Startup founders, is your domain matching your brand?

December 15, 2018 (Sat). A domain marks your presence in the digital world – a global one indeed. Yet, in my daily news reading, I come across startup after startup with the domain-matching-brand issue. So, it's time to check your domain and see if it is correctly named.

Your domain is the address of your store in the digital world. If consumers remember what you sell and where to buy it, that's powerful marketing. Your brand helps them remember what you sell, and your domain helps them remember where to buy it. Therefore, you want your domain to be easily remembered. The easiest way to remember your domain is to make it match your brand.

What does it mean? Well, if your brand is X, make sure you own (if you aspire to become a global player). Because in "Brand + .com = domain", you are capitalizing on your brand and .com is universally recognized. If major brands across the world adopt this standard, why should you not follow?

Unfortunately, many startups assume their company name is their brand. For example, Elon Musk founded "Tesla Motors" in 2003 and used the domain Is a brand-matching domain? No -- and Musk knew that -- because his company is often referred to as "Tesla" not "Tesla Motors". It took Musk 13 years, numerous attempts, and a whopping $11 million to finally acquire the domain in 2016.

So, do you know your brand? Just use Baidu or Google to display news about your company. Pay attention to the name they use to refer to your company. That name is your brand as recognized by the public.

What can you do if your domain does not match your brand? Basically, you have two choices: (1) acquire the domain matching your brand or (2) rebrand to ensure they match. If the domain you desire is not being used, then you have a good chance to acquire it. Visit the domain to see if there is any landing page with contact information. You can also use domain history tools such as Wayback Machine to try to locate contact information hidden in old web pages. You may also use an experienced domain broker to help you track down the domain owner.

Finally, remember these words spoken by successful venture capitalist Paul Graham, "If you have a US startup called X and you don't have, you should probably change your name. The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness. Whereas having signals strength even if it has no relation to what you do." His advice applies to startups in China and other countries as well.

Join me on LinkedIn for further discussion.