The Challenge Of Picking A Brand Name For Your Startup

If you read TechCrunch on a daily basis you start to see a lot of trends in the brand names that startups are picking. Brand names are directly related to domain names and if you look today, the startups making news now are short and brandable, and two-word domains are definitely still very much in style. While you will find other TLDs like .CO, .ME, and sometimes .TV in the mix, .COM is definitely the king and .NET and .ORG are rarely seen.

So what happened to .NET and .ORG? Well extensions like .CO, .ME, .TV, .IO and several others gave people what they consider to be better options. Everyone agreed that .COM would be their absolute first choice, but in going for a second choice .NET isn’t favored over some of the newer and more brandable extensions.

Often it is startups that want to brand around a one-word domain that opt for an alternative extension to .COM. A good one word .COM could easy cost over $350,000 and when you’re just starting a company, this isn’t feasible. So starting with a .CO or a .ME for $5,000 – $10,000 may be the best way to get started, and then you can buy the .COM once the company becomes profitable.

I work a lot with startups and this is the behavior I’m seeing and a reason why I think .CO was so smart to focus on the startup space. I have been surprised how quickly .IO has caught on but I think this has to do with the fact that IO is nice and geeky, and startup people like myself are also pretty geeky πŸ™‚

It is a tough debate but one that many startups have to make. Go with a brandable two-word .COM like or Or build a brand around or while you build a profitable business and the funds to buy a one word .COM. There’s no right answer but here are the startup domains that are making news on TechCrunch today: (Brands itself as “Thumb”)

What do you think? Would you pick a two-word brandable .COM or a one-word dictionary .ME, .CO, etc.? Or would you just make-up a word like Jongla or Ayasdi and stick with a brandable one word .COM?

Comment and let your voice be heard!

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • bw January 16, 2013, 9:33 am

    To me, relevancy is important, something that is completely obscure, while it may be catchy, snappy, memorable, all good traits in a brand name, if it doesn’t describe the product or service directly, well, I think that’s a little loose. So in regards to your question of one word or two word brand names, it depends on what is most relevant to my product / service. A name like Jongla will require so much more of a push to get your brand into the minds of consumers, what could it possibly pertain to? The names above that I like at – ecommerce / retail, – food / restaurant directory, – internships, – movie reviews, and I love because it is short, but not sure what it best pertains to. I haven’t visited any of the domains, but I can attach meaning to them. The others, I have no clue, they are obscure.

  • AbdulBasit Makrani January 16, 2013, 10:09 am

    I would pick one or two word brandable .COM but not any other extension because in future that .COM is going to very expensive. The owner of that .COM is going to ask a lot more than in past because of the success my business which is built on lower extension.

  • Samit January 16, 2013, 10:29 am

    I make a living out of branding products, services and companies and all I’d like to say on this topic is that creating a brand is a fairly complex process.

    And naming is just one aspect of it, promoting it is a whole different thing and is largely dependent on the kind of budgets you have.

    Gaana btw means song in Hindi, so major relevance there, a lot of popular Indian sites are one word .coms in Hindi like (jobs) etc.

  • Darryl Lopes January 16, 2013, 11:10 am

    Brandable dot com, Twitter started with the dot com and they have other domain extension like t dot co as the URL shorter. Your brand should have a dot com however you can have promotional dot me and dot tv with links back to the dot com. I will sell some dot coms I have. πŸ˜‰

  • Morgan January 16, 2013, 11:12 am

    @bw – thanks for sharing your feedback and really good point! I agree that there definitely is an advantage to have a brand that people can deduce what you do by looking at the name. Relevancy can make a big difference!

    @Samit – thanks for sharing, such a complex process and one that can play a major role especially in the early days of building a brand.

  • Lance January 16, 2013, 11:52 am

    My concern about going with a .CO, .ME or other non-.COM TLD is that if/when the startup really starts to gain traction (especially in the United States), the public will think (and mistakenly use) the .COM, This, in turn, will make the .COM domain even more valuable.

    Example: pay a premium for or, hand register, or come up with a catchy, brandable, easy-to-pronounce .com (i.e, If is too expensive, I would rather launch with an easy-to-pronounce .COM than with

  • Viljami January 16, 2013, 12:47 pm

    I think that one big problem with dictionary word .COs, .MEs and so on, is the situation when you decide to go with, say,, and after you’ve built your online presence for a few years or so, comes another player, which decides to pay for the .COM version and builds on it. A quite uncomfortable situation, I’d say. Now, I’m not sure if this has happened, but probably will in the future.

    Anyway, .IO’s success is a little bit surprising. I understand there’s that geeky feel in it, but for the general public it means absolutely nothing (it’s kind of cute, though.)

  • Cate January 16, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Brian Wong CEO of is/will become someone who goes down in history IMHO as one of the marketing geniuses of the mobile marketing/branding/monetization business continues to unfold. Been following this young man for years and at the tender age of 21 now I think? πŸ™‚ picking the name kiip (pronounced keep) pretty smart to me πŸ™‚ going to see if Brian will weigh in here w his thoughts πŸ™‚

  • Peter January 16, 2013, 8:23 pm

    Good post Morgan. I added to it re the typo angle:


    • Morgan January 17, 2013, 1:02 pm

      Thanks @Peter!!

  • Logan Flatt January 18, 2013, 9:30 am

    Cate — IMHO, is a horrible brand name. Fails the “Schwartz radio test” on all accounts. The average American will type in by instinct and then type in as his corrected attempt. is bad, bad, bad as a memorable and consumer-usable branded domain name.

  • Josef Reisz February 2, 2013, 7:26 am

    Hey Morgan, nice post. πŸ™‚
    As a matter of fact, you can turn any name into a brand. A brand isn’t supposed to be reduce to “only” a domain name.
    Look at Zappos, Zalando or others.
    A brand isn’t defined by the domain name. But rather by the core of any business: the solution.
    If you have the best solution for a problem, the branding is nearly unimportant.
    What’s important though, you need to get into the minds of people with your brand.
    But it really doesn’t matter if your brand is or

  • Dot April 12, 2013, 12:52 am

    If “kiip” is considered to be an outofthebox idea, then whatabout ‘
    Would anyone consider this a brandable name also?

  • APISMEDIA.PL March 20, 2015, 5:59 pm

    Ideation and execution are interdependent.


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