Abi Noda's Blog

Choosing a name and domain for your startup

Last week I began working on my new product Dev Insights. Dev Insights forks off of my app Pull Reminders and focuses exclusively on developer metrics.

I came up with the name “Dev Insights” when I first got the idea for the product several months ago. I was excited until I saw that both the .com and .co were already registered. What a bummer! But the domains were not being used, which offered hope. And the owner’s contact information was public so I sent him an email. I didn’t want to just sit around while I waited for a response so I bought the domain devinsights.us in order to proceed.

I ended up taking a break from the project for a few months. When I picked it back up last week, I thought to myself that the .us extension didn’t look very professional or credible. I couldn’t have that. This was my baby! How would I land serious customers? I still hadn’t heard back from the owner of devinsights.com so I tried emailing him again. I also went on LinkedIn and saw that we knew some people common from Chicago. I emailed one our mutual connections to see if he could help me get a hold of the guy. My friend went ahead and emailed him on my behalf, and received a response that they planned to use the domain but were willing to talk if I could pay $20k+.

I was startled by this. I had never thought that getting the .com would be a sure thing, but the fact that someone else was going to use it was startling. I tried to reassure myself that it was OK to simply use an alternative domain. This didn’t go well. Paul Graham has written that “If you have a US startup called X and you don’t have x.com, you should probably change your name.” Several Hacker News threads also seemed to agree with this.

I felt desperate. I faced the terrible dilemma of either sticking with the name but using a second-class domain name, or changing the name altogether.

This led to me spending hours trying to come up with new names. The best ones I could come up with were sentinelapp.com (for $4,000), quackinsights (rubber duck…), and develoscope.com. I didn’t love any of them.

I then went back to researching alternative domain name option. I came up with getdevinsights.com, devinsightsapp.com, and devinsights.io. I had previously ruled out .io because I had heard scary things about it failing at the DNS level. But I started reconsidering because I felt like the one place where .io was acceptable was developer products, which mine was. Meanwhile, Paul Graham’s quote just kept coming back to me… “100% of the top 20 YC companies by valuation have the .com of their name.” I couldn’t think of any successful companies I followed that had an IO extension.

Later that night, I was in bed looking at my user analytics on my phone when I remembered that Intercom had started out with the domain name intercom.io. I even looked up old links on Quora to cofirm this. If Intercom could do it, why couldn’t I? I could always buy the .com later and switch to it, right? Just like Intercom did. Suddenly I felt fine about using the devinsights.io name. So I got out of bed and bought it on the spot.

Naming your business is hard. Finding a good domain name can also be difficult.

It’s important to remember that at an early stage, naming should be one of your least biggest concerns. The chances of your company failing due to your name or domain name is basically 0%. You can always change it down the road if it matters. So just pick something and get on with it!

Can’t think of a clever company name? Try something rediculously generic like UserTesting. Is your .com taken? Try yournameapp.com like Invision or Front, or getyourname.com like Shogun. Worried about a .io? Don’t forget about Intercom or Chef. I hope this helps!

Have questions or feedback? DM me on Twitter or shoot me an email.