I received a very interesting email today from Jason Calacanis about naming your new venture.  I recently went through this, and I have worked with many entrepreneurs on this so this post really grabbed my attention.

Jason is the CEO of Mahalo.com, a west coast angel investor, and a personality in the tech world.  I have subscribed to his email thoughts for some time and his posts are usually pretty insightful, full of straight talk, and funny.  I do recommend signing up for his email blasts at http://calacanis.com/.

I never realized how difficult, and costly, it is to get a good domain name these days until I started Venture Highway.  Originally, the company was named 24-7 Ventures as a placeholder to get the corporate stuff set up quickly.  We knew we needed to change the name and it was our first task once we had the basics set up and the investment in the bank.  I know how critical it is to make the right decision and have counseled entrepreneurs on this.  Jason put it in a very interesting way -  “Great entrepreneurs tackle and solve challenging issues like naming their company well, and if you can’t name your company well, you’re simply not worth investing in.”

Some of my observations from the process are:

  1. It was very helpful to use a service like sedo.com.  I was able to put in words such as “venture” and see all of the domain names for sale that included this term, which I figured I would want.  I looked at other words, too, and the search capability is pretty cool.
  2. I registered words that I thought were awesome and didn’t want someone else to grab them, only to find out that when I told someone my word, they just looked at me strangely.  Thankfully, those only cost me about 10 bucks.  In the process of coming up with a good, or great name, you will have flashes of brilliance that turn out to be false alarms.  It is part of the process, so just get on with it.
  3. Paying several thousand dollars for a good name is common these days.  We paid about 4 grand for venturehighway.com.   We looked at things that were more expensive and less, but this seemed a good compromise and I could see lots of possibilities for the name.  Jason notes that he paid 11 grand for mahalo.com. Sex.com just sold on sedo for several million dollars.  You have to know your budget so you can tune the search at sedo, or other brokers, too.
  4. I lost sleep during the process.  I would wake up with ideas.  I would turn ideas over in my brain at night.  I would write things down to check on in the morning.  I had people giving me suggestions, and feedback.  I was pretty consumed with finding the right name and the right name had plenty of attributes.  I would recommend knowing what your attributes are, such as how long, what it relates to, imagery, etc.  And be flexible.  I wanted something with an aviation/runway theme, but nothing was right.  The Highway theme works better, but it took a while to get there.
  5. Jeff Lamb taught me that you have to remember how many times you are going to say your domain/company name.  If you pick something that is spelled funny, or has a dash, or sounds like something else, you will have to go through that each time you say it.  For example, we could be venture-highway and need to make sure we say the dash each time so people can find it.  Or we looked at ventureology, which is misspelled, so I would have to say “It’s ventureology.com, include the e in venture, then ology.”  Not so easy.  Paying extra for something that you do not have to explain each time is worth it!
  6. .com is still the way to go.  You could get the .biz, or .something else, but people still look for .com first.
  7. Domain names that look like a sentence are usually terrible and signal amateur to me.  Ibuyhouses4U.com, or tools4entrepreneurs.com might sound cute and easy to remember, but think about how it sounds, and you have to explain those “cool” letters and numbers in the name.
  8. The best thing to do is continually test your ideas of names on people.  Every name I came up with got a couple people to say OK and a couple people to look at me oddly.  When I ran venturehighway.com past people, every single one got it and loved it for what we are doing.  If you get unanimous applause, move quickly, but make sure you ask more than just your spouse, best friend, or girlfriend!

There are many posts and ideas on naming your new venture.  That’s because it is vitally important.  If you can’t at least choose a decent name, then you will most likely have your professionalism, or capability called into question.  If you are thinking about it, take the time to read what is out there, and take your time getting the right name.

How much did you pay, or would you pay for a domain name?  Do you have any other suggestions on the naming process?

Thanks, Kevin…

3 Responses to New Venture Naming

  1. Pingback: Weekly News Roundup: Help for At-Risk Companies, Ohio’s Top Biz Lender & More | The Metropreneur Columbus

  2. I think there are much better ways to research and secure a good domain name than paying $$ thousands for one.

    http://domaingroovy.com/
    http://bruteforcenaming.com/index.php
    http://cdixon.org/2009/04/18/naming-your-startup/

    Generally speaking, I would take Jason’s advice with more than a pinch of salt. For those that lack creativity, money tends to be the default problem solver.

    Of course, exceptions exist for those with business models revolving around organic search. Exact-match domain names carry significant value.

    • Great points, and great links, thanks! Yes, I would be hard pressed to pay what Jason (and others out west) are paying for names. But, it definitely depends on your definition of a “good domain name” and, as always, the execution of the idea. Good name, bad name, good idea, bad idea, success comes down to execution. But, jumping off on the right foot with a name you can work with as you go down the Highway is important.

      It is just amazing how big this industry has become!

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