How not to pick a domain name for your startup

How not to pick a domain name for your startup

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I just got back to San Francisco after spending the evening in Silicon Valley at an event for angel investors. When I’m at events like this first I realize what a newbie I am when it comes to investing, and second, I can’t help but pay attention to the domain names that early stage startups sometimes gravitate towards.

When it comes to picking domain names, tonight I think I found a startup that can serve as an example of how not to pick a domain name. Out of respect for the startup I’m not going to share the domain, but instead I will share how the founder came up with the name.

To give you a bit of context, the domain itself is a common English word repeated twice, think wordword.com. This particular word relates to food, the startup is in a business completely unrelated to food.

When asked how they came up with the name they said they had a few drinks one night at a party, felt really happy, realized that they wanted their startup to be centered around happiness. Here’s where it gets interesting, they then thought – well what happens when you’re happy? You dance. And what’s the word for dance in another language.

Then they repeated the word for dance twice, slapped a .COM at the end and called it a day. The domain had nothing to do with what they do, stands out because it’s the same word repeated twice, and given that it’s a word used to describe food, makes you think they’re in the food space.

There’s a good lesson here, it’s a mistake that people make all the time. Rather than coming up with a name that will resonate with potential users, they come up with a name that ends up being an inside joke or something that has a specific meaning only to them.

While it’s true that you probably can’t come out of the gate buying a big juicy one-word .COM, you can think about who your customer is and what name will resonate with them. Coming up with a name that means nothing to your customer and steers the conversation away from what you do and instead towards – “how the heck did you come up with that name?!?” doesn’t exactly accomplish what you want from a branding standpoint.

The silver lining here. I’m going to help this founder find a better name, after going through the same logic with them they agreed. Like I said above, I don’t know much about angel investing, still learning a lot there, but I do know a bad domain when I see one and no, I can’t help but say something.

For startup founders reading this, remember – don’t pick a name that means something to you and only you – pick a name that will mean something to your users because at the end of the day you’re building a product for them, not you, right?

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