Finding And Buying A Domain Name

I believe that a good domain name is an important success factor in building and launching consumer web services. It's not in my top ten but it could be. It's certainly something we think about a lot when making investments and working with companies post investment.

A number of our portfolio companies have acquired their domain names in connection with or shortly after our investment. purchased with some of the proceeds of our investment. Foursquare purchased with some of the proceeds of our investment (they launched with We've advised and assisted a number of our portfolio companies in this effort.

A good domain name is short and memorable. It doesn't need to mean anything. Etsy is a good example of this. The word etsy doesn't have any meaning in the english language. But it is short, memorable, and fits well for a handmade marketplace. As a marketing person once told me "find a name that means nothing and inject your meaning and brand into it." All you need to do is a google search on Etsy to see that is what they've done with that word.

I remember walking home one afternoon from the office on the phone with Mark Pincus. He had launched texas hold'em on Facebook operating under the name Presidio Media. We were talking about what he should call the company. He knew it needed to be a consumer brand. He said "Domains are so hard and expensive. I'd like to use a name I already own." And he preceded to list a bunch of names he owned. He stopped at which was his dog's name. I said "you own the .com of your dog's name?" He said "of course I do." I told him I liked the idea of naming the company after his dog and it had the added benefit of being a short and catchy name. He agreed it was a good idea. A few weeks later, after thinking about it some more, running it by a bunch more people, that was the name Mark chose. It is a fantastic name and brand.

That conversation with Mark was in the summer/fall of 2007. Since then domains only gotten harder and more expensive. We've noticed the average price of a good domain has risen fairly dramatically in the past year. We used to advise companies to spend $10k or less on a domain, then we upped that recommendation to $25k. We recently upped it again to $50k. I suspect domain prices and pre-money valuations of newly launched startups are highly corrrelated.

Here are some suggestions on finding and buying a domain name:

– Don't obsess about getting a name that is descriptive. It's great to be Kickstarter if you are buidling a funding platform for creative ideas but it is not required. Do focus on a word that is short, catchy, and memorable.

– If you own a domain that can work, give it serious consideration. You'll save yourself a ton of pain and agony.

– Be prepared to pay up for a good domain. It is very unlikely that you'll find a great domain name these days for less than $10k. And it could cost a lot more.

– Think about rent to own. My friend Jamie Siminoff is a proponent of this approach and he clued me into it a few years ago. If you find a great domain that you can't afford but you absolutely love, you can often rent it for a few years with an option to buy it at any time. Let's say you are launching a website to buy boats online and the person who owns wants $100k for it. There's no way you can afford it right now. But the owner is willing to charge you $5k per year for it and will let you buy it anytime over the next three years for $100k. You do it because you figure that in three years, you'll be selling 10s of millions of dollars of boats and your business will be worth 10s of millions and $100k will be easy to raise for not a lot of dilution. And if you don't sell any boats online then you don't need the domain and it didn't cost you much.

– Think about offering equity instead of cash. Many owners of sought after domains have this idea that their domains are going to be worth millions some day. And who knows, they might be right. So it is hard to pry the domain out of their hands. The one thing you have that might be worth millions some day is the equity in your company. If you have a hot company (like foursquare was when it purchased, you might be able to trade some equity for the domain.

– Find an intermediary. We've used a few different intermediaries and played that role ourselves. Eric Friedman, who worked at USV and now works at Foursquare, was a very useful intermediary in a number of transactions. There are also a few lawyers we know who specialize in this kind of transaction and are very experienced and skilled at procuring domains. A neutral third party who can hide the identity of the buyer is often very helpful in domain transactions.

This whole exercise in finding and buying a domain is a huge pain in the rear. I've seen startups spend endless hours on it. It is an important issue, particularly for consumer web startups, and it is worth getting it right. But there is also a limit to how much time and money you want to spend on this effort. Remember that a name is what you inject into it over time. So don't let getting the perfect name be the enemy of getting a really good one.

Correction: The Zynga story in this post is not quite right. Here is the correct story straight from Mark: "I did not own, her real name. I had tried and failed to buy that domain for 8 years. One of our engineers had the idea to spell it as zynga so we could get the domain."

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    Zynga is a great name and that’s a great story. And you don’t call yourself a marketer. ;)I think one more thing is some companies can be too focused on a short, simple, name and domain (i.e. The overpay for a generic term that they will struggle to brand and own. That’s why your point about Etsy is spot on.Related: How important do you feel .com is? Personally, it’s a lot less important to me. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to look beyond .com anymore IMO.

    1. fredwilson

      i did not come up with the zynga name. mark did. i just liked it when he mentioned it to me.i think .com is important but not for everythingfor video, i like .tvfor audio, i like .fmi also like .io for example

      1. kirklove

        Most great marketers don’t come up with great ideas, they recognize them when they see them. You resist it, probably from a semantic point of view, but you are a great marketer. That’s a not a bad thing, it’s a compliment. 😉

        1. Robert Holtz

          Amen. Hallelujah! You said it, @kirklove.

      2. Robert Holtz

        I still think its a pretty cool story that he was naming it off a list like any other domain name and you stopped him in his tracks. That’s a nice snapshot of your having contributed a verse to Internet history. I appreciate how you downplay it but it is not at all far fetched to say that had you and Pincus not had that conversation, Zynga might have been called something else entirely. And I’m one of those people who really believes a name, especially on the Internet, is make or break.Long ago, I listened to an audiobook from Jim McCann (Founder of 1-800-FLOWERS). 800 numbers were the precursors to domain names in terms of shortening the distance between BRAND NAME and TRANSACTION. McCann picked up on this opportunity and it is why at earliest startup phases he spent a seven-figure dollar amount out for first monies raised to buy the phone number he needed to call the business 1-800-FLOWERS. And he launched it hand-in-hand with the perfect slogan — “Just Call Our Name.” Here he had entered a field that was ultra-saturated and even regarded as “played out” with huge competitors like Teleflora, FTD, and Conroy. Today, they own some of those brands outright and dominate their space. Many have asserted, himself included, that without that branding, they might never have had the impact they did.And you know what Fred? That is about as near-perfect an example of what I was trying to say to you in that now proverbial marketing post of yours. That THE best entrepreneurs you are looking at are the ones who are thinking about their product/service/business AND their marketing as one integrated thing. Because now and especially going forward, marketing can no longer be considered an afterthought. To get a footing in the marketplace, the “Just Call Our Name” concept absolutely transposes to domain names. It translates just like that old adage of the restaurant business, “Location location location.”I’d sum it up by saying, you’re not buying a domain name — you’re buying mind-share.

      3. MGC

        Thank you for the post, great insight Fred. What are your thoughts on using the .me domain (example:,, etc)? Does this create the potential for unique brand exposure through simplicity or does this create confusion by using a new and somewhat obscure domain name?

      4. json

        THAT is why I bought the first dot TV http://www.FREE.TV – anyone interested in using this for free as part of OpenDomain?

    2. Me

      “Personally, it’s a lot less important to me. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to look beyond .com anymore IMO.”If you love sending traffic to the .com, go ahead. Or if you want to sell your company to a bigger fool and not care what happens after, but long term you need the .com. Unless the .extension is part of the brand like , or whatever.After you become famous the name you could’ve gotten for $50k becomes $1 million. You could argue that one million then is less then $50k in the first month, but not always and the name can simply be used for something else, by someone else. Bottom line: buy the name so you have it.When Color goes out of business, the domain name will be the only good asset they have. And they bought it pretty cheap.

  2. awaldstein

    The difference between a good name and a great name is what you make it into.This is one of the best posts on marketing I’ve read in a while.And timely, as I’m in the process of finding a name for a personal project and suffering against my own better judgement.

    1. fredwilson

      totally. zynga and etsy are great examples of good names turned into great names by what was injected into the name

      1. awaldstein

        As they say Fred…that’s marketing.BTW…example of one that is semi descriptive that worked like crazy is dailycandy.

        1. fredwilson

          i am going to regret that marketing post to my grave

          1. Robert Holtz

            Indeed you will, my friend. We shall see to it. ;-P

          2. RichardF

            “Marketing is for companies who have sucky products.” …still makes me chuckle

          3. Robert Holtz

            LOL! Ah, but that was in the “before time” in the “long long time ago”. Fred is older and wiser now. Isn’t that right, Fred? ;P

  3. Nate Kidwell is a great site for picking domain names. It hasn’t worked for me perfectly, but still is cool to see live suggestions involving foreign TLDs.Yipit’s founder also used a cool script to find his domain, .

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i love the yipit storyand its a great domain name

      1. fstrnet

        His story has some bad advice in it too though. There is a lot of annecdotal evidence out there that somethign called “Domain Front Running” happens to your searches on places like Godaddy’s bulk uploader script. That means that someone sees your search and buys it out from under you.Michael Cyger has a post about that.…The script I use to find domains that aren’t taken executes a shell command “HOST -t NS $name_combo” if the result is NXDOMAIN that means its not registerred and you can pick it up for reg-fee.I recently checked every single three letter dot com and they’re all taken. They drop every once in a while, but they’re snapped up again in seconds. I once even hand-registered “”, the credit card was charged and everything. By the time the servers executed the request with Verizon, someone had snapped it out from under me 🙂 had to settle for a refund.But do not search for a domain at the registrar unless you’re willing to spend the $10 the very second that you see it’s ready. I’ve bought a few hundred domains so far – it’s really fun to have pieces of the web.

        1. LE

          Better to usewhois <domain> | egrep “Creation Date:” (or equivalent)doing HOST -t NS will give you false positives as there are a few reasons why a domain could give a NXDOMAINTry these two commands (verified on OSX) and see the results:host -t NS cinegia.comwhois | egrep “Creation Date:”

          1. fstrnet

            You’re right, *however* you are limited in the number of whois requests you can make per day. (Somewhere around 200 you get rate limited).I like to do HOST -t NS to subset my list then fine tune with WHOIS data… *then* go to the registrar to buy it.For small volume, though, I agree, whois is fine.

  4. Jan Schultink

    Great advice. Some more thoughts:No funny punctuation, dashes, etc.No derivatives that require an explanation: “it’s” but spelled with double oo i.s.o. oaDon’t take the .net or other extension if the .com is a big siteCheck the availability of Twitter and facebook handles in parallel

  5. CliffElam

    I have a bunch of domains I own, which will never be worth any money, but are handy as working “names” for ideas that may become projects, etc. There are some fringe names that you can put your ‘buy it when its available’ order on at GoDaddy and others.I completely hate the “ccolsh*tindustries” guys for owning “!”We picked “OBeeDee” because it was a lazy acronym for “One Big Database”. People seem to like it once they have it explained. That’s the best we can do, I think, for $9.95.-XC

  6. jfccohen

    Do you guys think we’ll eventually get to a place where it becomes common-stance for the end of a domain to be regularly integrated into the name of a company (e.g., While .com was a great differentiator to identify “internet companies” in the 1990s and 2000s, there are undoubtedly going to be more and more internet companies in the future. Domain endings at some point will continue to open up more…perhaps the taxonomy of internet companies will morph into .soc (social), .tv, .sex (pornography), .med (medical), .se (search), etc. We could eventually get to facebook.soc,,, (perhaps like open table), etc.Will consumers be able to understand that system? It allows for many more great names and better upfront understanding by users/providers of what the website is all about so you learn more about the service and company from the domain destination.Thoughts? Ideas? Comments?

    1. fredwilson

      i think its inevitablebut .com is like the 212 area code in NYCeveryone still wants a 212 number

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        The .com thing is probably just as much about paranoia. It is humorous listening to small town radio giving web addresses using the ‘www’ at the beginning. Why?When people search, they go for what they’re after and the .com will pass into the unnoticed like ‘www’.To strengthen the breakdown of category, it would help to encourage search moving thru .tv, .fm and so on.

      2. Robert Holtz

        Agreed. In the era of Twitter and other URL shortening, I personally think it is best to do BOTH. If you can own a shortened version of your URL, that is great. But there is still that old-school form of buzz known as word-of-mouth. Clever punctuation or omission of vowels don’t translate well to word-of-mouth. Even if it isn’t the primary brand you market, if you’re serious about dominating your category, you SHOULD own the .com and it REALLY is the 212 area code of the Internet.

      3. fstrnet

        Yup, not to harp on Michael Cyger’s site (I’m a fan, not a schill, I promise) but just two days ago he had an interview with… Marc Ostrofsky who said the same thing.Marc – sold for $7.5 million for $10 Million and for $350 Million (which obviously wasn’t “name only” in that case)He also turned “” into a drop-shipping business making $70 Million a year.Another guy who has a lot of public insights into the value of web domains is the self-professed “Domain King” Rick Schwartz, there’s money to be made on the other TLDs and CCTLDs but for global marketing, “.com” is the creme-de-la-creme.

      4. Derek Skaletsky

        Yeah…we went with .me for new app mostly b/c the .com was taken, but we actually like it and think it works for our app. We’re going to stick with it and not worry about the .com.I have a strong distaste for the “domain squatting” game and have a hard time justifying (in my head) paying $$ to someone who didn’t create any value. But it is what it is and I agree, it could be a very important piece of your branding/marketing. Oh well. I would much rather go the zynga route and build a valuable domain, rather than buy it.The next frontier in this discussion: twitter handles. 🙂

        1. Matt Kritzer

          I came across a .net domain that I love for a concept I’m working on. The .com is taken, but isn’t in use. I do think there’s opportunity in these cases to develop the .net domain and ultimately force the hand of the .com owner, so long as the domain name is unique and not generic. That’s the hope at least….

      5. Naveen Michaud-Agrawal

        I have a 212 number and I live in Harlem! I would trade it for any number of domains that I can no longer get because people are sitting on them.

    2. matthughes

      I also think it’s inevitable.Everyone here probably knows there’s some controversy surrounding .ly right now and Libya.I’ve never understood the country specific domain concept?

  7. Colin Pape

    I think everyone recognizes that WOM is the most powerful form of marketing there is.A great name is one of the best marketing assets any company can have as it activates and enables word of mouth marketing.People don’t want to talk about things with bad names, which limits the word of mouth exposure the company will receive.A great dot com domain name ties into this in a big way. More companies should brand themselves as ‘’ instead of just ‘Whatever’ as the dot com is a call to action that everyone now recognizes as a destination they can visit.Now that we all have mobile browsers in our pockets, domain names are even more important and relevant.A URL can represent anything – a website, a presentation, a lead capture form or even a forwarding link to an app download. They are super-powerful tools that are both undervalued and under-utilized.While brandable names (ex. are excellent for WOM and traditional marketing of all types, category-defining names have additional inherent value that can act as gasoline for a startup.Higher organic search results, direct type-in traffic, lower marketing expenses (the domain becomes both the brand and the tagline explaining what the startup does), as well as bankable value that can be leveraged as an asset are all benefits of owning a great category-defining domain name.Great post Fred. It’s nice to see VCs like yourself who understand the importance of a good domain name advising people to pay up for a name that really works.When you look at the cost of a domain compared to payroll or the lifetime marketing costs of almost any business, 5, 6 or even 7-figures for a domain can be a real bargain.I am convinced that many amazing concepts and products have their potential greatly reduced due to their choice of name/domain.We used several of the techniques you mentioned to purchase and are very happy with our decision.

    1. awaldstein

      ColinYou are advising to use category derivative names to drive natural search? If I bought ‘organic wine’ sure I get this but your category term needs to be very close to the domain for this to work.Pls clarify. Logic seems unclear at a pure search level.

      1. Colin Pape

        Arnold,Yes, the category needs to match the domain name exactly – ex. Derivative names can work if they match a market niche exactly – ex. does give preference to these exact match names, and consumers tend to favor them as well (especially in the absence of a well-branded market leader).The main thing to think about is just how many people use that specific term. The most valuable tool I’ve come across is the Google Adwords Keyword tool:…It will tell you exactly how many people are already using those terms and enable you to determine both search traffic and resonance.Make sure you check the ‘Exact’ box on the left and uncheck the ‘Broad’ match type in the left bar after you’ve done a search.Here is another great link that covers the subject quite thoroughly:…In our case with for example, it wasn’t so much about SEO as owning the call-to-action that many different groups are using related to our category. It’s more about authority and decreasing our marketing expenses in that case.

        1. awaldstein

          Thanks Colin.That clarifies…but you seem to be talking about the tradeoff between pure search driven traffic and the value of the brand for direct traffic.It’s a similar discussion that marketers have been having since cave dwelling days about whether it is easier to broaden a category to mean something new or rename it completely.I used to agree with you…not so certain anymore. With the social noise deeper and search spiders socially aware, brand awareness is becoming the sharpest point of the stick. A great brand moves mountains and pays back big time. Not trivial to build but a powerful horse to ride.I did a project recently that changed my perspective on this. Post with conclusions @ discussion. This ain’t science as facts are always changing and opinions will differ and sway over time.Thanks for your detailed response. I’ll check out your links.

  8. Steve Poland

    I am going with – the app/site is all about your favorites. In one aspect the domain is great- tells anyone all they need to know, no reason to explain the business. The other aspect is that it isn’t a unique madeup word, thus someday could be brand dilution by like..,,,, etc. Hopefully I can establish it though.

    1. Colin Pape

      Hey Steve – we are actually doing a bunch of work in Buffalo via our site and I came across your company the other day (on LocalMind actually)… Because of your great domain, I checked out your site and app. :)I’m actually in Buffalo today – you have time to get together for a drink? I can swing by your Elmwood office if you’re around.

      1. Steve Poland

        Email me steve@myfavo…….com

      2. Lenny Rachitsky

        Localmind FTW!

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      You are on the money.

    3. Robert Holtz

      You’re quite right… but take it one step further… buy as many of those other variations you listed and redirect them to you official brand’s website.That accomplishes two things: 1) barrier of entry against copycats; 2) more likelihood of connecting with potential users because even if you achieve word-of-mouth buzz, people only remember so much and they transpose or misspell names especially before you’ve made the brand stick.Whenever I’m branding a website, I don’t just buy the name I want, I try to buy around it. You can use it as a moat to keep out competitors and as drawbridges to bring in near-matches to your primary target visitors.

  9. JimHirshfield

    Curious if you think domain name is less important in a world of apps and app stores.

    1. fredwilson

      if all you are going to do is an app, then it doesn’t matter as muchbut the services we are interested in (large networks of enagagedusers) will have a big web component as welli think foursquare and twitter are good examples of the hybrid modelthat we like best

      1. Colin Pape

        Domains are great for app marketing – by forwarding a URL directly to a download link based on the mobile platform used, you give users an easy way to access an app outside of the app store interface.

        1. Robert Holtz

          Absolutely. And the space is converging so much, I think if you CAN grab both, you should. I believe in the SaaS eventuality where apps will eventually be entirely in the cloud and never need to be downloaded or locally-updated. So to me, if nothing else, it seems a good way to future-proof your app for future platforms and deployment/interaction models. So even though I LOVE integrated marketing — and owning a domain name to serve up leads to an app download is certainly integrated marketing, in the future, that lead conversion will be even more transactional. After they discover the app, they won’t even need to be going to an app store, making a purchase, completing a download, and starting it up… they’ll just go there and start using it. Entrepreneurs should be thinking ahead about such things and this is a perfect example.

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            On the money. This goes to my late entries via Fred’s Locale Post and AI. People need to start thinking top-down vs. too narrow on the bottom hoping it will move up.

          2. Robert Holtz

            I was traveling around during those posts and missed out… I totally agree with your insights. Sorry I missed out on those conversations.

          3. Dave W Baldwin

            Hell, with all the water/tornado stuff happening, I’m in and out also.Just nice to see someone who sees the bigger picture where you can gettrapped saying what you’re doing is Service, Product or OS. We have theability to truly cross channel.

          4. Robert Holtz

            Thanks! Likewise. 🙂

    2. Netcommner

      Hardly. A domain / aka ebrand – that you solely control – will become / remain invaluable in controlling your startup’s future success.It will enable you to forward any inquirers to any app, or service you will be offering in the future.Savvy marketers are promoting their products, services via their domains which are then referred to via: company’ rather than the boobs who are busy giving facebook the primacy in their ad by using:, some savvy folks are already weary of being tied to their customers through intermediaries such as facebook, or itunes store – building secondary, alternative presences using their brand – to assure direct relationship building opportunities via their own domains.Why not buy insurance against being held hostage to facebook, itunes, should your product or service become successful ? an investment in a domain that you control, especially one that is self descriptive and relatively short (to avoid typos, smartphone issues) is wise investment.www.essentialdomains.netnetcommuner at yahoo dot com

  10. Steve Poland is great for finding dropped domain names. I picked up for $70, doesn’t mean anything but brandable.

    1. awaldstein

      Fun post, thanks for sharing this.

  11. RichardF

    We had a conversation in the office yesterday about domain names and one of my colleagues piped up “what is it about men owning domain names, my husband has loads?” I told her my theory is that for anyone who has a germ of an idea it’s one of the first tangible, easy, things to do ( and maybe the last thing they do about it!)Funnily enough I had a lawyer approach me two weeks ago to purchase a domain that I own. To me it seemed a pretty obscure domain name and I hadn’t thought it would be of value to anyone else. A quick Google of the guy’s name gave me some more information about him and his location and a hint of why it was probably of value. I asked for $15,000 (your post confirms I wasn’t far off with the price) he disappeared! (which shows a domain, like a company, is worth what someone is willing to pay for it) is a good place to get an idea of values and maybe buy or sell a domain

    1. LE

      “I told her my theory is that for anyone who has a germ of an idea it’s one of the first tangible, easy, things to do ( and maybe the last thing they do about it!)”Your theory is correct. As a registrar I can tell you that people register names every day that they don’t use and that we have customer that are still sitting on names (as every registrar does) that haven’t been used since the 90’s.An analogy might be browsing Barnes and Noble and buying up books that you never read. And then returning to buy more books the next week. An easy impulse buy.

  12. T R

    Jesus H. Christ, what the hell is wrong with you people. This is like a bunch of old farts walking around Barneys talking about the hottest pair of jeans, while the cool kids are busy getting high and rocking out in some shitty 501’s.Are you really going to advise a tiny startup to spend more than $15k on a domain name, or cede equity in their company to buy (the new social site for speed dating flashmobs)! You must be the people pouring money into all these weird sites I see on betalist every day.The domain doesn’t make the brand, the brand makes the domain. There were many competitors to facebook with much better names – campus connection, friendster, myspace. Facebook, on its face, is actually relatively tame. Should Zuckerberg have given 1% of Facebook for If your company makes it, either your name will be cool by default or you can buy any name you want.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, i am advising that and do it all the timewhat is wrong with your inability to be civil in your comments?

      1. TKR

        I apologize, that was rude.But I still don’t see how spending $20k on a “hip” name is going to make your startup any more successful than an Aeron chair.I know you don’t believe in the Bubble but this smacks of tulipmania.

        1. mike gilfillan

          Not even close. (which I almost registered in 1994), sold for $4m in cash + equity in 1999 or 2000 — that was the real bubble.I sold a local domain for much more than $20,000 a few years ago to a small agency. I just bought what I think is a great .com for $1,200. It all depends on what each party perceives is the real value in the name.

        2. LE

          Years ago I sold to Amory Schwartz which was based on the idea of using an abbreviation of “North American Sports” if I remember correctly.He then sold the company to ESPN.…So there are many reasons why a company might want a particular domain and be willing to pay a reasonable amount for the domain instead of inventing a word (which is also good in many cases).If you are selling to Fortune 1000 or making jet engine parts using a name like is not going to help you sell to the “old farts” who work at those companies.

        3. fredwilson

          yup, i noted that domain prices and pre$$ valuations seem to be highly correlated

    2. Robert Holtz

      First of all Facebook is a MUCH better brand name than “campus connection” or “friendster” or even “myspace” — early Facebook in and of itself was not all that compelling unless you were on the Stanford campus.And it was pivotal for them to drop the “the” from the name. The brand name happens to be brilliant and I disagree… the brand has been intrinsic to Facebook’s success. They clearly agree because they spent a lot of money getting and they’ve been spending quite a bit on barrier-of-entry expenditures going so far as trademarking the word “face” and “book” to keep away copycat brand names.There is not a question in my mind that Zuckerberg would not be sitting at the throne of the empire he has today if the business was called “Campus Connection.” I think you proved Fred’s point, not yours.

      1. TKR

        Facebook is a better brand because it is a better brand. Not because it is a cooler name. The brand makes the name, not vice versa.Here’s how Campus Connection would have worked – get hot, grow like crazy, and then rebrand around a shorter name, like, or, or something like that. Except Zuckerberg would have bought the site wih Fred’s money, not his own.Are you really claiming that Facebook only took off because it had a cool name? Seriously? With a straight face?

        1. Robert Holtz

          Who said anything about the name being the ONLY reason Facebook took off? I said no such thing.I find it fascinating that when you walked through how Campus Connection would have worked out, the first thing you said was that it would rebrand.You made my point not yours. My remark is you’re much better off having the right brand name as early as possible and that is a very justified part of the use of proceeds from VC funds to find and buy the right domain name to support your branding strategy.And I do say to you with a perfectly straight face that strong branding DOES help a company go farther faster.

        2. Moses Kagan

          Sorry, but you’re missing the key point about the brand facebook: All of the Ivy Leaguers who were Facebook’s initial target audience were familiar with the concept of “the facebook”.All of those schools, plus all the New England prep-schools (like Exeter, where Zuck studied), used to give out printed facebooks with pics and contact info for all students, so that you could get in touch with people in your classes.If it had been called “cc” or whatever, people would have had to ask what it was. Facebook is actually a great example of a HIGHLY descriptive brand… it’s just that the descriptive nature of the brand is only obvious to the very small slice of the population at which the service was originally target.

    3. Ross Rader

      zuckerberg launched with “” and later spent real $$ on acquiring “” and yes, at the time, he might have been smart to use some equity to buy the domain (or get his hands on the arguably better “”) instead of burning cash (and therefore runway) on picking up a great domain. And to be clear, getting a great domain doesn’t mean buying a .us or .ly name – it means getting a .com, and those cost real money. With a great .com, your brand can naturally follow. Otherwise, its an uphill battle./ross(obDisclaimer: I work for a registrar, @hover)

      1. Sean Weinstock

        haha – i still remember exactly where and how frustrated i was in 2004 while searching around the web for this “” and finding some company that wasn’t remotely related to facebook. i kept clicking the refresh button on my browser thinking that something new would happen. having no success, i ignored it for a few days. then it was pretty much all anyone was talking about, so i asked around on my freshman floor, and people told me you had to put the “the” in front. it was like a secret club!in that specific scenario, i imagine that buying was a necessity given the potential for expansion and web illiteracy suffered (probably) by a large number of facebook’s 600m users, including, embarrassingly, my 18 year old, silicon valley born and raised arnold said below, this topic is pretty ethereal and likely can’t be proven scientifically because counterexamples exist. maybe a scholarly thesis is in order?

        1. Ross Rader

          Definitely ethereal. I think it helps clarify to first define what subject matter is in play. I like to think of this as more about human psychology + semantics + fashion + economics than a technical issue of any sort. It is definitely an area ripe for scholarly study and there is a lot of data to study. For example, In our business data, we were surprised to learn that, for example, people prefer “[email protected]” (i.e. [email protected]) and “[email protected]/” ([email protected] or [email protected]) over “[email protected]” ([email protected]). .com is still definitely king, but there are so many other factors that come into play when people make their buying decision. This gets even more complicated when you overlay everything that happens on the navigation side – memorability, semantic equivalency, typographic error, etc….

      2. TKR

        I’m not saying a good domain isn’t part of a good brand. I’m saying a good domain should be way down the list on things to do.Are you really saying Zuckerberg should have given even 0.01% of the equity of this $50bn+ company on a domain name?I like domain names. And like the comment below, I collect them for personal amusement, like movie quotes. But that’s not going to make a successful VC!

        1. Ross Rader

          Yup, that’s exactly what I’m saying. A good domain name won’t hurt an online business and can definitely help it. A bad one can sink it.i.e. vs. vs., or (when already exists and is more memorable).In startup phase, equity is cheap, cash is expensive. I can’t say what the right combination of cash/equity would be for a great name, that’s a game-time decision, but at early valuations, Mark & Co. could have easily given up 10-100x of the equity you described on the right domain name. Remember, he didn’t have a $50b val when he made these choices and he would have been a fool to base his “then” decisions on todays “maybe’s”.

          1. TKR

            You know what’s cool? A billion dollars. For the guy who sold you And to whom you gave 2% of your company.

          2. Ross Rader

            Cool doesn’t really enter into it. Its a pretty calculated bet. Spending your last $50k on a domain name instead of servers is a pretty dumb move for an early startup. Spending $5k and 1% equity on a domain name and buying $45k worth of servers is a pretty smart move.I’m always amazed at the premium people put on equity, in arrears. Of course its stupid to spend $2b on a domain name. At a $15m valuation, investing 2% of your equity in a domain name could be a pretty smart move – especially if it helps you preserve capital.

          3. Charlie Crystle

            who buys servers?

          4. Ross Rader

            hah! +1 🙂

    4. RichardF

      the cool kids are getting funded by USV and taking Fred’s advice..

      1. TKR

        If Fred is cutting you a check, you’re already a cool kid. Is this advice for people who’ve gotten VC funding, or people looking to get off the ground?If you want to build a successful business that will attract Fred’s money, I wouldn’t start by blowing 6 months rent and hosting fees on

        1. Guest

          TKR, not sure I agree or disagree with your line of thinking. Regardless, this last post really made me smile & laugh.

        2. RichardF

          I agree with you no bootstrapping company in their right mind is going to drop more than a nominal amount on a domain name.If you want to build a successful company that will attract Fred’s money, I’d say read his blog and listen to what he has to say.

    5. fstrnet

      You’re going to want to read a book by David Kesmodal called “the Domain Game” – he explains the reason that a domain has its own inherent value.Think for example of the person who wants to “buy a laptop” but doesn’t want to waste time on a search engine. They know exactly what they want to do, so they hazard a guess and type in “” into their browser. (*actually a bad example, I just checked and it’s fallen into the tucows black hole, but we’ve all seen parked pages, so hopefully you get my point)Guess what? It’s a page full of ads. Now 98% of the time people are pissed off that they’ve stumbled onto “crap on the web” but that 2% of the time the domain will generate a number of leads on a $1000+ sale. 0.5% of the time it will generate a $250 commission.Now multiply that by the number of people globally who want to buy a laptop every day. Look up a guy named Frank Schilling – he owns an inventory of some 350,000 names.And makes millions of dollars a year from those names and it’s 100% passive income.He won’t even sell a name for less than $20k because the time it takes to find out if it’s actually worth selling costs more than that.Domains have inherent value, and in terms of marketing impact you’ve got to remember the number of discrete elements any individual human can remember is about 7. So if you want to aquire a customer, you’ve got to find a way for them to get to you. 1 to 2 words, fewer chances of Typos, the easier to remember the better chance you’ll have of grabbing that customer.Domains are appreciable assets that over time can significantly decrease your cost of customer acquisition. The more money you put into them, the more they’re worth.

      1. TKR

        Wait, somebody wrote a book about buying domain names like rental properties and that makes them a good investment for a startup working out of a garage? Owning domain names might be a good business idea, but that doesn’t justify spending startup capital on an intangible asset with limited liquidation value.Branding is a function of mature organizations. Not to say that startups can’t use branding, but like all other things startup, its got to be kept lean.Maserati’s have value. That doesn’t mean a startup should buy one.

        1. fstrnet

          Compare a good name perhaps to the cost of a proper multi-channel marketing campaign. TV, Print, Online, etc… it’s a non-trivial cost that is blown once it was spent.Now if you put a share of that marketing money into a domain name, and then send all that marketing money into the domain name that you own, the name will hold most of the value that you spent for it and may appreciate in value because of the marketing that has been spent on it.If the startup fails, that domain name is an asset that can be sold off at the end of the process. A name that has backlinks, traffic, SEO, “mind space” etc… it has value.Maybe we’ll be stuck disagreeing forever on this one – but there are a lot of people who believe in domain names, a lot of people that earn an income by holding domain names.We’re clearly not going to agree that it’s a good purchase for a startup, but there are worse things you can spend the money on. Domain names don’t depreciate the way a Maserati does. Once you own it, it’s about $7 a year to keep it. The more marketing money you spend on marketing the name into people’s heads the more that name is worth.

        2. DomainNameNews

          If you sell Maserati’s or if you are a luxury goods dealer maybe you should 🙂

        3. TG

          “Branding is a function of mature organizations.”Not true. Especially in the world of startups where that’s essentially the first impression before the idea itself. I check domain availability prior to most anything else. In the eye of an entrepreneur you never know. For reference, a friend of mine had a brand brewing 10 years ago yet didn’t register now the .COM it’s near impossible to buy.I buy domains daily. I have new ideas daily. I come up with brand names daily. Fitting indeed. At $10 +/- per year, that’s on par to a movie. Try telling me to watch Social Network in a theatre instead of waiting, streaming it and working on my next great idea.

          1. taylor

            Worth mentioning, I was emailed by a guy who pleaded for a domain I own. His idea was captivating enough so I SUGGESTED equity and nothing else. He balked. It’s interesting to read now for you to say THEY should be offering. And this was after a NO to the price of $4XX.

  13. Sebastian Wain

    Just my little experience:I always decided the name of a company after finding a good domain name but always found a domain name within a “GoDaddy price” instead of going expensive ( > $ 20 !)It’s also a good practice to search for domains when you have a new idea even if you don’t know exactly how will you use it. I prefer to do some creative thinking myself instead of using a domain name generator, or use the domain name generator to put some combinations on your brain.Recently with fewer names available I found names such as and with the lower GoDaddy price.I don’t know if it’s useful for somebody in the AVC community, but is available (No API).

  14. ShanaC

    I think we’re missing one thing- Sonority (or how good the sound of the word is)EG: Gutturals can sound harsh to the ear, and can create a harsh impression

    1. andyswan

      Great point Shana….big one off Fred’s list is how it sounds.I call it the radio test.If Rush mentioned your domain on the air, would people A) know how to type it in/spell it and B) remember it?Proflowers…. checkCarbonite….. checkLifelock….…. nahGive your domain name the radio test.p.s. You can also give your business the radio test…. could Rush make a compelling case for your product in 30 seconds that makes the phone ring? Can YOU?

      1. Charlie Crystle

        I liked because 1) I wanted something like Sacagawea, but that was taken and hard to spell.But 9 out of 10 people pronounce it wrong, so, ouch.My sister–a med student at the time–advised me in 1995 when I was registering a domain for Versicom. I wanted, and she says “do you want to be found or do you want to be cute? it was.Funny thing is, Versi would be a decent domain these days…

        1. ShanaC

          I actually checked what versi is now (it’s a salon)

        2. andyswan

          Ya I’ve tried to “say” Jawaya in my head a few times to no avail…..I dolike the way it LOOKs though. You can always turn that on its head andmake fun of the name in your marketing….as our fine city does:

        3. Dave W Baldwin

          It is amazing. What’s funny is saying out loud, “Versicomcom” is just as cute, especially since everyone knows “Tomtom”. Hmmmmm.

        4. matthughes

          I live on ‘Sacagawea Lane’ and I can attest that virtually no one knows how to spell it.

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        Good point. The ‘’ would be better as ‘delish’… it isn’t the same as Proflowers, yet easier to remember, just strengthened once seen.

        1. Jacob Hartog

 is a Hearst property. A good example of a great name with a weak product!

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            No prob… better product should use ‘Deelish’ if it isn’t taken. Then you can go with “Are you (or get) listed on the Deelish?” “Find it on the Deelish” “Get Deelished” which transforms over to “Deelish List”….blah blah.Thanks for correcting me.

      3. ShanaC

        That’s a good basic check- but remember not all businesss are so consumer facing that they need an amazing name.Eg, I know facutally that there is a Hedge Fund out there named Debrose. It is a super conservative name for a super conservative industry…Important: sound like what they are looking for

        1. andyswan

          Agree 100%.

      4. jarid

        In addition to the radio test, there’s also the keyboard test. i.e. It needs to be easy to type too, which wasn’t.Along similar lines, once you buy the domain, you probably want to acquire similar typo-domains too, assuming they’re available for a much cheaper amount. Otherwise, you’ll lose traffic to parked AdSense pages, and/or spend time going after them with cease-and-desists.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      We need to find a way to monetize that brain of yours.

  15. Brad

    I think is pretty descriptive and tells people exactly who you are, what you do and why you should read your blog every morning.Depending on your budget and what you are trying to accomplish you need to have it be descriptive. However, the biggest brands on the internet are gibberish words, google, yahoo, zynga (did not know it was a dog name till this morning), etc. Foursquare to me is the name of the game I played as a kid, depending on where you are…..great descriptive domain.However some names that I read I can not figure out what they are and then I can not remember them when I need to go back. It is certainly a balancing act.

    1. fredwilson

      this blog was for many years. i ended up shelling out $60k for a few years back. i’m happy with that number for a three letter domain. this blog is worth way more than that to me. in fact, it is invaluable.

      1. Brad

        I will tell you that I have been reading your blogs for the past 2 months and it has been fantastic. Thanks for your efforts as I know it is not an easy thing to do. I found you by happenstance and I have been grateful ever since.On a side note I would love to know your thoughts on the Mashable article that came out yesterday…I found it fascinating as it is a position that I have been taking since trying to use social media for two non-tech brands I have been building. Lots of likes and follows but it rarely turns in to sales. The comments below the article are harsh on the report, but I wonder how many techies have tried to use tech to build not tech start-up brands?

        1. fredwilson

          Etsy gets quite a bit of purchase activity from facebook and twitter

  16. Treyfisher

    Great Post. Going through this process and have been shocked by prices. Fred, in other news, I read the Strokes are already back in the studio working on new material. Apparently, they are not happy with Angels and want to put another album out quickly(source was Pitchfork).

    1. fredwilson

      i like angels

      1. Treyfisher

        I like it also. Has a bit of old and new. @pkedrosky tweeted the other day that in 2006, went for 240k at auction.

  17. Elliot Silver

    Fred,When working with startups, do you have a preference of descriptive domain names like (my directory of dog walkers) or something more brandable?

    1. Tim Ogilvie

      The big challenge with descriptive names is that it’s much harder to get strong trademark protection.If your directory starts exploding, you will see competitors launching as,, etc. Better to be etsy or foursquare, where it’s harder to get the initial traction but the trademark protection is rock solid.As a caveat – I am not a trademark lawyer, but have paid them lots of fees to learn this lesson.

      1. Elliot Silver

        That’s true to a degree, but as it’s exploding, it will likely get lots of publicity and inbound links, helping to secure its SERP rankings.

        1. Andrew Jones

          I agree – take a look at BestBuy: not so great for copyright, but people search for “buy best digital camera” and the like all the time. That kind of relevance helps tremendously with SEO and SEM.What I struggle with is weighing various domain name characteristics.. short vs. memorable vs. easy to spell, etc. Ideally it’s all of the above. Many people say it should be 6 or fewer characters. Foursquare isn’t that short at 10 characters. Facebook is 8. I think of Twitter as short, and it’s 7.Longer does, in some cases, have the potential to be more memorable than short. How many syllables it is probably plays a part, too.I don’t see any simple formula…

  18. Jason Goldberg

    I’m a big believer in the following:If you’re building a product, it doesn’t matter in the beginning what your name is. If the product is good it can be called purple frog and people will use it.But, if you’re trying to scale a brand, the name matters a lot.Hence, we started as fabulis, and then when we had the opportunity to grow our company under the name, we jumped at it. It helped that was a shortened version of fabulis.

    1. awaldstein

      Yes and…maybe JasonYes cause your right, value is what people latch on to.Maybe because you need to sell/show/share that value and it is easier to do so if it’s wrapped in brand that is tied to the name. It’s work to build those first 1000 customers. Clarity of expression makes connections easier.But, yes, focus on the value and the product but I don’t think that the name is a little thing. We’ve all switched names and rebuilt brands. It’s work and nervous work at that to do it.BTW… concept is intriguing.

    2. DomainNameNews

      Great name Jason ! I’m dying to know what you paid. There’s a domain company that sure would have liked that one ( believe you are somewhat right Jason. You can start on any old domain, just like you can start a business in your garage, but I’m betting one day you’ll want to move out of the garage. A domain also opens some doors that you might otherwise have never had open up for you. Opening doors is a good bonus for entrepreneurs.Foursquare , Facebook, Chomp, Mint are all examples of people who graduated to a better name. I wonder if they would have paid less to make a deal before they became well known/successful .

  19. Barry Nolan

    To complicate life further, it’s important to unify the brand family of domain, URL shorteners, twitter alias, facebook ID. Pretty important in your modest dreams of global domination. Don’t know if there is a service that unifies this quest.

    1. fredwilson


  20. Guest

    Wow, I guess I have to go check my music collection and try to find some Police because ‘synchronicity’ is now being experienced.I just came to your blog to check the daily topic after leaving one of my goDaddy accounts [ OK, have at me hardcore techies – yes, I do use Go Daddy 🙂 ]I have been trying very hard lately to decide what to do with a couple of domain names I own. In fact, have been meeting with some people this week on this issue. Very timely post for me personally.

  21. Wai Mun

    How short should a domain should be? 6 or less characters?

    1. fstrnet

      There are a lot of theories and a lot of them will be contradictory and there’s no rules. Anything can be overcome by throwing a bit more marketing money at it.But for general rules of thumb, look to Cognitive Psychology with discrete short term memory…Which says that people can remember 7 plus or minus two. Which aiming for the lowest common denominator says the magic number is 5 or less. That can probably be letters or words… but keep the reading level as low or possible.

      1. Chris Bosco

        I think that 7+/-2 chunking is only going to apply (if at all) to a domain name that doesn’t make a sensible word.If your domain name is 10 characters but is an easy to remember word your brain isn’t going to store it as the 10 characters

        1. fstrnet

          That’s true too.

      1. Me

        he should write an article on Mahalo about that. At least one page on that site wouldn’t be spam.

  22. Peru

    i checked out Wordcraft by Alex Frankel before deciding on a domain, a good read. i still ended up begging my friend to give me one of her domains.

  23. mike gilfillan

    Sites I’ve found useful for searching and buying a domain:www.sedo.comwww.buydomains.comwww.oversee.netwww.domainmarket.comwww.domainbrokers.comwww.hugedomains.comwww.directnic.comwww.domaindealer.comwww.afternic.comwww.acquirethisname.comwww.nxdom.comwww.maxdomains.comSome of these show up quickly on Google, others have taken some digging to find. The first three are my favorite. Some own the domain outright and some are just brokers – depends on the specific domain. Some will haggle, others won’t. I’m sure there are more if anyone wants to add to the list…

    1. fstrnet

      Thanks Mike! There are some I’ve never seen in there. For those interested in finding a broker who actually goes out and aquires high value names there’s places likewww.DomainAdvisors.comThey’re like “real estate agents” who actually contact owners of domains directly and negotiate a sale. Sometimes brokers are able to aquire names that you wouldn’t actually think were for sale.Jeff Gabriel, the guy who brokered the $13 Million dollar sale of “” is the President of that company so he’s actually really experienced in dealing with the aquisition of those sorts of high profile domains. (Has direct connections to the big domain owners, stuff like that).Tessa Holcomb & Gregg McNair are on the board of directors, so that’s a lot of experience at the table. (You’ll have to google the names, but in terms of domain owning industry, they’re actual big-shots 🙂

  24. Ciaran

    All very good points here, but one that you don’t mention is SEO. It should never be the only thing, or even the driving force behind choosing a name, but there can be no doubt that sites like or, as well as getting incredibly easy names, also got a boost in the rankings by having common-sense names that actually include the products they provide.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m not in love with picking a name because of SEO valuei think that’s kind of like making a business decision based on taxes

      1. Ciaran Norris

        I’m not saying make it the primary reason, but at least considering it is simply making a business decision for business reasons

  25. Clay Schossow

    “You do it because you figure that in three years, you’ll be selling 10s of millions of dollars of boats and your business will be worth 10s of millions and $100k will be easy to raise for not a lot of dilution. And if you don’t sell any boats online then you don’t need the domain and it didn’t cost you much.”…or you could just use your profits rather than raising money, haha.

  26. Clay Schossow

    Also, Groupon paid $250k for their domain from a guy with a similar idea in the UK. Here’s a link to the discussion about it:

  27. LIAD

    I’ve bought and sold a few ‘premium’ domains over the years. I’ve always found it a thankless task.Feeling ripped off whatever you pay for one and feeling you sold yourself short whenever you sell one.Cloak and dagger email accounts to hide real identities, escrow accounts to hold the money – real pain in the ass.But, like land, you can’t make more of it. Once they’re gone they’re gone. Dot coms will only increase in value.

  28. LIAD

    I’ve bought and sold a few ‘premium’ domains over the years. I’ve always found it a thankless task.Feeling ripped off whatever you pay for one and feeling you sold yourself short whenever you sell one.Cloak and dagger email accounts to hide real identities, escrow accounts to hold the money – real pain in the ass.But, like land, you can’t make more of it. Once they’re gone they’re gone. Dot coms will only increase in value.

  29. json

    OpenDomain lets Open Source Groups use domains for FREE! We have contributed Drupal.Com, Ecmascript.Org, OpenAjax.Org, OsCon.Com, FosDem.Org and many others. We are looking for anyone interested in using NoSQL.Com and NoSQL.Org – Please contact me @JSON

  30. Jerome Camblain

    Don’t forget that you can include numbers in the name to widen the possible combination. I just bought for 10$ for fun. There are a lot of cheap combos letters+numbers out there for cheap

  31. kidmercury

    IMHO domain names will fall in value, or go along a very different trajectory, once ICANN and the model of a single internet fall. i believe this will happen in our lifetimes.

    1. Guillaume

      Interesting. How do think the current model of a single internet will fall?

  32. Mockup Tiger

    check this how I came up with my product and domain name…

  33. Guest

    There are domains that make 50K/month off PPC/lead-gen. Stick with VC Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      stick with being a google bitch guest

      1. jodysherman

        This is my favorite part of this post. Thank you for that!

        1. Guest

          Jody, I really liked this part too; I liked the comment/post that prompted it too. I had a weird feeling it might prompt a reply.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        I recently pointed out in another post that you could actually be quite poetic. Ha!

        1. Guest

          No need to encourage this cowardly behavior. It shows nothing but a coward throwing words without a clue what he’s talking about.

      3. Rossoa

        “what is wrong with your inability to be civil in your comments?”

        1. fredwilson

          I didn’t start it. I am hell bent to call out rudeness here. We are civil toeach other at AVC. Those that aren’t get what they deserve

          1. Guest

            Are you for real? You call this rudeness when someone points out you have no idea what you’re talking about?

          2. fredwilson

            there is a nice way to do that and rude way to do thatwe are nice to each other here

          3. Guest

            Moving on Fred.

          4. Rayhan Rafiq Omar

            The guest was rude, for sure.The only thing that matters to anyone reading this blog is your credibility, Fred. I cannot speak for everyone, but I would like to think that all those that frequent your blog have an amazing amount of respect for you and your opinion.There is no need to respond to someone slinging mud, especially with something as cutting as ‘bitch’.Thank you for the time you give to all of us. Much appreciated.

          5. Guest

            Calling someone a “bitch” when they point out your obvious incompetence, that’s lower than rudeness, that reflects on who you are, a man of small mind. Calling spade a spade is not rude, it’s real. Don’t mistake credibility with “credibility at everything”. There are plenty of experts in one area that are clueless at another. Fred could be a great case study for that.

          6. fredwilson

            i did not call you a bitchi used the term “google bitch” which i have used on this blog recently andthe regulars certainly know what i mean by it

          7. fredwilson

            i don’t delete comments that take shots at me personally and never havei go back and forth about replying to themthe conventional wisdom is to ignore trollsbut i believe that working to keep this comment discussion respectful isbetter

        2. Guest

          The sad part is this is a reflection of the person, and not just one post.

    2. stevebabaphd

      “There are domains that make 50K/month off PPC/lead-gen.”Care to name any?While there are developed websites that make over $50K a month, the ones listed at:…seem to have free or nearly free domain names such as:PlentyOfFish (claimed $300K/month)Digg (claimed $250K/month)FreeWebLayouts.NET (claimed $100K/month)Steve Baba

  34. paramendra

    The Zynga name story: mind blowing.

  35. Jared Cosulich

    Fred, I’d be curious to hear what you or other people think of the .me domains. I’ve recently developed a fondness for them for certain products (usually something that feels personalized or focuses on the individual in some way). They also have a nice ring to them and are generally far more available.

    1. fredwilson

      dont’t love thembut is a good use of .me

  36. Johnny

    There are only a couple of hundred real top-tier brands that meet all the following criterias – very common word, really short (5 letters or less, preferably 3-4), .com, impossible to misspell, impossible not to remember, sounds really cool, inspires trust.A few years ago you could buy one for low 6-fig; sold for $150K a few years back for example. Prices today are up to mid 6-fig, low 7-fig. just sold for $330K, just sold for $1M.I think prices can still go way higher as inventory keeps shrinking to near-zero and demand keeps increasing. One $ million is $100K/year over 15 years, still very affordable to any company doing any kind of meaningful marketing and advertising. If you are going to spend $ hundreds of thousands a year on marketing/advertising, it is pretty silly not to take a percentage of this budget and spend it on a really spectacular brand like or

    1. Charlie Crystle

      as will be the case with oil and gas in the next 5 years as the Chinese and Indian middle classes start getting cheap cars.

  37. David Haber

    How much does domain name play into SEO? I recently watched Matt Coffin on TWiVC talk about LowerMyBills and I couldn’t help but think that the domain played a huge role in user acquisition.I love my domain name – but it gets trumped by the vast number of Supply and Demand articles on Google. I imagine having a unique name and injecting your brand into it might make it easier to find.Thoughts?

    1. LE

      Yes it play into SEO. Also the age of a domain plays into SEO as well. Buying a domain name that was registered many years ago and used (or not used) for any purpose is, in general all else equal, better than any domain you register today.We have domains that were registered many years ago that are only pointing to UC sites that are slurped by google etc. a regular basis just because of their age. So any content that goes up on the site will in general get indexed quicker.There are also some who believe that a domain name that expires further in the future is better then one that expires in, say, a year. I tend to agree with that. If you look at the number domains that are registered everyday it would make sense that an algorithm would give priority to a domain registered far into the future.Lastly the ration of actually “used” names vs. “unused” names at a given registrar should matter in any algorithm. If a registrar has a higher portion of their registrants actually using their domains vs. only parking names then it would follow that the customers of that registrar should be given search priority (and I’m not saying how much but that this is a factor).

    2. LE

      I want to add to the SEO thought that this is a really bad idea, privacy protection: Domain Discreet ATTN: Rua Dr. Brito Camara, n 20, 1 Funchal, Madeira 9000-039 PT Phone: 1-902-7495331 Email: [email protected] has privacy protection as do many domains. There is no reason to have privacy on this domain (Fred – just use your work address) the SEO will be lower and the chance of domain getting stolen higher.I think you’d be surprised how many operating businesses have been sold privacy protection on their domain. While privacy might be needed if you have a gripe site etc. there is no reason why any operating business should have privacy on their domain.While many people know who Fred is, imagine a new journalist for example or business person (out of the industry) checking whois and thinking Avc is located in Portugal or just being confused.Privacy is FUDed by registrars (we don’t offer it btw) because it’s a way to make extra money on the domain you sold below cost …

      1. fredwilson

        i need to fix thatnot sure why it is like that

    3. Eric Friedman

      Domain names place an initial role in your SERPS (search engine results pages) but ultimately its up to the content contained within the site.The domain is one part of the signal that gets used to parse where a domain should resolve in the SERP and how it would initially impact the SEM listings.For example, many people have their name as their domain, yet rank for thinks that they write about either by category or topic.Having a name that means nothing, actually makes it mean everything. Etsy is obviously the best example of this because they can contour what gets results and what doesn’t.I think of a domain name as having an impact at first, but the long term content of the page is what determines the rankings.Engines look at things like; (in no particular order)Age of the domainKeywords contained within the TLDcontent on the siteFreshness and uniqueness of the contentinbound links from other sources (think original google thesis backrub)Social links from realtime sources such as twitter, fb, other enginesactivity on pagesload time of a pagetime spent on a page if an SEM ad leads someone there…and many more that make up googles black box of ranking.Ultimately this shows that even a esoteric domain name can eventually build up the equity or “juice” to rank for certain things.The lazy web shows us that things like “lowermybills” gets a ton of type in traffic at first, but ultimately will be determined by the “best” result based on the factors listed above.

  38. maxniederhofer

    Qwerly! 🙂

  39. MartinEdic

    Dot com first. Without dot com you will lose virtually all traffic from ‘normals’, i.e. people who don’t read these kinds of blogs. And you should be buying common misspellings to redirect. Domains are not an expense, they are an investment in IP and, as such, major assets. We were fortunate to get and the .net, .org,, etc. Since we’re building a brand as opposed to new technology, this was critical to our business.BTW, we paid $20 for our domain- there are still some good ones out there. In a previous incarnation, my business partner and I bought a lot of domains. I suppose, in light of Fred’s great post, I should get rid of them!

    1. Guest

      Martin, interesting business. I started writing short, non-fiction books about nine months ago under the R.O.C.K. Star Business Method™ brand name (well, I hope it will become a brand). My thinking was/is identical. Time to read is very precious, especially for the small business owner. My books tend to primarily focus on ‘old economy’ type of owners & entrepreneurs. My first two books have more of a financial analysis slant, which is obvious given my background. Two more should be out very soon, although I have finally started to make some progress on a fictional work that I have really wanted to complete. It is comforting to know others see the need for shorter non-fictional works that add dollar value in a condensed form. Good luck – to all of us involved in this area. ~ Geoffrey

  40. Statspotting

    So this is what happens – if you think of a name and then see that its not available, you goto the extent of paying xxxxx for the name since you are already convinced that thats THE name.Whereas when you start your search you limit urself to available names you will be fine.I had some offers for the domain for 15K. Since I had multiple offers at the same time I wasnt too sure of the price and decided to hold on to the domain. Strangely both the offers offered exactly what you have mentioned in the post: we’ll pay you 10k now, and we will pay the rest next year or give back the domain – structuring it like a call option that they could buy.

  41. jonathanjaeger

    I cringe when I hear a domain with a dash (or don’t hear.. when they fail to mention it at first). I’m curious to know whether .ly and other trendy extensions will die out over time and other ones will come in for the next wave of startups.Jason Calacanis often judges people on their ability to get a good domain name — that is, if they’re serious entrepreneurs they’ll manage to find a way to get a good one. While I don’t agree 100%, if your domain is HORRIBLE right off the bat then I would question some other things about your business too.

    1. fredwilson

      do you think is a good domain?i’ve argued that very point with jason since the day he told me the name

  42. rsgopi

    My understanding is descriptive keyword domains (like or work well for services which people use maybe once or twice a year. For this people usually search or just type the keyword + .com…But for services with engaged users, short brand names (google/ebay) are the best!.

  43. Vinay Singh

    Fred , the domains name with a – in between. If they make sense with business should one go for it is absolute no.

  44. gorbachev

    I recently got contacted by GoDaddy’s Domain Buy Service on behalf an (anonymous) client of theirs wanting to buy one of the domains I own. It’s a four-letter domain name. I was actually surprised to find it available when I registered it.They offered $300 on behalf of the client. I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. I told them no deal unless they tell me who the client is.There’s quite a bit of difference on the value of a domain name depending on who the buyer is. Mark Pincus isn’t gonna get my domain for $300. Things and Stuff LLC. from Sometown, America might. I don’t understand how GoDaddy thinks anyone would sell domains for their anonymous clients. Must be a lot of suckers out there given that they’ve managed to keep this service open for years now.

    1. Sergio

      I agree the Godaddy service is sketchy…they contacted me with an offer for one of my domains.First offer $3500, second offer $50,000. I think there is something their holding back on??? The real amount offered!!

      1. Gabriel Gunderson

        Everything godaddy is sketchy.

  45. vrikhter

    If you’re pre-funding and have a good idea for a domain which is taken, do you advocate focusing on getting a ‘play’, square’up’.com or ‘get’ Another words get a great name and then add one word to it?

    1. Jackson Miller

      I had, but then when I secured funding I was able to buy for a few thousand.People struggled with the “get” part and assumed I had I was also worried that a competitor would buy the name or that the price would go up, so I bought it as soon as I could. Personally I think it is a great name, but I am biased 🙂

  46. John

    I’d love to buy the ideal domain for my service but it would cost upwards of a zillion dollars…this is really unrealistic given our bootstrapping mindset (even rent-to-own is out of reach for now). I’m afraid that as we start to gain some momentum, the owner of the domain will jack up the price because he sees the success we’re having.Any thoughts on strategies to avoid this problem?

    1. fredwilson

      this is a huge problem. i advise companies to secure the domain they want early for this exact reason

  47. sbmiller5

    I previously agreed with Fred on this point, but how many people still directly type a URL? If you build a brand name, does it even matter if your domain is the same? Andreessen Horowitz (I know, not a consumer facing brand) domain is – does that change the number of people who are able to find or remember Andreessen Horowitz? I say no, type it into your search bar, or URL, which now can act as a search bar, and you easily find what you’re looking for.I think the company’s name needs to be memorable, the URL should just be short.

    1. Gabriel Gunderson

      a16z is a play on i18n that his target market gets and it actually helps them remember his domain name. It worked on me.i18n = internationalization (where 18 stands for the number of letters between the first i and last n in internationalization)a16z = andreessenhorowitzSo, yeah, the dude has a long name.Andreessen: If you’re out there… I get you. Let’s do a deal. Fred, you *know* I’ll let you in on the action 🙂

    2. Opoeian

      I agree. Apart from the more tech minded, people these days don’t use the URL to get to a website. There are so many different types of extensions now so we simply ‘search’ the name by itself to find it. In this context, it seems the search ranking through popularity/activity of the site may have more value than whatever domain extension the name has.

  48. mstearne

    I like the idea of offering equity. That might be a good way to establish a relationship with a domain owner that likely has several other good domains. If this idea doesn’t work or needs to pivot there might be another name in the owner’s cache.

  49. Art Agrawal

    What do you think of .me domains? Let’s say you were building a company around pets and you could get for a lot less than, would you go for it? Do you think people outside of valley will see .me as strange or even be worried about clicking the link because it could be a spam?

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      All of this gets into marketing…and remember the span of attention is a flash of a second. You’d be better of with ‘’ utilizing the appropriate logo. Use the right font and it will be something that the potential customer doesn’t have to think about, it all fits as one jpg on the neuron/synapse quite nicely.

      1. Art Agrawal

        Thanks, Dave!

      2. awaldstein

        Yes, but type face and logo….I don’t know for most early stage companies. Important of course; critical not really.I share maybe 85+% of links about companies, articles without ever typing them.I would bet that most of the sites I know, I don’t even think how to spell them. Name of course..but most just get linked or referred or bookmarked or whatever.Some that we see all the time we remember, but most are just a sound imbued with meaning that becomes its own mental brand image.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Thanks Arnold Sent an email your way that mentions name If your NE & logo form an idea, you’re better off. Just an opinion.

          1. awaldstein

            Not certain I understand Dave. Certainly didn’t mean to offend.But there’s no right answer here.I’m a fervent believer in the intersection of form and function and design language. And a sweater of details for certain.But the behavior I observe the most is my own and while I respond to great design and typography, many of my work hours are spent exchanging information with embedded links.I’ll look for your email to understand further.

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            Nothing negative at all. In the case of petme, just a positive look that buillds an image. That way he doesn’t have to worry about .me

          3. Dave W Baldwin

            By the way forgive misspellings due to ignorant phone. 😉

  50. Sukh Dugal

    Its always great to go out there and think of names that are unique and good to hear.Personally, I think Flipick ( is better sounding than Flipboard ( We paid $10 for it in 2009. Same with, but when that same customer wanted, they paid a premium for it.It could take weeks to come up with a name, sometimes. I think its worth it. Also, friends love picking options.

  51. Tyler Gore is a startup in open beta that is trying to streamline the process of rent-to-own for good domain names. If they get the backend legal part right, it could be a great option.

  52. kenberger

    In selecting the URL early on, a key issue is spelling, because it regulates some friction on how easily viral the app can be. You want people using your app to say to their friend, “go to”, not having to spell it. Twittr became twitter early for this reason.The name “Zynga” has that defect because you have to say instead to your friends “ with a ‘y'”, or actually spell it. It also means you probably need to try to buy zinga.comRetrospect is 20/20 and Zynga prevailed in creating a huge brand despite this, same time when tried to build a business around a golden URL and didn’t do so well.We could extend to an interesting conversation about also buying related URL’s (foursquare, 4square, 4sq, 4.sq, etc etc)

    1. fredwilson

      see my correction at the end of the post for more on zinga and zynga

      1. kenberger

        I actually knew that fact, met the actual dog (and Mark) years ago.Mark certainly knew of the defect I’m talking about. New biz creators that I talk to often don’t think about it until they experience how it gets in the way.

    2. Dale Allyn

      I was going to touch on this part of the topic as well, Ken. Been too busy to post today, so the AVC window has just been sitting open. ;)Our startup project has what we feel is a very good name for our application (and the feedback has been great). It’s short enough (8 letters), yet descriptive, pleasant, fun, etc. But we also secured all of the .net, .org, .tv, .info, etc. TLDs, as well as a number of the possible miss-spellings. When our application grows globally (we’re currently stealth), we don’t want others to capitalize on our brand and exploit our visitors’ typos (sending them to spam or porn sites). All variants will refer to our site, of course. If a name choice allows, these are simple and important business moves in my opinion.Entertaining and useful discussion.

  53. Kevin Ohashi

    I posted a giant list of brandable names couple weeks ago if anyone is searching, should still be available stuff. Newer and bigger ones to follow soon :)…

  54. JMoyal

    Fred, great post. There has to be something that can be done about the rising prices of domain names. It’s like real estate in NYC, just keeps going up.I think the IANA should stop domain hoarding (when holding companies just buy up all the domains in hopes of selling them later). It kills the rest of us

  55. John Furrier was generated by my 13yr old son…

  56. matthughes

    Zappos is another good example for a consumer brand…Legend has it that the original name was going to be ‘Zapps’ – short for the Spanish word for shoes, ‘zapatos’.Tony Hsieh saw the name and suggested adding the ‘o’ to end to make it catchier – something about a study done that showed that two syllable words were more memorable.

  57. Naim Andy Hilal

    I thought Etsy actually did mean something. It’s the way you pronounce the abbreviation “etc,” at least for Linux/Unix people that is the way I have always heard it pronounced. My understanding of its meaning on Etsy has to do with their “long tail” inventory of stuff you can’t find in stores, unique items, that kind of thing. There are mass produced items everyone knows about, and then there’s the wild and crazy and colorful world of “et cetera” items.The point here is still perfectly valid but perhaps a more classic example is “Kodak.” George Eastman pulled that word out of his ass and said he wanted something that carried no preconceived associations and would be subject to no copyright claims.

  58. deancollins

    +1,000 on this article.I cant stand all of these vowel dropping names or startups.I spent 3 days non stop trying to come up with a naming system for the 50 or so domains that needed to launch. Literally typing in different combinations for 20-30 hours only to get frustrated when various domains werent available.We ended up with and apart from the 5 or 6 i had to purchase now have a naming system that works for every domain we are interested in (have about 50 or so).eg http://www.LiveBaseballChathttp://www.LiveFootballChathttp://www.LiveNascarChat.comhttp://www.LiveHockeyChat.comhttp://www.LiveBasketballCh… etc etc.My test for good a good domain is if you can say it over the phone to 10 different people and they dont ask how to spell it and remember it at the end of the call then you’re golden.Cheers,Dean

  59. Mark

    Interesting zynga story. Personally, I don’t think there are many instances where you need to pay for a domain name, there are too many good ones out there. I picked up recently. Lots of two-syllable easy to spell domains left. More than I think a lot of people imagine. Maybe I am just good at finding them.

  60. M W

    Domain name branding is one of the most important aspects of an internet startup. Always go with a quality .COM, which every internet user is familiar with, even if you have to shell out some money. Stay away from that “.me”, “.ly” vanity domain nonsense, which most internet users don’t know (unless you are in the small % of the general population that read tech and VC blogs). Branding is huge.

  61. Frank Denbow

    Marco Zappacosta from ThumbTack describes how they got their domain on This Week in Startups (Episode 68, 27 minutes in). They financed it through Moniker (there is some escrow service for domains) and used it to mitigate their risk (instead of paying the full $30k+ up front, finance and pay a lower amount to control the domain for a specific period of time).

    1. Marco Zappacosta

      Whoops — didn’t see your comment, Frank! Thanks for mentioning this.

      1. Frank Denbow

        Its the first thing I thought of when I saw this post. Great story. Wish you guys more success!

  62. Marco Zappacosta

    Something which I haven’t seen brought up is that you can finance domain purchases. When we purchased, we paid 33% up front and the rest was financed at 8% over 1 year. This enabled us to take a gamble on the name we loved without spending too much money upfront.We used Moniker’s escrow service to mediate the transaction:

    1. fredwilson

      that’s good infothanks

  63. aprilini

    Fred,What about the use of domain name search engines like or They are good ways to finding domain hacks for short term work-arounds or clever long-term URLs. (Disclosure, my fiance is one of the guys that built Domainr)

  64. Aaron

    How much should Jack Dorsey pay for Square (.com)? 🙂

  65. Alan B

    Wasn’t there an issue with .ly during the Libyan uprising that almost shut down any .ly domains? I’m not a fan to begin with, but you might want to stick to stable countries if you go that route.Fred – on a separate note, any way you can make links on your blog open up as separate tabs? there’s a ton of great resources that people are linking to, really hard to navigate between those and following the comment stream.

    1. Guest

      Agree”Fred – on a separate note, any way you can make links on your blog open up as separate tabs? there’s a ton of great resources that people are linking to, really hard to navigate between those and following the comment stream.”Agree

    2. fredwilson

      a lot of people feel the other wayit’s a personal issue i think

  66. Zentoh

    the story behind how Zynga came to become what it’s called is quite amusing. own your dog’s name in a .com? Maybe now I should! :)) nice post.

  67. Eric Case

    This is really helpful food for thought, Fred.Some background on what April mentioned — the original reason we built Domainr was to help us brainstorm names (and domains) for product ideas we were batting around a few years ago. Settling on a working product name (and home on the web) can be a catalyzing event for a team eager to make progress on their ideas.Funnily enough, Domainr actually named itself once we built its first prototype. :)Cheers,-Eric

    1. Gabriel Gunderson

      I’ve spent many hours on domainr 🙂 Thanks!

  68. David Shellabarger

    I have lots of questions about domains. I’ll list them separately.Should I pay for anything that is not .com? I’m thinking about buying a really great .co for around $1000.Is .co worth anything?

    1. DomainNameNews

      what’s on the .com ?

      1. David Shellabarger

        Nothing. Its a spam page.I would try to buy/rent it when I have more cash.

  69. David Shellabarger

    Should I be concerned with short domains too? They seem to be all the rage these days.

  70. David Shellabarger

    If I offer equity in the company for a great domain, how much should I offer?And doesn’t offering equity negate the benefit of going through a 3rd party?Renting a domain is a very interesting idea. I hadn’t heard of that before.

    1. fredwilson

      set the value in cash, not a percent of the companyand then push up the valuation of your company as high as you can credibly argue

  71. guyAtHockeyBiasDotCom

    Anybody interested in and …I’ve heard that both news and videos will be a hit on the interwebs someday! 🙂

  72. DomainNameNews

    Great post Fred.I’ve helped a lot of entrepreneurs looking to find good domains and brainstorming. I’ve noticed a rise in prices with a reduction in available inventory. I’ve also seen more domain owners interested in the equity as payment angle.Remember back in the dot com boom when property/real estate owners were taking equity as payment for their office spaces ?There was another recent article on the topic of getting a good domain over at

  73. rfradin

    Fred -I have two suggestions to add to your list…1 – If you are a B2B company it is INSANE to spend $50k for a domain name. Names CAN matter a lot for consumer companies but they rarely matter at all for B2B companies where you are mostly going to be sales driven. is a great example of a B2B company with a great domain but most killer B2B companies don’t need this.2 – Whatever you do, DO NOT use an English word that you misspell. That’s a terrible, terrible idea. You can use a real word – / / / or you can use a made up word – Google / Zynga / Yelp, but DO NOT be cute. Remember, it is hard enough to get consumers to notice you and like you, much harder to get them to remember you have a funky spelled name.By the way, suggest #2 also applies to names for children.

    1. LE

      “If you are a B2B company it is INSANE to spend $50k …” Not correct it depends on the company and the situation obviously.As only one example, having a short acronym for your B2B company gives prestige which can aid in closing deals and being taken more seriously. Does it work with everyone? Of course not. But it works with more people than it doesn’t and gives you advantages. Here are just two examples (and only using acronyms for that matter) right domain name also is more likely to be repeated by the main stream business press when writing about a company as well.There are also redirects where domains are used like and (owned by CA). I would say that if the owner of was at a tradeshow and had “” as a banner on the booth or on business cards that would be a great advantage and obviously more memorable than using “AVG Group” on the banner.. Or on a t-shirt, golf logo, sponsor etc.

  74. NoodleShare

    I like to stick with the rule of thumb that a domain name should never be more than three syllables. As the article mentions, it helps in keeping it memorable. I also like ones that role off the tongue! A friend of mine recently purchased one and I constantly have a hard time getting the name out.

  75. Guest

    Okay, Kids, Here We Go…”What You Need To Know About Your Next Domain Name”I highly respect what Fred has done, and continues to do, to help entrepreneurs and for that I’d like to “give back” myself… and I’m posting anonymously as I have nothing to gain in anyway by sharing this information…I’m a serial Internet entrepreneur since 1990 (pre-Web). I’ve been involved in hundreds of projects online (have built more than one Top 500 web site) and I’ve been a very active and successful domain name ‘trader’ along the way.I’ve personally owned over 50,000 domains on and off during the past 15+ years. I’ve been involved in some million$+ deals, and have owned some domains that you know of (but I won’t name). I’ve also been involved in 1,000s of smaller deals. So this is a topic I know very well.I’m a statistics/analytics junkie and what I always loved about building businesses online is how quantifiable and trackable everything is — so I have some insights to share on this as well.Why .COM Is What You Need To Focus On.COM is and always will be King. Period. End of story..Com established itself early on as the PREMIUM extension and the entire Internet was developed around it. That is never going to change. All the other extensions (and future ones that will be created) do nothing but cause more confusion. The most powerful companies in the world use .Com and aren’t ever going to just switch to something else. As I said, it’s already established and never going away. Too much has been invested (not only financially) but in the MINDSHARE of Internet users about what .Com represents.Any domain extension will certainly ‘work’ for a Web site, but you are at a major disadvantage by not using a .Com. Even if you have a video startup and try to use a .TV domain, you’re still at a disadvantage…- All non .Com domains send some traffic to the .Com version. My analytics and data over many years proves this. Internet users ‘default’ to .Com names. When trying to remember a site or brand, that’s what people type in first. So if you launch your startup with a .Net, just know that you whoever owns the .Com version of your domain is going to be getting some of your traffic (and hard-earned generated leads). AND not all of the traffic you ‘accidentally’ send to the .Com will still find it’s way to your .Net (or whatever extension you are using).- A solid .Com domain implies CREDIBILITY. This gives any startup an instant advantage vs. another using a non .Com domain.- .Com (as with any domain name) IS A DESTINATION. This is why it’s so important. All Direct Response Marketing revolves around the mechanism of CALL-TO-ACTION. The destination is the call-to-action. Therefore, it’s THE most critical component of setting up a business in our Digital Society.Tips On Finding a Good Domain For Your StartupWe’re 15+ years into the development of the commercial Web. Practically every possible .Com domain name is taken. It’s going to be very hard to just “make up” a domain that isn’t already taken. You can try, but my advice is not to waste too much of your time if you at least have some capital to just go buy a decent domain. (i.e. $1000-$5000) It’s a small price to pay for something you’re going to build your company around.I recommend starting with They have a MASSIVE database of domains for sale. If you’re thinking of using a name with “cloud” in it, for example, you can quickly do an advanced search (for .coms beginning or ending with cloud; your choice) and see all the ones they have for sale. Just looking through their huge list of results will not only give you additional ideas for a name for your Startup, but you very well may see a name that would be perfect for your new company — and you should be able to buy it for a few thousand dollars through that site.Before you pull the trigger on trying to buy the name (and, no, this isn’t legal advice) I highly recommend you take a quick visit to and do a trademark search for the name you’re thinking of. The last thing you want to do is buy a .Com for a lot of money that’s an existing trademark of another company. You should also do a Google search with the name within quotes (exact match) to see what sorts of pages online are using that term and why.Additional Tips… never use hyphens and avoid numbers if possible. Shorter is always better (less typing to reach the destination.) Always make sure to type a possible name into your address bar (without going to it) just to see how it looks and feels. Some words, like with repeating letters, can look a little confusing as a lower case (which domains are used as) word.The Art Of Negotiating A Domain Name PurchaseOkay, pay close attention. Here’s where you finally get the real value out of all the rambling I’ve just done. 😉 I’m about to save you a small fortune and help you have a chance at buying domains you’d never have a chance at. This is based on THOUSANDS of deals and a lot of trial and error…This is the step that 99% of people SCREW UP.I see so much bad advice about how to approach someone to buy their domain… “contact them and say I see you’re not using, I have a little project I’d like to use it for… would you be willing to let it go?” etc. etc. etc. HORRIBLE ADVICE.People that are sitting on domain names don’t keep paying the registration fees every year for fun, even if they aren’t using the name. They know it has value. So don’t insult their intelligence making them think they should do you a favor by letting you have their unused domain.Many Domain Owners Think They’re Sitting On A Lottery TicketMany domain owners think that one day someone is going to come along and give them millions for their .Com no matter what it is. The fact is, domains are only worth what someone is ready to had you a check for. (A tip to all you wannabe speculators.) I’ve seen many GREAT domains never get sold, so always keep that in mind. Anyway, because domain owners have this thinking, they are very reluctant to NAME A PRICE. So forcing them to start by naming a price isn’t something they want to do, because they’re hoping YOU offer some ridiculously high price that they will then counter to go much higher.Because of this, you MUST start out on first contact with an offer (more on this in a second). The approach of “would you be willing to sell If so, how much?” isn’t going to cut it; one of the main reasons is that domain owners of decent domains get TONS of emails all the time asking them that, and when they’ve replied in the past with a price or try to start negotiations so many people are only willing to pay $100 or some insulting price.So what do most domain owners do? IGNORE YOU. That’s right. So if you’ve ever contacted a domain owner after looking them up with a Whois search and they didn’t reply, it’s not because they didn’t your email (which makes you think that follow-up fax or phone call will do the trick; HINT: it won’t.) It’s because they think you’re like everyone else that thinks they can buy the domain for $100 or so.Here’s how you get their attention and get the ball rolling…Rule #1: You must start out by making an offer in your initial email.Rule #2: This offer must be high enough to get their attention and make them at least THINK.NOTE: Rule #2’s amount will depend on how great the domain is.The two magic price points I have found that work the best (they depend on how valuable the domain is) is either $1,000 or $2,500.If it’s a great domain then $5K-$10K is usually the starting point. These amounts are enough to get anyone’s attention. I’ve bought many $100K+ value domains for $15K-$20K by starting with a $5K or $7K offer.By starting with at least something that gets their attention they will take you seriously. This is the first step or you have no chance to make a deal.In most cases for decent 2 words domains, the $1K to $2.5K opener works best.* TIP: Always know your seller if possible. Do a Whois on who owns the domain, visit the domain in their email address or do some Google searches, etc. You’ll often find a struggling Web designer is sitting on a great domain. $1,000 cash to that person is a lot of money. So this also goes into the process of deciding what to open the offer with.The key here is not to insult someone with a lowball offer, but offer enough to make them know you’re a serious buyer.So here’s a sample initial contact email to send… (and I’ll explain the rest of the language I use)…Subject Line: ($2,500?)Hi,I see you are the owner of I’m in the process of trying to find a domain name for a client I am building a web site for and think your name could be a good fit. I am contacting different domain owners as we have it in the budget to buy a cool name and is on the list we came up with.Would you be interested in selling it for $2,500?Let me know and I can have the funds wired to you next day or PayPal’d to you. Just let me know your PayPal address.Thanks for your time.-YOUR NAME————————-Let’s breakdown why I used that language…1. You’ve positioned yourself as not the future ‘owner’ of the domain. You’re just managing a budget for a project. This helps because as they will usually counter with a higher amount, you’ll play the “sorry, I just don’t have it in the budget to go that high” to work towards a price you want. You’ll also be able to play the “let me see if the client can approve a budget increase to accommodate that price” etc. etc. This also allows you to play Good Cop, Bad Cop in a way. You’re just someone trying to get the deal done to do your job (build the site). You’re also presenting yourself as someone LESS EMOTIONALLY INVESTED IN THE NAME — which will potentially keep the price down. (Trust me, it works very well.)2. You mention that you’re contacting several domain owners (i.e. making multiple offers). You’re playing up SCARCITY, one of the most powerful emotions when it comes to sales. For all this person knows they could reply and say “okay, I’ll sell it” but you may come back and say, “sorry someone replied to our email first and now we have a domain.”3. By closing with the “we’ll pay you right away” it makes the offer more REAL. Many of these domain owners get offers that people back out of and have no intention to actually pay. And you’re also ASSUMING THE SALE by saying, “what’s your PayPal address?” :-)Again, all of these things are very, very powerful and I have tweaked this initial contact email over the years.ADDITIONAL TIPSLet’s say you initially offer $2,500 on a great name and the owner counters with, “I couldn’t sell it for that, I’ve had higher offers. I would never sell it for anything less than $10K.”FIrst, you must IGNORE anything they say. You’ll get the “I’ve turned down higher offers” response a lot. In the example response about $10K above, unless you would love to have it for $10K, just reply with something like this… “While I do think your name is possibly worth $10K to someone, we just don’t have the budget for that much, sorry. I could probably get something more like $5K-$7K approved, but even that’s pushing it. Anyway, thanks for your time.”That’s it. Cut them off. Trust me, they’ll come back to you 90% of the time. Sometimes you just have to be a little PATIENT and you’ll save a fortune. Remember to always play up the SCARCITY. “That’s just too much for our budget… looks like we’ll just go with an alternative name that we’ve been negotiating for a lot less, even though we preferred your name. Thanks for your time and at least trying to work something out.” That’s NOT what they want to read from you. ;-)There are THOUSANDS of amazing domain deals out there waiting to happen. I, personally, buy domains all the time this way. In fact, this is probably a good time to negotiate some deals as many people need the cash more than in recent years.FINAL TIP: It’s not uncommon to settle on a final price that is 30% of what their original asking price was. Keep that in mind as a general rule of thumb. I’ve had many deals for great names where someone “really wanted $60,000” and we closed the sale around $20K.Hope this long novel will help some people. Best of luck to everyone.

    1. Johnny

      This is good advice, but only when buying LESS than top-tier brandables –,, or top-tier ecommerce categories –, With real top-tier all these games are worthless and counter-productive. Either you can afford 6/7 figures (or 5/6 figures per year to rent) or you can not. The more games you play, the longer you wait, the higher the price will be. With real top-tier, when you sell, regardless of price, two years from now you look really stupid; if you buy, regardless of price, two years from now you look really smart.

      1. Guest

        Not true. I’ve bought some names that are much better than some of the ones you named and bought them for far less using the exact techniques I wrote in that long post.The rules apply to ALL domains. I’ve purchased many single word category domains. The only thing that changes are the offer amounts and timing.

        1. Johnny

          Sorry to say, but no you did not, not recently anyway. Name them here. And what domains are there better than, and 5-10 more maybe. And you bought them for less than 7 figures through lowballing recently? Don’t make me laugh. Most professional domainers have their heads so deep in their behinds valuing domains based on traffic/PPC and all other domainer nonsense, they do not even understand what a real top-tier brandable and top-tier ecommerce category domain is.

          1. Guest

            I’m not going to get caught up in a pissing match with you. I posted to try and help people and you’re trying to create some sort of debate. I said “better than SOME of the ones you named” I didn’t say And the fact is, there aren’t that many 7-figure domain sales that occur every year. (See for historical sales.) There are great, 1-word generic domains sold all the time for low 6-figures or high 5-figure. Furthermore, your assumptions about professional domainers is incorrect. I should know, I’m friends with most of top domainers on the planet. They know darn well what top-tier ecommerce domains are and what they’re worth. You think guys with $100 Million+ domain portfolios don’t know their own business? Haha. They know exactly what they’re doing. If they are sitting on some of these domains it’s because of opportunity cost of what their overall plans are or waiting to workout a larger equity deal with a potential buyer.

          2. Johnny

            You know very well almost all top-tier domain sales to end-users go unreported. DNJournal reported sales are largely domainers buying from one another at liquidation prices.So what is your advice to a company that sells diapers online that wants to buy domain and the price is $5M or $500K/year lease, non-negotiable. Let’s say the buyer can easily afford $500K/year just out of their marketing budget.Are you going to tell them to lowball since is not “as good” as based on domainer nonsense criterias like searches/traffic/PPC. Or are you going to remove your domainer blinds for once and tell them that since they sell diapers online, is THE best domain for them, and they should buy it if the price fits their budget, even if the price is well above the “domainer price” for this domain.

          3. Guest

            As per your latest comment below re:, apparently you misunderstood (or didn’t completely read) what I had posted. Obviously one should buy a domain at any price they feel it’s worth to their company if they can get it for that. This has nothing to do with PPC/traffic/etc. The value of a domain goes far beyond traffic/PPC revenue and I never stated otherwise.

          4. Johnny

            Re: below.The point I am making is that 999 times out of 1000 real top-tier domains are priced for motivated end-user only. And there are lots of companies out there who could easily afford top-tier domain (particularly at $50K-$300K/year lease) who choose to go through life as Then they blow 6/7 figures per year on marketing/advertising their, then they wonder why their marketing is not going so well.Once a startup is at the point where its marketing/advertising budget is significant, it would really make sense to stop playing lowballing games, and simply use part of their marketing/advertising budget to buy the best domain this money will buy.

      2. Ryan Marsh

        Johnny, thanks for trolling.

    2. fstrnet

      Whoever you are, thank you. I’ve copied and emailed this to myself for later reference.

    3. Eric Friedman

      This is amazing advice and worthy of its own blog post. Thanks anon!

    4. fredwilson

      this is 100x better than my post. and you should post this somewhere in addition to the AVC commentsthanks for taking the time to share this with the AVC communityi really appreciate it

      1. Guest

        You’re very welcome, Fred. Keep up the great work.

      2. DomainNameNews

        This is good stuff. I’ll add that the pay to make an offer type of automated “domain buying” services tend to go ignored as well. Save your money and do it through a third party or a friend who can act as a proxy.

      3. Samir_web

        While I appreciate both of your responses, I think domain hogging should become a banned practice. Domain names should not be cheap, if all domains cost at least $100 or $200 to register this entire business of buying domains (just because) will disappear. If you have no business in making that domain work you should not own it. Just keeping it their hoping that one day you would make 10K on it is pathetic and truly shows lack of vision. If you have a great domain put it to work, otherwise let others make something useful out of it. So many great domain names are just sitting dormant. Many people can put them to use but cannot afford 10K when starting up a business

        1. Guest

          Tell that to oceanfront real estate owners. When they follow I’ll listen to your nonsense.

          1. Rayhan Rafiq Omar

            Oceanfront real estate owners paid market price. Domains cost a few bucks to register. Maybe if ALL domains were auctioned, the market would be more fair as there would be some skin in the game.

          2. Geoowners

            I’ve bought hundreds of domains and have rarely paid a few bucks. I buy them at “market” prices.

          3. Guest

            Land was given for free originally, only later a market was established. It’s identical situation with domains. Go back to 1994 and you will see.

        2. Max Ischenko

          Do you propose to abolish private property rights?

      4. Create a New Lab

        very often a good domain name is the BEST START for a successful company!

    5. Robert Holtz

      Wow! That was like a mini workshop right there all in one post. Great stuff. Thanks for being so generous. You should write an ebook on the subject. Quite a number of us here can help you sell it.First thing you need to do is pick up a snappy domain name. ;P

    6. ShanaC

      Thanks, mystery person

    7. Ryan Marsh

      Holy crap. This is an amazing post. Thanks!

    8. Richard

      Excellent posts by both Fred and Guest.I am not sure I buy the “.com is king’ argument in the long run however. I am personally a fan of foreign TDLs and think that often they can be better than their .com counterparts.For example I think that is a better domain name than for the following reasons:1. It reads a proper English word. as a word is nonsense;2. The entire domain name is the brand unlike the .com (even the site at does not use the .com in their branding);3. It can used to create meaningful sub-domains such as, etc;4. It is shorter and therefore easier to type & tweet (especially on mobile devices), say and share5. It is modern and different and looks ‘cooler’ than the old-school .com6. It is cheaper to advertise in print media (as the brand is the domain name) and have printed on clothing and promotional gear7. You can fit more information in a keyword ad as you don’t have to include the URL in the ad-text8. To people outside the US, .com often implies that this is a US company which may be a disadvantage when trying to penetrate non-US markets with a local product or service.Another example of great foreign TDL us is which is IMO the perfect domain name that is far superior to the .com counterpart AboutMe.comFred, in these cases, would you insist on the start-up having the .com?Guest, do you think that the .com advantage will remain over time as more foreign TDLs are used in this manner and become more mainstream?Thx :]

      1. Richard

        Sorry for the typo – I missed an ‘as’ in point 1:1. It reads as a proper English word. as a word is nonsense;

      2. BeSmart

        No offense Richard, but this is the worst and most patently incorrect statement regarding domain names that I have ever heard. As “Guest” correctly said in his massive post with 40 likes, .COM is the top-tier, premium extension. Every person in the world knows .COM and it is universal- it targets users all around the world. TLD’s (not TDL’s as you call them) only target individual countries, and only people in one particular country generally know – this is awful. Impossible to remember, awkward to type, and people will accidentally type “” because that is what they have been doing for years. Search engines will treat “” as the keyword “BabySitte” which is nothing, and you won’t rank in any search engines. That domain name is, on the other hand, is brandable and easily the #1 domain name for someone looking to create a directory or website about babysitting.Sorry buddy, just had to respond and make this clear so no one mistakenly takes your advice. TLD’s are awful, and should only be used by small local businesses that are only trying to target ONE country. Otherwise go with .COM, and if not, then .NET or .ORG.

        1. Richard

          Thanks BeSmart but I would have appreciate it if you could have addressed my points rather than just repeating what Guest posted and criticizing a typo.Your point about not ranking ignores many other successful foreign TLDs such as About me.Not very constructive, but thanks for your comment anyway.

          1. BeSmart

            You are selecting the exceptions rather than the rule. Sure a few major internet startup companies using .ME will work out- but they are the exception. Plus, “About” is an actual word. “Connect” is an actual word. “Babysitte” is not. And again, these are all the exceptions. But I don’t care, go ahead and register .ME’s and .LY’s and other ccTLD’s all day- you’re only hurting yourself. Seriously, not even trying to one up you, go ahead and do that. But just realize by not getting a .COM you are always going to be 10 steps behind- anyone that acquires the .COM automatically sits ahead of you in terms of brandability, credibility, and even SEO.

          2. ikonique OS

             Guess Google are idiots also…Google Secures .ME Domain for Revolutionary Web Project | Business Wire many sheep…

        2. Mark

          Wow, what a rude reply dude, and not altogether coherent. Did you read the comment before getting all steamed-up about TLDs and TDLs lol.Guess you missed the FACT that the website is no.1 in Google when searching ‘about me’. LOL the .com is on the SECOND PAGE.What about ‘’ also at No.1?Sorta makes your opinion worthless and you just some dude who is full of cr*p with a grudge against TLDs.Seriously. Did you even bother to check what you wrote before you posted? Guess not.But hey, dont let the facts get in the way of you flaming this guy like a total tard…Peace be with you 😉

        3. ikonique OS

           What is the .com is taken by an unrelated business?Guess your advice has a load of ‘conditions’ attached. But don’t let FACTS get in the way of your proffering your ‘opinions’.

      3. ikonique OS

         Guess Fred and Guest have no opinion on this…

    9. Opoeian

      Great post, thank you. One point you haven’t covered – I would argue, these days most people, apart from the more tech minded, do not use the URL bar to get to a website. There are so many different types of extensions, that we simply google the name by itself to find it. In this context, it seems the search ranking through popularity/activity of the site may have more value than whatever extension the name has. Such that a .Org can be more valuable than a .Com with the same name.

    10. MakeMeAFairOffer

      So, this is a fascinating post from somebody who clearly knows the domain space and buy-sell dynamic from the inside out. Any selling and marketing tips or suggestions for a few of us who registered some original, one-word .coms in the early 1990’s and would be interested in monetizing at a fair price?I’ve registered a few, not acquired for speculation, and have spent a little time over the years trying to interest the most obvious corporate folks in picking them up when I decided they were surplus. In all cases the prospects wanted to pick my pockets and pay some multiple of CTR rather than anything that approached the real estate value. Then, of course, comes the nuisance value of having to respond to those you describe who want me to contribute the name to a good cause (and because they have no money to spend).Can you shed some light on marketing a good TLD?

    11. Steve Baba

      I am not a lawyer, and was hoping that a lawyer chimed in, but to me it seem like “guest” is playing fast and loose with the term “offer” or does not understand the legal meaning.If someone emails me and says, “Hi Steve, would you be willing to sell” for $10,000, I don’t consider that a legal or serious offer. I consider it a fishing expedition and say, “I don’t know. Would you be willing to pay $10,000 for it?,” which is not an offer for me to sell at $10,000 either. (Any lawyers feel free to speak up.)Guest, himself does not consider this a firm “offer” when he says, “For all this person knows they could reply and say “okay, I’ll sell it” but you may come back and say, “sorry someone replied to our email first and now we have a domain.”This is what I and most people consider a serious firm offer: “Hi Steve, I’ll pay you $10,000 for Then add some time limit such as two days since you have other options.Steve Baba

    12. Brad Pineau

      Another great way to find a domain name – DomainHolehttp://www.domainhole.comIt’s in beta – you can use beta code: DOMAINS

    13. Toto

      Dear Guest and everybody, thanks a lot for your very useful advise. I have two question though….I bought a .Net domain which I and everybody else really love. I just think it is the perfect name for my business. Of course, I tried to get the .Com one. But with the mistakes you described above, the owner wanted to have more than 10k for it which at that moment I could not afford. First question: Should I Try to find a new name, just to get the .Com? Next question: What if, I get a trademark on that name, start my business with the .Net, develop a good customer base and reputation. Is then the .Com to the holder not more or less useless as no one would come to start a business with the .Com (my name implies an idea as well)? I mean at least, won’t it be stupid then to sit on that domain, thinking in the near future he could get a fortune? Thanks guys!!

    14. ABuyer

      Hoping for a response!Hi – to the person who wrote this post. You seem to have a lot of experience on this. I’m in the middle of a transaction and was hoping you can help. I promise to update this blog as it moves forward (if it does) so it can be used as an example.SCENARIO:1) I am trying to buy a 5 letter domain. Non-dictionary word, it’s part of a word. Example ( [like fondle].2) It’s owned by a domainer. He asked for $250K.3) I countered with $1K4) He started to ignore me.QUESTIONS:A) What to do?B) Is it really worth 250K???

      1. stevebabaphd

        Without knowing the word, it’s impossible to say for sure, but it’s not worth $250K or even 1/10 of it.  It may be worth more than $1K. Many domain name owners are not that grounded in reality and  think they have “won the lottery” as guest described it and believe that there name is worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.   At best, it’s a short word such as “prep” for  product such as “test preparation” and might be worth $25K or more.  Dictionary words that are NOT keywords or trademarks sell in the $2K to $20K range.  My own has no takers at $19K.  Don’t fall in love with a single word, or you will pay through the nose.You can buy domain names “wholesale” at, but it’s whatever name people want to sell cheap (wholesale) at the time (in addition to many people fishing for high bids)Read my ebook, How To Select and Buy an Elite Domain Name, at

    15. John Engler

      Great post Fred, and fantastic follow up. Used this tactic to purchase a domain just this week, and it totally worked. Ended up scoring a great domain that someone wanted $1,000 for, for $100. Awesome tips. Thanks.

  76. Roy Nallapeta

    Fred, I agree with your view point to some extent. I had the opportunity to hear Aaron Patzer’s experience on buying the domain It is one fun story, also an example of determination by an entrepreneur to get his company and its name brand right. This was an eye opening and enlightening talk, from which I learned that if the domain is something you need to communicate the brand and business you are building there should be no compromise. Domains by themselves don’t make businesses but getting them right when you are going to be consumer web business is an absolute requirement!

  77. DomaiNNNs

    I sell domains, so this was great for me, to get the buyer’s eye view.Regarding the leasing idea (or even when buying), one point to keep in mind is the legalities of copyright and trademark infringement. The domain owner has to be careful that the company leasing the name doesn’t expose the owner of the name to a potential trademark dispute, which could devalue the name, or even cause the owner to lose posession of ir.Several months ago, I had a potential buyer who was interested in leasing a name of mine, He wouldn’t tell me the idea of the site, and I got concerned that it might infringe on some trademarks, since a rather large and well known social site was going after a lot of domain names related to ‘face,’ and that’s a secondary meaning of the word ‘mug’.I had well a known domain attorney review it, and he was positive that it did not infringe. The potential buyer never did follow through on leasing it, but I still had to consider the risk.Any domain name owner has to make sure that whoever leases a name instead of buying it, won’t do something to devalue the name. This could either by trademark infringement, or even by developing a crummy site that gets a bad reputation and then shuts down. A future buyer of the name would certainly use that to try to get a better price.

  78. Siminoff

    Thanks for including me in the post. I think that domains and names are so important to a companies ease when it is being built.At this point I look at everything as how much gravity do I need to fight to succeed. A name is just one more thing that makes that fight a little bit more bearable.

  79. Adrian Meli

    Very interesting idea on the rent to own angle-hadn’t thought of it or heard of that approach. What is the standard option length people are willing to sign to?

    1. Siminoff

      Since it is a non-standard idea there is really no regular time limit. I have always done these for 2 years, figuring that in 2 years I will know if the domain is worth $100k or nothing.

  80. SteveWilhelm

    Don’t forget to create the corresponding twitter account when you register a new domain.

    1. fredwilson

      great advice@thegothamgal is annoyed that i didn’t do that when i bought her domain

  81. dowdle

    Fred – I got a big chuckle on your example. Oct 1999, when you were an investor in iXL (not sure if you were on the board), we owned the domain and I sold it to a couple of entrepreneurs for $90k, 4% of their company and a services contract. The equity ended up worth less than an aluminum canoe.

    1. fredwilson

      i wonder who owns it now

    2. Guest

      Way to let go of a multi million dollar name for nothing. Probably followed Fred’s advice back then. See where it got you.


    I love how people question Fred Wilson’s judgement. He is one of the greatest Internet investors of all time and people still have the audacity to say his spending patterns might be foolish. I write a blog about this every day at and I can tell you this, your address on the Internet is your face. It’s how people know you and what they type in to get to your product. Make it as easy and memorable as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s a generic or a made up but you better make it so everyone gets to you. “Brandable” domains are my specialty and many of my names are now sites and apps. I “get” what are good names. An exampleWeeba.comFlowo.comBleeb.comSello.comHappa.comYou get the idea. They are easy to say, think, and spell and are the types of domains that I invest in because they offer a unique brand that will be unduplicated. I loved this post because I think Fred knows the value of a great address/domain/name.

    1. fredwilson

      people are entitled to their opinionsi certainly have plenty of my own

  83. Abe nego

    I love this post. I play with domains all the time, own over 100 of themA system I sort of came up with is goes as follow… (I use a regular expression to automate this but anyone can do it with a text editor) Say you need a domain for a company that sells food: ( no way you are going to get food dot com but here is what I do)make a list of the letters of the alphabet in a vertical format like:abc…Then you can either paste the words before and after to generate short variations ofafoodbfoodcfoodetc etc orfoodafoodbfoodcThings will eventually pop up and of course adding words and letters before and aftercan yield all kinds of results… this takes a bit of time but it has generated cool, short and memorable results that can still carry a feel and sound of the main subject of our businesses.just thought it was worth sharing.

  84. andrewbaron

    If you are looking for a name and need a little inspiration, consider perusing “Ten Thousand Statistically Grammar-Average Fake Band Names”:

  85. hectic

    Great post. For startups that are boostrapping and can’t spend the money Fred recommends (or just enjoy the domain hunt), I’ve written a post that details some of the tactics to find a diamond in the rough:…It can take a lot of time though as noted in Fred’s post, so better for a really early stage activity.

  86. Emerging Domains

    It’s good to own generic keyword domains of the product/service you offer, besides your trademarked name. What billion-dollar company owns You see if you type in and scroll down. That’s because alot of people just type in the generic word in search of what they are looking for. Own your generic keyword domains, and you own your competition as well!If you can, register some keyword domains for your branded business, and you will realize higher ranking in the SERPs.

  87. Colin Spencer ★ ♫♪♫♪

    I own ….. Follow @Fantune on twitter

  88. JohnAkerson

    Thanks Fred. Wise words.

  89. Mike Mann

    Good job and points overall, but you are incorrect that it doesnt need to be meaningful, google favors popular keyword heavy domain sites in most cases.

    1. fredwilson

      It doesn’t roll off the tongue. I had to think about how to say it

  90. dmerriman

    short, memorable, very hard to misspell — that’s the ideal. must be easy to say to someone verbally too without having to spell it out in conversation. having some actual meaning is very unimportant, but memorability is very important. these are examples with these properties i think:ebayyahooamazonfacebookfoursquareverging on long towards the end of the list (harder to be short as time passes)for zynga i think it’s really the game titles that matter. still, a fun anecdote.

  91. Dr. Derek Zupancic

    Anyone looking for great domain names, I have several hundred, some 3 letter dot coms, Time has come to begin selling some. Contact me via email: [email protected]. Not cheap, but, what is anymore. Dr. Derek Zupancic The CREIT Company manager.

  92. Dave Pinsen

    Late to this, but a couple of thoughts:1) James Siminoff had a good guest post on Tim Ferriss’s site about this a couple of years ago, “How to buy domain names like a pro”.2) If venture-backed web entrepreneurs have license to spend $50k on domain names, we may be getting to the point where a bricks & mortar start-up might be cheaper to bootstrap in some cases than a web start-up.

    1. fredwilson

      That second point is interesting dave. But the 50k is a one time cost. Ican’t think of real estate you can purchase outright for 50k

      1. Guest

        Yep. While there is some real estate to be had for less than $50K, its likely to have operating costs that are fairly high relative to the overall market value (e.g. $1K in carpet replacement, $500 in new window screens & all the other stuff every other year or so on a $50K property in addition to the longer term cap improvement – eeck, no thanks).

      2. Dave Pinsen

        But you can rent rent real estate for less. And, depending on the business, you can probably hire help for a lot less than a Rails developer expects today.

    2. Guest

      I have no idea if $50K for a domain is enough to say that brick & mortar stores now may be cheaper to bootstrap. I think the real estate comment/analogy is interesting though. Renting/leasing domains came up as an option in the discussion yesterday. As someone who has spent time with real estate, the very fIrst thing I thought of was the issue brick & mortar stores can face when they do not own the underlying real estate; working for the landlord can suck.I have never rented a domain but I would think that some of the same risks might apply to a domain renter that a brick & mortar tenant might experience (e.g. spend money & time doing all the build-out and increasing the traffic to a locale – digital or physical – increasing the underlying value of a property not owned by the entrepreneur. Sometimes there is no way around it, a startup only has so much capital and renting may be the only way to get a biz off the ground.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        “Working for the landlord” is probably a bigger issue in still-pricey real estate markets like Manhattan. Perhaps not so much on many main streets, full of the “white-washed windows” Bruce Springsteen sung about in ’84 (not the last time the economic mood of Bruce’s lyrics has varied inversely with economic mood of the U.S.).

        1. Guest

          Yeah, pricier markets might exacerbate but even in Main street USA, of which I am more familiar, it still can suck. I have a friend going through this now who feels like she is being held hostage. She is even more confused at the lack of willingness to work with her given all the vacancies close by. It is weird. Last week I was the potential beneficiary of the inverse, as I was looking to buy a biz that had made some significant leasehold improvements but could not extract the value of the real property improvements they had made from the price of their biz.

  93. Eric Brooke

    I dont buy it… I think its is nice.. but watching people they rarely type into the url bar anymore.. they type in google search box.. its much more ‘mistake friendly’ and you don’t even need to types as much.. people go for the easier option..From user behaviour I have observed they will even type different combinations into google search before they resort to typing in the urlOnce people like your site they bookmark and never again if possible do they type it.. its like phone numbers once they are into your contacts we don’t care anymore..I think the time of the domain name is second to your search rankings and there is a lot of people in the Domain name industry that would like to tell you different..

  94. Arora

    I recently came across Brand bucket – you can buy a domain name with logo for less then $10K

  95. Nabendu Misra

    Hi Friends,I am planning to build something in web which will provide quick and easy service / services to a group / groups of people (my customers) in a particular area / domain of business / businesses. I want to highlight the USP of my business / businesses as Quick & Easy. Kindly advice if in such a scenario a domain like (with a USP of Quick2Easy2) stand a chance.Thanking you in anticiaption

    1. fredwilson

      I’m not a fan of numbers in a domain


        I can attest to the downside of numbers in a domain. Basically, they will immediately make you fail the radio test and email-giving-out-over-the-phone test. We’ve recently re-branded an entire corporate name as the previous one had a number in it. Lesson learned.

  96. snickn

    How do you feel about tailoring a product *around* a domain name? My friends and I have this little joke going, because awhile back I spent a reasonable amount of money on a domain – (and the twitter handle was avail) knowing that it was a great easy to pronounce, ready to do “something” domain…however…what…was a good question , since then they will send ideas, but mostly, just too busy to do anything.Could foursquare have launched with powpow? appsumo? Is there any brand that really needed it’s particular name to launch?

  97. Aaron Klein

    Great post, Fred.I’ve never done a private domain transaction but I feel like I may have just done my last startup that didn’t require one.We’re pretty happy with although we also snagged riskalize, riskalise and riskalyse to pick up the stragglers. 🙂

  98. Dan Shapiro

    I used the site (not affiliated) to name my current company, They run 99designs-style contests to find domains that are available to register. It was straightforward and I wound up with a name I liked for about $150 + the cost to register it.

  99. Anar Pitre

    For a traditional or more obvious business idea, a made-up short word infused with lot of branding effort is a good idea, but for a relatively novel concept- how about actually having a domain that explains what the business is in an obvious, crisp way- like youtube for instance- isnt that smarter, especially if the idea is somewhat of a new concept? That’d be my guess.

  100. Stian

    Great article, although you say owning a good domain name isn’t in your “top ten”, but it could be. Well, it should be!The domain name is alpha and omega for your company’s web presence.

  101. wca4a

    Vin Vacanti has a great post on how he came up with “” here:…A friend of mine created to generate portmanteaus as an alternative to having to buy single-word domain names.

  102. Peter Sullivan

    Here is some advice I can offer, although it was only my first time.I just secured a 5 character domain and utilized a free vacation as an incentive to transfer the domain. It cost less then $5000 and I am pretty excited. Funny how psychology works.

    1. Guest


      1. Peter Sullivan

        Packaging the trip was a little bit of a pain in the ass but well worth it. I actually tried to offer him cash last minute, which was roughly the same amount I would be spending on the trip and he said no way haha.

        1. Guest

          Yeah, back to your comment about the comical nature of human psychology.

  103. Emerging Domains

    Guest said: “You’ll often find a struggling Web designer is sitting on a great domain. $1,000 cash to that person is a lot of money.” Interesting point! Starting out, John Reese sold for $1000.00: http://bestdomainswebsite.c… but turned that $1K into a million, so whatever price the seller settles on is $$ when he needs it.This was intended response to Guest.

  104. Rich Barton

    I’m throwing a stick on a fantastic bonfire here, but I’m a bit of a brand/naming geek (as an entrepreneur i’ve created or helped create Expedia, Zillow, GlassDoor, Avvo…) and wrote up a blog post a year or so ago called, “Syllables, Scrabble Letters, and Picking Brand Names”. If you like, read it here:

  105. Tereza

    I got mine for free. 🙂 ( in 1998 I’d been dating this guy for a few weeks. We were colleagues and keeping the romance on the low. One day he comes to my cube and says, “you know, your name is available”. I meant to buy it that day, but naturally was busy, and forgot. The next day, I went to buy it, and it was gone. GASP.So I married him and got my URL back.

    1. fredwilson

      Smart man

  106. Opoeian

    I’d like to know what people think of this perspective:It seems to me that most people, apart from the more tech minded, tend to use ‘search’ to go to a website, rather than type the full name with domain extension in the URL bar.If this is so then the domain extension may not be as important. For instance, if you had two companies, one with .Org and another with .Com, the more popular/active .Org would have higher ranking in the search than the less popular/active .ComFeedback welcome!

  107. Jeff Lunsford

    “Inject meaning” or “fill a vessel” i was working with Arthur Anderson partners when they decided to re-brand and did a long study and came up with Accenture. It meant nothing then and we, as customers, questioned them. They said their brand consultants said a new brand was an empty vessel and their job was to fill it over time. This has meaning. This, and your ‘injection’ metaphor, are the way to think of it…

  108. stevebabaphd

    While “Guest” wrote a great post, there are a few points I would not entirely agree with.While he is correct that many people think they won a lottery ticket including some posters here, his own prices may be upward biased.If there are 10,000 common English words, then “kids” (not nice to mock as guest did) then thre are how many million two-word domain names? There are many good, free, domain names left.Many of the million dollar sales reported by DNJournal and that group, such as, have been frequently questined on line and places like as every happening.I can undersand not posting your name if you think you are going to piss people off (by saying Obama is great or sucks) but why write such a long post and not add your name to it? The publicity is valuable to a business.Speaking of free publicity, I did write a now somewhat dated ebook on domain names at http://www.seemly.comAlso I have been trying to sell for $19.5 K so that, and the real sales prices on DNForum might give a more realisitic idea of the domain name market.

  109. Abe

    I am a bit late on the scene. Many excellent comments. I would like to make a few points:In general the value of domains is seen only as for online value… Many companies miss the branding and advertising aspect of a domain outside of the web.Think how much a company spends in marketing their product online and offline and on branding??A generic domain gives the visibility and as mentioned passes the “radio test”. Yes Zynga is known worldwide for their games but how much did they have to spend to build the brand Zynga=social games? It took time and quite a bit of money. Obviously it’s important to have a great product. But if you have a great product – a great domain will take you a lot further in a much shorter time. You will have to spend a lot less on branding b/c the consumer intuitively based on your domain will already know what you are about and will remember you. For instance if Zynga owned or I am willing to bet that that they would have managed to make a lot more money than what they had. Even if it would have cost them a few million dollars for those names.In addition in some countries like Japan or China and others the word “Zynga” might not have the friendly sounding that it has in English and might even stand for an inappropriate term. So creating a brand that has no meaning in many of your markets is not as good as owning and creating a brand out of “game” or “games” in different languages.

  110. Youssef Rahoui

    Yes, it is definitely important. I would add that a startup should make sure that the domain name can scale internationally: no awkward meaning in some language, no need to translate it, etc.

  111. webjoe

    Fred, long time listener, first time commenter. I just wanted to add the following insight for your readers:I think one “trick” that a lot of “domainers” know is to sniff around the secondary auction markets. Just like the people who swarm around City Hall snapping up foreclosures fresh off the auction block, there is a healthy secondary market of people just waiting for the ill-forgotten but still amazing domains being abandoned by its former owner. You can find some real gems if you keep tabs on it.A couple of things that you can do easily in an afternoon:1. Sign up for all the domain auction providers and get on their email shortlist when they announce expiring domains. Some of then send out weekly emails of expiring domains with a lot of interest (active bids, inspected frequently, etc). 2. There are some tools that you can “backorder” or get notified if the domain falls into expiration.3. One of my favorite tool is the recently launched “domainface” ( – which lets you save your domain searches and provide more detail information about domains that are about to expire. It helped me snap up a few domains that I was interested in.Also, I’m a big proponent of just having a “stash” of good domains – it’s pretty often that people immediately do a domain search when they have an inspiration for a product or startup idea. If you find a good one, don’t hesitate to buy it, the cost of a good available domain name is negligible in the bigger picture, and sometimes domainers are willing to swap/trade or discount with trade-in when you do finalize on a domain that you want but is already taken.Good luck everyone!

    1. fredwilson

      great suggestion webjoe

  112. Rick Schwartz

    Let me start with a foundation of things I believe. These few points are not debatable from where I sit. So unless you get to this point, you will likely not understand nor accept anything else I have to say.1. Getting a GREAT domain name is/was a “Unique opportunity in time.”2. No other commodity in the history of mankind has ever gone up in value faster than a GREAT domain name. No stock, no diamond, no gold, no land.3. Just like land may have “Mineral rights” such as oil, a GREAT domain may also have mineral rights in the form of “Type in Traffic” from folks typing in your domain name directly into the navigation bar. If someone types in and spells it right do you think they are not qualified? Not targeted? Is that visitor not valuable? Maybe even more valuable than most traffic because of the closing ratios they achieve? I’ll talk more about closing ratios in a moment.4. Fuel runs an automobile, TRAFFIC is what fuels the net. You can have a million dollar auto but without fuel it won’t be going anywhere on it’s own power. Same with a website. You can spend millions in development but until you add targeted visitors and can CLOSE A SALE you really have nothing. It just sits like the car with no gas.5. Nothing on this planet happens until a sale is made. Nobody goes to work, not a truck rolls, not a plane takes off not a factory opens not a thing happens. Nothing happens until a sale is made and then you don’t actually EAT until you turn a PROFIT. So you don’t have to be a genius to sell hundred dollar bills for $79.95.6. If you sell a product or service on the net via your website and your CLOSING RATIO is not your guiding light, not on the tip of your tongue, not on your radar…..Then you are lost. It is what I believe to be the single most important piece of data no matter what you are selling and less than 1% of all folks that run a site can answer that question. They are lost and are like a captain with no map, no compass, no plan. Your ratio is how many visitors do you need on your site for you to close ONE sale and then repeating those sales? Many sites are incapable of closing any sales. It may be for many reasons or even a single simple one….like the visitor can’t find the checkout button.If you have 10,000 visitors and you only sold one order I would ask why you did not close TWO out of 10,000 or FOUR or FIFTY? Or more? I would ask what you did with those other 9999 customers? I would ask “Is the traffic no good or is it the website that is no good?” You MUST isolate and figure out both sides. You absolutely MUST! But almost nobody does. They are working in the blind and building without a plan.TEST, TEST, TEST. Tweak, Tweak, Tweak, experiment, experiment, experiment. And when the result is worse, go back to what worked better and find out WHY it worked better and build on that.I can go on all day long talking about #6. But that is for another day and you may be asking what the hell does a domain owner know about this? All I can tell you as I know how to close sales on the net and back in 1996 and 1997 and 1998 I made a name for myself by increasing the bottom line of websites by 15% in just FIVE MINUTES! There are certain NAVIGATIONAL MISTAKES that almost everyone makes. Fix those, change the font, change the color, change the location and sales can go up dramatically.7. All the dead guys that built the corporations so many work for today are rolling in their graves because those in position of power and leadership largely missed the greatest opportunity of their lifetime, their fathers lifetime and their fathers before them!8. Not all traffic is created equal9. SHIT traffic and TARGETED traffic likely costs the SAME10. If you don’t know the SOURCE of you’re traffic you better find out and re-read #6 until you are blue in the face. Imagine what it would do to your business if your site (Your MOUSETRAP) could only close ONE sale in 10,000 visitors while your competitor is closing 50 sales with the same amount of visitors. He is EATING your lunch and you better start paying attention before you head to and look for a new job.So here we are……This may sound pretty basic to domain owners and developers, however it is GREEK to those outside the industry. They will doubt these beliefs. What they don’t know is we are armed with stats to back up what we say. So my target audience is those outside the industry that still have a misconception of what GREAT domain names represent.Rick Schwartz

  113. TLD Investors

    Excellent article Fred, so many points and the comments are an ecosystem all their own.I think there will always be a debate between, get the great .com or direct navigation is not as important so get an affordable domain in an alternative extension. You can sometimes find something intuitive in another extension like or But for the most part the .com will be the right choice. A foreign company not operating in the US will want their local CCtld. There is no one answer with domains and it changes as the company changes a lot of the time.

  114. poji

    nice advice

  115. catarino

    Hi Fred,I’m almost certain some people will find this as spam or self promotion, but I really think it makes sense to ask this on this post, and I would really like to know your (and everyone else’) opinion on this:What do you think of “Weddar” for naming a Weather Reporting Service? Sounds stupid? Is it clear? Rememberable?Also, I had the good fortune of finding the .com available, meaning it costed ~$10 :)Thank you.

  116. Dmpartners is gong to cost ya more than 50K that’s for sure,

  117. Maggie

    Location Location Location.comSay no more 🙂

  118. Dannyl

    Marketing gurus don’t panic, all the good domains are not gone yetCheck out – you will like it 🙂

  119. Mista_tom

    Dear Guest and everybody, thanks a lot for your very useful advise. I have two question though….I bought a .Net domain which I and everybody else really love. I just think it is the perfect name for my business. Of course, I tried to get the .Com one. But with the mistakes you described above, the owner wanted to have more than 10k for it which at that moment I could not afford. First question: Should I Try to find a new name, just to get the .Com? Next question: What if, I get a trademark on that name, start my business with the .Net, develop a good customer base and reputation. Is then the .Com to the holder not more or less useless as no one would come to start a business with the .Com (my name implies an idea as well)? I mean at least, won’t it be stupid then to sit on that domain, thinking in the near future he could get a fortune? Thanks guys!!

  120. Guest

    Dear Guest and everybody, thanks a lot for your very useful advise. I have two question though….I bought a .Net domain which I and everybody else really love. I just think it is the perfect name for my business. Of course, I tried to get the .Com one. But with the mistakes you described above, the owner wanted to have more than 10k for it which at that moment I could not afford. First question: Should I Try to find a new name, just to get the .Com? Next question: What if, I get a trademark on that name, start my business with the .Net, develop a good customer base and reputation. Is then the .Com to the holder not more or less useless as no one would come to start a business with the .Com (my name implies an idea as well)? I mean at least, won’t it be stupid then to sit on that domain, thinking in the near future he could get a fortune? Thanks guys!!

  121. Evan Hill-Ries

    Great post, and really great comments. I’m certainly late to the game with a response post, but we did have some ideas based on our experience with a large number of domain name transactions:…Short version is mostly agreement, with a couple of additional thoughts:-Descriptive domains can be a problem from a trademark perspective, but marks like Kickstarter are really more suggestive, and great because of it.-Equity is a good currency, and if you need to, you can provide a reversion clause to give the domain back if you fail, but be careful with those; talk to a lawyer.

  122. Statspotting

    Out of curiosity – how much did you pay for the domain name?

    1. fredwilson

      60k, a few years agoa big number, i know, but it is a three letter domain and i value that a lot

  123. Jeremy Dunck

    @fredwilson:disqus I have always interpreted “Etsy” as a misspelling of “etc.” which people commonly pronounce “et see” as well as the more formal “et cetera”. I thought Etsy was a clever name because it played to the miscellanea that would come from a peer handmade marketplace.I also found it a little funny that I’ve heard people pronounce as “eat see”. No matter the name, sometimes it will be misunderstood.