A third of Y Combinator startups branded on non .COMs


I found a really interesting report recently on NamePros written by James Iles about the domain extensions used by startups in Y Combinator. Just in case you don’t know what Y Combinator is, it’s an accelerator based in Silicon Valley that has some pretty well-known alums like AirBnB and accepts batches of startups that get funding and mentorship all leading up to a demo day at the end.

James did a really solid job of analyzing the domain extensions used by Y Combinator startups in the past and how it’s shifted over the years. From 2005 – 2016 over 86% of startups in Y Combinator branded on a .COM domain, last year that dropped to 66% as startups started to explore other domain extensions with .CO and .IO being the top two alternatives.

Both .CO and .IO remain popular with startups, with a combined 17% of this year’s YCombinator startups using them. Some of these names are one-word domains that would cost at least five- or six-figures to acquire as a .COM, but as .CO or .IO, they were likely relatively cheap to acquire. Some examples include Torch.io, Atrium.co, and Ben.co. (Source – NamePros)

Here’s a pretty nifty chart that shows the domain extensions used by startups that went through Y Combinator in 2018 picked.


Both .CO and .IO have seen a lot of growth coming from startups and it looks like this is only accelerating. The reality is, many startups find themselves in a similar position, they want to call themselves something, something.com is taken, so they have to decide between three options:

  1. Stick with .COM but go with a domain like GetSomething.com or SomethingOnline.com
  2. Get the exact-match name but in another extension (i.e. something.co)
  3. Pick a different name

In the past companies would choose between .COM, .NET, and .ORG. There was an easy formula, .COM’s taken – get the .NET, unless you were a non-profit, then go for the .ORG. Then, with the launch of .CO we saw a shift as this was the first extension to really brand itself as a domain extension for startups.

Now some of the biggest brands in the startup world, like Launch.co run by Jason Calacanis, brand on a .CO domain. While .IO has gained a lot of attention over the years as well, it has been more focused on dev-related products and services vs .CO which has really become the broad go-to for startup in the non .COM space.

While a zillion new gTLDs have come out of the last few years, it’s pretty interesting to see that .IO and .CO seem to be holding their own very well as clear market leaders. The question here is – how will this continue to shift over time? Going from 86% to 66% is a big change and something tells me it’s only going to lean more in this direction as time goes on.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Brad Mugford March 25, 2019, 10:05 am

    Another headline – “Despite thousands of available extensions, 2/3 of Y Combinator startups still choose .COM”

    The vast majority are destined to fail anyway. The ones that actually make it often end up upgrading to .COM down the road.

    On a side note, 4% new GTLDs. lol


    • Matt Dartnall March 26, 2019, 7:32 am

      Any facts? or this merely your opinion

    • Gene March 28, 2019, 1:46 pm


      While I’m as much of a dot-com fan as anyone, I find your views curious considering that on the homepage of (presumably) your hub, DataCube, you’re promoting tons of other extensions – including names leveraging the horrible dot-us and dot-biz TLDs.

      So either you don’t believe what you’re saying, or you’re indifferent about having ‘uneducated’ buyers spend their hard-earned money on crappy domain names via your business.

      Which one is it? Maybe you should simply publish a new policy of only accepting dot-com names?

  • James Iles March 25, 2019, 10:12 am

    Thanks for the mention, Morgan 🙂

  • Jose March 25, 2019, 10:45 am

    It is obvious that after the search of domains (.com, net, and org) do not find free, I also register more .IO is one of the extensions that always for you friend Morgan has been writing us in his blog.

    In the end I particularly believe that it is a good extension where you can find short words and consult the Palabras Claves Dictionary, since buying domains that are badly written for it with Grammarly is much more successful, it is never too late to do it better.

    Happy Day. Jose.

  • Jose March 25, 2019, 10:46 am

    Sorry, Dictionary Keywords

  • Leonard Britt March 25, 2019, 11:45 am

    What percentage of Y Combinator Startups grow up to be real companies with dozens of employees and annual revenues of seven figures or more?

  • Alan Dodd March 25, 2019, 12:18 pm

    An interesting thing would be the follow up – companies going through YC still functioning – what extension are they using? Great for .io and .co to be ahead of the new Gs.

  • Mike March 25, 2019, 1:24 pm

    Follow next 24 months who is upgrading to .com. i bet a bunch. On the other hand, none will rebrand away from .com. if anything they will get a better .com.

    • Matt Darnall March 26, 2019, 7:48 am

      Any facts or examples or just your opinion

  • Snoopy March 25, 2019, 3:01 pm

    I think they are turning up to ycombinator with those bad names rather than ycombinator seeing them as good choices, here is what was said about it a 4 years ago,

    “The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness…….100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name. 94% of the top 50 do. But only 66% of companies in the current batch have the .com of their name. Which suggests there are lessons ahead for most of the rest, one way or another.”

    Paul Graham Y-Combinator Co-founder


    • Matt Dartnall March 26, 2019, 7:37 am

      People in the domain industry cling onto old quotes for reason. What about the blockchain industry dominated by .io & .org

      Look how many businesses Lubin has created on non .com’s

      Time you people in the “domain” industry got with the real world instead of living in the past

      • Snoopy March 26, 2019, 1:25 pm

        That industry crashed 18 months ago and hasn’t come back.

  • Shadow March 25, 2019, 4:59 pm

    I like when startups use a new gtld. It quickly identifies them as a loser company, one I need to stay away from. They tend to be weak financially and will typically be among those who fold during their first year. Kinda like having a big L on their forehead.

    • Matt Dartnall March 26, 2019, 7:41 am

      I’m surprised Jack Dorsey didn’t take your advice. How many customers does cash.app have again?

      How many visitors do you bring to your .com? fancy sharing the results

      • Matt Dartnall March 26, 2019, 7:44 am

        Any real world facts on your opinions or just horseshit You can only say in the silo of a “domain network” where squatters nod there head to .com

        “Square’s Cash App Sold $52M Worth Of Bitcoin In Q4 2018, $166M Over 2018”

        • Matt Darnall March 26, 2019, 7:46 am

          The domain community are the most uneducated bunch i have come across in some time.

          Jack Dorsey ” weak financially” likely to fold in the first year.

  • Ethan March 25, 2019, 7:29 pm

    I’m glad to see more startups using .CO and .IO. It shows that people are aware of new options in choosing domain names and are no longer bound by the old options.

    If ccTLDs and new gTLDs were launched at the same time as .com was, it would very likely have been another story when it comes to domain names. From I can see, the recognition .com receives really is just a result of .com’s early launch. With more people getting aware of and recognizing new options over time, things related to domain names will change inevitably.

    • Snoopy March 25, 2019, 7:43 pm

      Ethan, cctlds were launched around the same time as .com, e.g. .co.uk started in 1985, .co 1991, .de 1986, .tv 1996, .ai 1995, .ws 1995.

      As far as rebranded country codes they have a certain lifespan, 20 years ago the popular ones were .cc and .ws, then there was .me, .ly, .co., .io. They are popular for 5-10 years after which they just look like website launched 10 years ago and people move on to the new popular one.

      • Ethan March 25, 2019, 8:51 pm

        Thanks. Yeah, after posting the comment, I realized that ccTLDs have been around for a long time, too. As for whether they have a certain lifespan, I would not make conclusion now because the internet is still at its early age.

      • Matt Darnall March 26, 2019, 7:53 am

        Can you formulate a sentence without ridiculous silly bias Swap the “S” to a “D” and remove the “N” Doopy

        Company X buy best .de why would they move. No fact’s just horseshit yet again


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