The Brandable Insider: Sumo.com and Other Seemingly Mismatched Brands

There’s been a lot of press this week about the acquisition of the domain Sumo.com for a $1.5 million dollars. Noah Kagan, CEO of SumoMe has been making the rounds this week and you can find his interviews at Domain Sherpa, DomainNameWire and on his podcast blog, OKdork. You can also find articles at Entrepreneur Mag and NamePros. You can even find an opinion piece at Domain Gang which questions the wisdom of spending so much money on a brand that has no obvious correlation to its core product and service.

All this talk about Sumo.com got me to thinking. I started to reflect on all the business ventures, in a variety of industries, that have picked up dictionary word domains and are using them for brands even though there is no obvious connection between the brand and their product.

So here’s a few exact match domain-brands that could have you scratching your head.
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The Brandable Insider: How to Recognize a Good Invented Domain Name

Invented domains are an alternative to brand names based on keywords. You won’t find them in the dictionary but the good ones are easy to pronounce when you read them and easy to spell when you hear them in a conversation.

They are also short. The average invented company name is five or six letters long. Some are shorter. A few are longer. But very rarely are the good ones more than seven or eight letters.

Now I’ll add a fourth quality to that list of attributes. They feel familiar. The best invented names feel like they are a real word or should be one. For this reason successful startups often select names that contain elements of existing dictionary words, slang terms or common phrases.

You’ll see what I mean when you look at the invented names of these 2016 unicorn companies with matching dot-com domain names:
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How Whistle got its (domain) name

After covering how both Yelp and Agoda got their matching .com domain names my eye was caught by San Francisco based pet company and internet of things startup Whistle. Whistle has developed an activity tracker and app that helps you stay connected to your dog and monitors your pet’s activity and health. The company launched in 2013 and has raised $21 million in funding to date.

In an interview with Shoplocket, CEO and co-founder Ben Jacobs shared how they came up with the name Whistle as well as how they managed to get the matching Whistle.com domain name.

“We were able to figure out that Whistle was owned by a large corporation because it had been acquired in a very different, non-competitive, non-pet business 15 years ago. It was a company called Whistle Communications. The Whistle.com domain name was just redirecting to IBM.com. IBM was the owner of the business.”

Most entrepreneurs would look for an alternative name or domain extension knowing that their desired domain name is owned by one of the largest technology companies in the world but Ben and his co-founders showed some real out of the box thinking and actually reached out directly to the entrepreneur who started that business and said, “Can you please help a couple young founders and help us try to get this domain name out?” At the time the domain name was just redirecting to IBM.com. IBM was the owner of the business.

“It was a really fun thing to see him dive in and help us and we were able to manage to get Whistle.com. From there, we were off and running.”

I reached out to Whistle CEO Ben who told me that they recently acquired pet wearable competitor Tagg thus adding a couple more interesting domains to their companies portfolio such as  Tagg.com and PetTracker.com.

 

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How Agoda got its (domain) name

After kicking off the “How they got their name” series with Yelp.com earlier this month I want to share another story that provides great insight in how some start-up companies tackle the all important naming (and domaining) process.

If you have ever traveled around Asia chances are pretty high that at some point you’ve booked accommodation through Agoda.com.

Founded in 2002 in Bangkok by Robert Rosenstein and Michael Kenny the site was acquired five years later by Priceline. The site is currently available in 37 languages and reached more than 80 million visitors in December 2014 according to Similarweb.

So where does the Agoda name and matching .com domain come from? Ahead of the WIT (web in travel) conference in 2011 CEO and co-founder Robert shared some unique insight in how they came up with the name:

Many years ago, like many search engine focused marketers, we marketed our hotel product through many different domain names that we owned or partnered with. We always wanted to build a singular brand and move away from search, and we had been looking for good name for at least a year.

Agoda was one of the names we came across that was available in multiple languages and for sale online. We liked it because it sounded a lot a lot like a slang for “I’ve got to go” as in “I got ‘Agoda’ Tokyo this weekend.

With so many different nationalities inside our business speaking English to each other with different accents, we had a good laugh about that and eventually settled on the name. It didn’t hurt that it was only five letters, relatively easy to pronounce, started with the letter A, and sounded Asian because of the similarity with Pagoda.

As with all things we do, we also tested the name with real customers and received good response. We then worked with creative talent to create a more clear brand identity. It all came together over a period of about six months and we never looked back.

I really like how the company decided to go with a brand name rather than a descriptive domain names like most of their competitors did back in those days and as someone living in Asia for the past 8 years I can assure you that the Agoda brand is as well known and popular as Expedia is in the US. I reached out to CEO Robert Rosenstein to see if he can share more details about the price the company paid for the Agoda.com domain name and will update this post if I hear anything back.

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How Yelp got its (domain) name.

I love learning about how (start-up) companies got their name and matching domain name. As a domain name investor it helps me to better understand the naming and decision process most entrepreneurs go through at one point when they need to come up with a great name for their business idea. Very often the stories behind how a company got it’s name and the matching domain name are very interesting, funny or even exciting which made me decide they will make for a cool returning topic here on DNgeek.com – so here’s the first in a series of posts about How start-up companies got their (domain) name:

Founded in 2004, Yelp is currently one of the largest ratings and reviews sites on the web and listed on the NYSE. As of 2014, Yelp.com had a staggering 132 million monthly visitors and 57 million reviews.

Co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman shares on Q&A site Quora that he initially wanted to call the site Yocal. He thought it was a neat play on “local” and “yokel,” but he wasn’t able to get the matching .com domain (Whois info shows Yocal.com is currently owned by Yahoo Inc but doesn’t resolve). With only a month away from launch and struggling to find a name, a guy in the same incubator was poking around online and saw that the Yelp.com domain was available for just $5,000.

Russ and I didn’t immediately like the name since it was “the sound of a dog being kicked”. Fortunately Scott Bannister (another guy hanging out in the incubator, who was also involved in the naming of PayPal) immediately loved it. He told us he’d buy it and sell it to us the next day when we came to our senses. In the ensuing discussion Jared Kopf (yet another incubator employee) put down his credit card and actually bought the domain. The next day it was transfered to the company (we paid back Jared) and the rest is history.

In a short video interview on their own site Jeremy also tells how Yelp got it’s name. After saying they initially thought the name sounded like a “cry for help” and how they were afraid for negative connotations they acknowledged the domain it’s many qualities such as short, memorable and the strong affiliations with Help and Yellow Pages after a single night of sleep.

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