (Ring.com), Karn Saroya (Cover.com), and Tim Campos (Woven.com) learned firsthand the value of upgrading to a top notch one word .COM domain, one that is short, memorable, authoritative, and “passes the radio test.” As famed tech entrepreneur and angel investor, Jason Calcanis says, "If you have to spell it over the phone, you've lost."
Here’s the consensus on the top 5 factors that smart founders look for in a domain name:
Mint Condition: “Four-letter words are impressive and easy to remember. But I never believed that until a few years ago. When I worked with Aaron Patzer at mymint.com, I was vehemently against him buying Mint.com. I didn’t think customers would care. “It only matters that you have a great service and product,” younger Noah said. Fortunately, Aaron was the founder and gave 3 percent of the company to acquire the domain. At the closing sale of Mint.com, that was worth $8.1 million. That’s how important the domain was to Aaron.” —Noah Kagan, CEO, Sumo (Entreprenuer.com)
Aaron himself said, "You will lose all word of mouth marketing if you don’t have a good name. Most people choose their name because the domain is available. That’s a really bad idea. I spent 3 months and $182,000 negotiating for Mint.com [and gave up 3 percent of the company], and it was the best purchase I ever made.” NOTE: Mint.com was acquired for US$ 8,100,000 (cash + equity deal)
You Say Oh-no, I say Sumo: His experience at Mint.com (above) led Noah to invest $1.5M into purchasing his own exact-match brand domain: Sumo.com. While that may seem like a lot of money to some, Noah knew it was money well spent.
Put a Ring on it: "Ring.com CEO Jamie Siminoff credits the incredible success of his brand to the foundation he built when he upgraded (to the tune of $1M) from Doorbot to Ring.com: Siminoff said getting the domain name was critically important to the company's success, giving them an unforgettable brand and instant credibility that helped turn their product into a household name. Siminoff said the same thing about Ring.com. Putting it in dollar terms he said he would estimate the name turned out to be worth between $30 million and $50 million to the company. If anyone asks you if the right domain name is really worth 7 (or more) figures, no one knows the answer to that question better than Jamie Siminoff.” (DNJournal)
Cover Story: “We initially chose ‘Cover’ back when we built a prototype of the app, and the conversation lasted maybe less than five minutes. Cover just made sense. There is probably no better name to build a brand on in insurtech. You see companies using every permutation of the word, so why not own the word outright? Sure, we would save money buying the dotcom domain for an alternative brand, but we also saw the long-term value of owning one of the most coveted domains in insurance. This struck us as the bigger opportunity.
“We realized that despite all the obstacles — and costs — involved with committing to Cover as our brand, it was that the path of least resistance. We sell an intangible product and at the end of the day, we’re in the trust business. Owning Cover.com has lent an extra level of legitimacy to the brand and this, in turn, has translated into sales. We have seen firsthand how it helps get people over the hump when it comes to investing their money with us. Immediately after moving to Cover.com we saw our conversions rise, largely because customers would cross-reference our app on the internet before they made the purchase decision.
“It has become an important and valuable asset in the context of our business. Right off the bat, it felt like a shrewd investment. I knew that, in the right hands, the value of Cover.com would become exponentially more valuable. This is exactly what we’ve seen as we have used it as a platform upon which to build an insurance business.” —Karn Saroya, CEO, Cover (Entrepreneur's Handbook)
Rate High: One of my favorite personal examples is the sale I made of Rate.com to Guaranteed Rate—an upgrade from GuranteedRate.com. The founder, Victor F. Ciardelli III, was getting ready to launch new consumer-facing technology and immediately got that acquiring Rate.com was the way to go. A stunning upgrade that looks even better up close. (Those huge Rate.com ads look great on all those commercials, billboards and in the White Sox stadium.)
No Snake Oil Here: Case studies prove time and time again that the legitimacy a premium domain provides translates to increased sales, and lowers your cost of customer acquisition. Additionally, they help you decrease your ad spend and build SEO.
As Jason Vargas, owner of BuyLegalMeds.com, who recently bought CBDOil.com for $500,240 stated: "I'm pretty familiar with how the internet works and why domains cost what they cost. When I was contacted...about the domain CBDOil.com being for sale, I knew that if I could get it for under a million dollars, I would have a good deal on my hands. Personally for me, I judge a domain based off the industry it's referring to....We will still operate the brand BuyLegalMeds.com, but CBDOil.com not only has authority, but it has a lot of trust to the consumer when they visit a site like that. I also know that when an industry is valued more, a domain for it is worth more.
"Take CarInsurance.com for example. It was sold for $49.7 million dollars. The value of the insurance industry is $7 trillion dollars, so when you put into perspective searching for "car insurance" and CarInsurance.com is first on the first page on Google, there's extreme value there. $49.7 million is a good deal when you look at it like that. So $500,240 for a $2 billion dollar industry that would be worth 100's of billions more in a few years and possibly trillions in the future, I got an amazing deal and I would [have] paid more....We will recoup the money invested into buying the domain within the first 90 days of launching the site." (DN Journal)
Dream Weaver: Woven.com CEO, Tim Campos, knew it was important to pick the right name for his startup. The former CIO of Facebook, Campos knew the importance of selecting the right name to help it scale organically.
“I really had to start thinking about this as an asset,” Campos said. “It’s like I’m buying a house or I’m buying real estate. I’m buying something that will have residual value. In my business, I may create additional value for it. There may be brand recognition and other things that I’m going to put into it. But that’s just like putting improvements on your home.” As interviewer Andrew Allemann shared, "As soon as he got in this mindset, it allowed Campos to think differently about the domain’s cost and how to finance it. He ended up paying cash, but he realized he could even take out a loan for the domain because it has value on its own. It would also be easy to justify the cost to his investors. Woven was able to go to market with Woven.com as its domain rather than Woven.app or an alternative. Campos said this is critical to the company’s success as it grows its userbase organically."
“We grow through word-of-mouth, through people tweeting about us and talking about us, so the address matters,” Campos explained. “As soon as you start to introduce a trick for the user, like, ‘Oh, it’s getwoven not just woven,’ or its woven.app, or its woven.io, you’re going to lose a percentage of those [prospective users]. Com is where people default." Allemann stated that Campos believes that if the company were to have used Woven. app, its conversion rates would have be affected. “But more importantly, traffic would be affected,” Campos said. “People are much less likely to find us.” (DomainNameWire.com)
Raise Your Voice: In June 2019, voice.com sold for $30 million in cash. To put that in perspective, that’s more than double the previous record for a publicly disclosed cash domain sale. Why did they spend that kind of cash on a domain name? Here’s what the divesting company, MicroStrategy, had to say: ”Ultra-premium Domain Names like these can help a company achieve instant brand recognition, ignite a business, and massively accelerate value creation.” (Bloomberg)
Simply Brilliant: A hosting company based in Denmark called UnoEuro recently shared a blog post in which they announced that they are rebranding as Simply.com. They explained that this rebrand to a one word, English, dictionary .com makes it easier for customers to remember, spell, and type in the company’s name. Simply brilliant, if you ask me. In the company's own words (courtesy of Google Translate):
"We are reminded time and time again that everyone has different ways to pronounce (and even spell) "UnoEuro" if we have been lucky enough [that they] remembered the name at all. That's why we now rename UnoEuro to Simply.com — a simple name that hopefully everyone can remember and love."
Teamwork(.com!) Makes the Dream Work: What is the Lifetime Value of a new customer? Which do you think will achieve higher CTR and conversions: teamworkhq.com or Teamwork.com? Which one would you trust? Which one provides immediate trust, credibility and global scale?
On that note, here’s a fantastic video clip of a talk from from the founder of Teamwork explaining the bargain he got on Teamwork .com (for $675K...all the way back in 2014!) and how it paid for itself in one year and his resulting explosion in growth. As he says, “Boom! We had a hockey stick event with instant credibility and trust.”
The Halo Effect: Aura, a device and data protection platform with $150M in funding, recently acquired Aura.com in a stunning upgrade from AuraCompany.com. “Acquiring the Aura.com domain is an investment in the Aura brand as we grow our business and build the best all-in-one digital protection platform for consumers.” —Lark-Marie Anton, CCO, Aura
They've Got Swagger: “There is so much value in a good domain name. From the very beginning our goal was to convert offline conversations to online purchasing. We wanted to be memorable enough so that when people are discussing their need to buy swag, their first instinct is to just type Swag.com directly into their browser. We started with the domain name and worked from there — being memorable was the first step to becoming the go-to source for swag. As a B2B startup you have to do whatever you can to be top of mind with customers.” --Jeremy Parker, CEO, Swag.com
Tune In: Here's a great quote from a CEO of a D2C company who decided to invest in his best category-defining.com: “The Headsets.com domain has been the smartest thing we ever did, I think. It gives us credibility as a market leader, it’s an easy domain for people to remember, and ranks well in search engines.” --Mike Faith, CEO, Headsets.com
Investing In Your Future: "The most important change we have done was obviously the domain change...moving from ForexPros[.com] to Investing.com. It was a very costly event for us, both on the price of the domain and on the fact that we didn't have growth during 2013, but it was the best move and the best strategic decision we've taken that now allows us to raise our prices, allows us to get partnerships and all kinds of cooperation with different companies that we found very hard to do in the past..." —Dror Efrat, Founder & CEO, Investing.com (Efrat paid $2.45M for Investing.com)
Make Your Name POP: "Yes, the domain was expensive. Roughly $1.5m...After starting with screen.so, we realized firsthand the importance of having a name that's easy to remember and communicate. Also, instead of viewing the domain as an expense, it's more of an enduring asset, which potentially increases its value over time." --Jahanzeb Sherwani, Founder & CEO, Pop.com [NOTE: $1.5M for Pop.com was a STEAL. Easily a $5M name.]
Pilot Your Way to Success: Waseem Daher, Founder and CEO at Pilot, recently shared via a LinkedIn post how the 2017 purchase of Pilot.com for $400,000 (a steal in today's premium domain aftermarket) helped positioned them for success (Pilot is now a billion dollar company). "We paid $400K for the Pilot.com domain. This is the story of why we made that decision. A good startup name: 1. Is a single word 2. Is easy to pronounce & spell 3. Has a .com that you can buy....$400K was a lot of cash. We only went for it because we had raised a $3M seed round, and I believed that the long-term branding benefit outweighed the short-term cost. I definitely don’t regret it."
Ready to invest in your company’s success? As you can see from the examples above, acquiring an ultra-premium domain names is a one-time investment that yields dividends for the life of your business—conveying instant trust, authority, and brand recognition, reducing your incremental cost of customer acquisition while increasing your bottom line and overall company valuation.
Most companies are in the digital equivalent of an arm's race with their top competitors; an ultra-premium domain name provides the key differentiator that they need to prevail. Interested in learning more about what a premium domain can do for your company or startup? Contact us today for a complementary consultation.
Buckley Media has a carefully curated list of premium domains for sale and you can find them at the simple, one word, English dictionary .com: Defining.com. Please keep in mind, this is a short list, and contact us with whatever kind of domain you need, as it's a good bet we can get it for you. Buckley Media works diligently with both buyers and sellers to ensure a smooth transaction. We pride ourselves on our matchmaking skills—developing deals that benefit both parties.
About the Author: Kate Buckley is CEO and founder of BuckleyMedia.com, a premium domains, naming and branding agency. She is an expert at premium domain consulting and brokerage, specializing in private domain acquisitions and divestments of ultra-premium domain names. Kate has personally brokered millions of dollars in both private and publicly-recorded top domains sales.
Kate Buckley is CEO and founder of BuckleyMedia.com, a premium domains, naming and branding agency. She is an expert at premium domain consulting and brokerage, specializing in private domain acquisitions and divestments of ultra-premium domain names. Kate has personally brokered millions of dollars in both private and publicly-recorded top domains sales. A member of the ICA, Kate is also a member of the Business Constituency of ICANN.