Domains for Startups: One-word .CO, .ME, .IO vs. Two-word .COM

Recently I’ve been talking with a startup that I met in San Francisco last week at an event one of our VC firms put on for their portfolio companies. The startup is going through a rebranding and they are trying to pick the right domain name for their business. They currently have a brandable one-word .COM that’s not working for them because it doesn’t pass the radio or billboard test.

For those who don’t know what the radio or billboard test is, I’ll give a quick recap. The radio test means if someone hears your name on the radio they can easily remember it and type it into Google to get to your site. The billboard test means if someone were to see your name on a billboard (remember billboards?) they would be able to remember it and type it into Google to get to your site.

Ten years ago people used to hear a name and go directly to, now people go to and type in “company name” which is why we see so many companies branding around TLDs like .CO, .ME, .IO and many of the other new gTLDs like .WORLD, .CLUB, etc.

This particular startup is B2B and they are trying to decide between a one-word .CO, .ME, or .IO for their business, or a two-word .COM. There are countless examples of venture-backed startups branding on two-word .IO’s with being one of my favorite examples as a fellow Techstars company. At the same time, it’s no secret that .COM has been around for a lot longer and without a doubt far more startups brand on two-word .COMs than anything else.

Still if you want to call your company one single word, .COM pricing can be in the six-figure range which is where other domain extensions like .CO, .ME, and .IO can really shine.

So what would you do? Would you pick a one-word .CO, .ME, or .IO or a two-word .COM?

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Lavie bika October 10, 2016, 7:06 pm

    What search ? this good , this good .

  • Mark Thorpe October 10, 2016, 7:15 pm

    Two-word .com all the way!
    One word .co would be my second choice.

  • Joseph Peterson October 10, 2016, 8:32 pm

    Suppose you’re lost. What would you do – head North? go south? turn left? make a right?

    Generic answers about naming are equally misguided.

    The only way to choose a brand name is to know what specifically the project is … who the audience is meant to be … which particular domain names are obtainable … at what price points … and what the surrounding conditions are like (e.g. competing websites, trademarks, etc.)

    Knowing only that it’s “B2B” is nowhere near adequate as a description to endorse ANY course of action.

    • Morgan October 10, 2016, 11:41 pm

      @Joseph – fair point. This is a startup in the data space, they do things to help aggregate data amongst various platforms like Salesforce, Zendesk, etc. and use the combined data to make better decisions.

  • Nick October 10, 2016, 10:37 pm

    As a startup I’d rather own a category keyword one-word .IO instead of settling for a 2 word made up phrase .com BUT perhaps what I’d do is get that one-word .IO at whatever cost is necessary since it defines the category of the product or service I am selling AND point it to the 2-word .com Or maybe even the other way around. .IO and startups are becoming like bread and butter……

    • Alex April 16, 2017, 10:02 am

      I prefer .com all the way… By now we know that most of gtld s are garbage, confusion, and squatting is killing a lot of brands, turning in to a tacky world… As far as .io, it did became popular for a couple of years,the boom of millenial startups, the saddest part is that it also became synonymous of FAIL STart ups, spamming, casino betting, malware sites, squatting option for .com, and so on… The .CO domain samething, but the only difference is that you have more successful start ups in this category, and more trustable website, apart that is known for COLOMBIAN, and not COMPANY, LOTS OF LATINO COLOMBIAN SITES, not very generic… The only gtlds that I consider valuable,are those word-phrases that match beautiful with whatever extension, and most companies only get those gtlds for traffic to their site


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