Wednesday Oct 23, 2013 by Pat Kinsel - Entrepreneur in Residence, Polaris Partners
One of the most frustrating parts of starting a company or project online is finding an appropriate domain. Because the majority of generic terms are squatted on, many companies give up and settle for domains that include terms like “get” or “app.” I’m not a fan of these domains.
I spent countless hours trying to find a great domain for my last company, Spindle. It was a terribly frustrating process, but we ultimately prevailed.
Before finding and acquiring Spindle.com, I tried every trick in the book to identify an obtainable brand and domain. I came close several times, only to run into sellers with unrealistic price expectations [everyone thinks their domain is worth $1 million].
Because we didn’t want to spend an absurd amount of money, subterfuge and obfuscation were core to my initial strategy: Find a great domain > Don’t reveal who I am or that I’ve raised money > Buy it on the cheap. I believe this is everyone’s strategy. It failed.
As we got ready to give up and settle on your standard get[foo].com domain, I inverted the strategy.
There are several individuals who own massive domain collections. I’d call them squatters, but I associate that term mostly with people who hold a domain in hopes of the irrational million dollar offer. Professional sellers own and sell thousands of domains. I’d just call them smart people who spotted an opportunity a long time ago.*
I found five or six of these people and sent them all the following email:
I’m interested in purchasing a premium domain name from you. I’m the co-founder and CEO of a venture backed company, need to find a domain for my product, and am a serious buyer.
I don’t mean to dump this on you, but I’ve struggled to find a domain and hope you might have something in your portfolio that suits our needs.
To give you a bit more background, we’re working on a service that helps people discover information from social networking services. It’s a “discovery engine” that “blends” information from multiple services to produce a better “thread” to “understand” [fill in the blank - ie your location, an organization, an event]. We hope people will check the service compulsively on their phone (“twitch”)… and “sift” through it on a tablet in the future.
Themes we’ve considered are: focusing on the technology (engine, stitch, blend), focusing on the experience (sift, explore, discover, blend, wonder), or focusing on the user benefit (understand, grok, grasp, spotlight).
I’d really like to find a name that could be used as a verb and articulates our value proposition. If you have something in your portfolio that meets any of our themes, I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for your time,
Much to my surprise, I heard back from ALL of the people I contacted. What’s more, each of them took their own time to sift through the thousands of domains they own. Each of them sent several thoughtful suggestions that could have worked.
Our domain, spindle.com, was one of the suggestions. A spindle is an object that combines material to produce a better thread - exactly what our technology did. It was a perfect fit.
Where this strategy really paid off was in the professional nature of these sellers. The typical, amateur domain speculator researches you on the internet and sets an absurd price because they view the domain as their golden ticket. In our case, the seller quoted a reasonable price, gave us 14 days to consider it, and honored that price when we made the deal. No drama.
If you’re looking for a quality domain, I suggest you find these folks on the internet and follow the same strategy.** It could work for you and is MUCH more time efficient than aimlessly searching for a domain.
* Interestingly, all of these people told me the same story. They acquired their domains when the tech bubble burst. They called lawyers that were dissolving companies and made extremely low offers for the domains. Ten years later, they’ve all done very well :)
** I’d give you their email addresses, but the whole point is for you to be a serious buyer. I found these people, you can too.
Pat Kinsel is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Polaris Partners. You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog located here. You can also follow Pat (@patk) on Twitter by clicking here.