A little tip I just shared with a friend about finding a domain for his startup

Living in San Francisco and running a startup means that I tend to hang out with a lot of other awesome startup people. I love the energy in SF, and along with being born and raised in the Bay there’s just something electric about the scene in the city over the last few years. Of course IPOs from companies like Slack, Pinterest and so many others has certainly grown the angel scene tremendously and it’s safe to say the entrepreneurial vibe is going strong across-the-board.

Of course, one thing that I find comes up all the time when I’m having beer with other founder friends is domain names. While you might have been reading my blog for years, most of my friends have no idea that I have a blog, and only a handful know that I’ve been a bit of a domain geek over the last decade. When the topic of domains comes up I often here a similar story, searching for a domain, finding it’s registered, and then iterating through different name combos until they find something that’s available.

For friends that just raised a big round, they might have a solid budget for a domain, but they often don’t know where to start when it comes to buying domains in the aftermarket, or negotiating directly with a domain owner. I’ll save the negotiations part for another post because that’s a whole article itself…instead I wanted to focus on a tip I recently shared with a good friend that was looking for a domain for his startup – he had never heard of this process before and I thought there’d probably be more people in his shoes so I thought I’d share it on my blog 🤷‍♂️

I typically find founders end up in two camps when it comes to domains:

  1. They already have a domain in mind
  2. They know words they like and have a general idea but don’t have a name in mind

If you’re in option #2 you might decide to jump over to somewhere like Go Daddy but I often find that founders are missing three gems where there’s a lot less competition for names and some real deals to be had. In general, my first suggestion overall to founders is to try to buy an expired domain name rather than a domain someone is trying to sell at retail.

This usually gets the same response – wait, you can buy expired domains?!?! Yes – you can buy expired domains and there are some sites you might not have heard of where you can do it with a lot less competition from other people. Here’s three go-to’s I share with founders.

For .COM domains:

NameJet – I’ve been using NameJet for a long time, it’s a great place to buy expired domains, but you will have to make sure to know how to filter for them. When you go to NameJet, just click “Search” in the navigation bar and then from the dropdown menu on the left side choose “Pending Deletes” – if you want the good stuff, just click the word Bidders and sort by most bids – boom 🕺

NameJet Pending Deletes

SnapNames – this is a good one to know about as you can actually but backorders on domains you might be interested in, and when they expire, you’ll automatically bid on them. You can read more about the backordering process here. You can also just search SnapNames full inventory which has a mix of expired domains and domains that sellers have put up for auction and are often willing to let go of at a lower price, i.e. they’re actively trying to move the name.

While NameJet and SnapNames are two great go-to’s for .COM, and they carry a wide range of extensions, I always like to highlight one of my favorite sites for finding .IO, .CO, .ME and other expired domains in non .COM – Park.io.

Park.io

For Park.io there are two paths you can take. If you click “Domains” at the top of the screen you’ll see a list of expiring domains, if one catches your eye you can see when it’s dropping and backorder it. Additionally, by clicking Auctions you can see domains that others also want to snag and jump into an auction and bid against them.

I see .IO domains that normally sell for $50,000+ sell for around $5,000 on Park.io all the time. There are some really good deals there and like I said, you just aren’t competing against as many people since you’re often bidding against more wholesale buyers than retail buyers.

So if you’re a founder looking for a domain name, and you don’t have a specific domain in mind, expired domains might be the way to go, and these three sites can help you avoid the crowds and get in at a great price. Hope this is helpful, oh and if you end up getting a name from one of these, next time you come to SF, first beer’s on you 🍻

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