Naming A Startup? Start With Domains

I dislike nothing more than a company without a matching .com domain name! I think it’s a distraction that is very costly and something that a startup can avoid when naming early on!

So, where do you start your naming process? Domain names, really!

Yes, you can come up with some words in general that you like but as soon as you have a couple in mind, the very next thing you need to do is check the domain name and see its status. If you have little clue how to do that, the valuation of domain names etc. I highly suggest you hire a domain expert or find a friend of a friend that knows the domain space! Domain buyer broker is a great place to start, domain aftermarket services if you have a good handle on valuations of domains.

Don’t just take my word, here are some facts from some successful people!

Paul Graham, Y-Combinator co-founder: “If you have a US startup called X and you don’t have, you should probably change your name.” Here are some numbers that will make you think as well: “100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do. But only 66% of companies in the current batch have the .com of their name. Which suggests there are lessons ahead for most of the rest, one way or another.”

Consider this quote from Paul, because it’s important! “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness.” source (which I suggest you read the entire article)


I can’t afford $xx,xxx or $xxx,xxx to spend on the domain name? Are you sure? It’s your brand, your company, it’s YOU! Remember that weakness quote from Paul? If you do not have the cash to spend, consider a payments option (domain holding / domain leasing).

B2B, B2C, App, Service, Product

If your company is online based and Business to Consumer focused, there is no question that you need to own the exact match domain name (EMD) to your company name. Zero question!

Morgan Linton, Co-Founder of Fashion Metric and a domain guy himself wrote a great article about just this. The timing of funding and your product/service focus. You can read his article here, which also lays some ground work of how much to spend based on your funding round.

Greg Brockman, former CTO at lays out the process of coming up with its name. Several mistakes made, a lot of time spent and again, worth your time to read the article on Quora.

All the good ones are gone

True, but many are for sale and many at great prices as well! Again, working with a domain broker is a very wise start IMO. They will often have a great idea of domains available and with prices. They are often very good at knowing how to contact specific owners if the domain you are interested in, isn’t publicly listed for sale. Domain brokers also have a vast network and connections to go with them! The connections is often the key between a sale or you even getting a reply from the owner! Owners of valuable domain names get contacted almost daily, some, multiple times per day with people trying to buy.

Did you know that ALL fortune 500 companies use .com domain names? They do! Yes, there are a lot of other .whatever, so make a good choice. I hate to quote Paul twice in one article, but the fact is: “100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do.”


Your domain name is an asset! It is an asset in more ways than one and you need to know this. Domain names alone can sell for millions, so just because you are investing X into a domain name, doesn’t mean that money just goes away like a monthly ad campaign push on billboards!

One Word, Two Word, Three

This is up to you! The shorter the domain, the higher the price! Two letter .com domain names basically start at about $700K or more. The better the 2 letter, the more the price… easily 7 figures. English, one word .com domain names are in high demand, many six figures. They always have been and always will be. A lot of companies are chasing them, so expect to pay.

Two word domains can still be powerful and make great brands. A bit lower in cost (the majority of time) and a wider selection. Make a two word term, a one word term. Hello, Facebook!

Love your name! LOVE it!

More than one

Company name / brand is important but so is your product or services. Owning and using more than one domain name makes sense and is a wise choice to easily find what you offer. Microsoft is Microsoft and they use for its main brand. Under that brand are products and services they offer. Microsoft office suite, Hololens is etc.

Brand Name

Many companies “brand name” does not relate at all to what they do or offer. for an example doesn’t sell planes, they offer consumer products. Short, memorable and catchy are good starters.

Quick Hitters

  • Nouns are good
  • 8 characters or less is good
  • Two syllables or less
  • Spells as it sounds
  • Can secure the .com domain

I hope this helps you in some fashion. If any have a question, please feel free to ask and I will try my best to provide you with some help.

Related Posts

7 thoughts on “Naming A Startup? Start With Domains

  1. Great article, Jamie. And, generally speaking, not having the dot-com will signal weakness, and lead to a (sometimes major) leak of traffic. So there’s (still) no question that dot-COM is king of the hill.

    There are, however, situations where an alternative extension is warranted. For example, someone I know is building an industry-hub on a dot-NET, simply because a Fortune 500 owns the dot-COM, and is using it in conjunction with one of their products…that has nothing at all to do with the space that the dot-NET guys are going into. Additionally, the [KEYWORD] dot-NET exactly defines the industry, but the dot-COM (used by the Fortune 500) is for a product that has no relation to the [KEYWORD] whatsoever.

    Other exceptions to the rule would be to build out a luxury brand on a [KEYWORD] dot-VIP, or a subscription service on a dot-CLUB. So there definitely are (many) situations where the exception is either warranted, or actually better than using the dot-COM.

    1. @Gene
      I’d fight for a .com until I’m blue in the face and in no way build a luxury brand on a .vip or .whatever. If you want luxury, you build it on a luxury .com domain. Just my opinion of coarse. 😉 I have never, ever typed a .vip domain name to visit a site. <-- that is a big deal, nor have I typed a .club etc. Not once!

      1. I get what you’re saying, and your passion for dot-com is clear (with which I generally agree),

        But I’m pointing out that there are situations where it’s clearly impossible to get the dot-com, and using a dot-NET won’t hurt the brand — and, frankly, may help. Case-in-point: Ask the two fellows who just became billionaires:

        With all due respect, you’ve never typed a dot-VIP (yet) simply because the extension only launched 3-months ago! I’m pretty sure that you’d agree that building a luxury / exclusive brand takes a bit longer than “one Summer” — so let’s revisit that statement a year or two from now.

        1. @Gene
          I gottcha, is fitting but I would still try my hardest to secure the .com. If that wasn’t going to happen, I would likely choose a different name, that’s just me.

          In regards to the other extensions, new ones have come and gone in the past and many will with the new gTLD’s. I like .club for a club, but I wouldn’t advise to use one or spend the premium price many hold to do it. Even if the cost is spread over 10 years. The general public just isn’t aware that most are even a domain name and that is a BIG problem.

Comments are closed.