Friday, June 10, 2011

The Domain Name Arbitrage (Name Game)

I guess I've entered this game very late! As in really late. Due to the recent turn of things, I was trying to think of company names and product names. The first round went pretty well, we came up with many different ideas for cool names right from Lemonade Ventures to many such things! We actually worked on a huge list, then ran a vote with veto powers granted to each of us and finally arrived at 3 short-listed names!

We took another few days to come up with one name from this one! And when we then go ahead to be excited! We realized that someone is holding on to that domain name. (We had just googled to see if there's a website with that name and found none). We wrote to the guy who owns that name and they replied saying they were willing to sell the name for 5000 Euros!! A domain name that costs around 10 dollars! We then woke up and as we checked many of the other names in the list, we realized that almost 60% of the names we had thought of were mostly randomly registered by someone even if they were not using it!

I guess there are a number of interesting categories of folks here:

  1. The category that just likes to accumulate cool names (mostly for personal use). They like a name, they register and keep it so that when and if they decide to start a business, they can use the name
  2. The category that are actually working on a business plan and are looking for suitable names for their new company/product
  3. The category that is scouting the internet space to reserve all the names they can think of will with sole intention of holding it till someone wants it and then selling it for the best price!
The first two categories are harmless but the last one seems to be holding a large majority of the names available on the internet! I wonder if there's some international body that can ban such practices! You feel so bad when you actually have to negotiate for 1000s of dollars with these guys just because they are holding on to a name you like! 

Anyways, here are my tips to startups looking to come up with their brand name or product name:
(Contrary to what you're thinking right now, this process is a very difficult and long process. I think it may be easier for you to come up with your business plan etc before you are able to finalize the right name)

Step 1

Think of the key messaging "phrases/terms" that your product or service is out there to establish. Ideally, white board all of these terms and words. Your product name should ideally be a combination or contain any of these terms.

Step 2: 

Open the site called Instant Domain Search

This site actually shows you in real time as you think the availability of domains on .com , .org and .net . This allows for the process of eliminating, accepting a name right at the early stages. 

I stayed on this site for about 3 days before I was able to come down with a list of any sort to choose from.

Step 3:

If none of the names that you think of in combination of the keywords that you have on your whiteboard, then go to an online dictionary and look for synonyms of each of your keywords. As you go through this process, a number of new ideas and names will pop up into your head again. 

Important point to note: It is important to take a break once in a while and clean your head! You may be biased towards a few names which at that stage may not be available. You will end up trying to find names that sound like what you like earlier or you will keep trying to find names that end with some keyword you like. So once in a while, try your best to start with a clean slate, both the whiteboard and the mind!

Once you like a name, you can use the Instant Domain Search to go to GoDaddy and register the domain name using your credit card. (There are a number of other payment options too). While you are making your payment, you may want to consider buying other domains apart from the .com (,, etc). GoDaddy generally gives you huge discounts when you buy the entire package!

All the best with your brand/product name for your startup!

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