Owning the dot-com: even my grandma understood

Jun 26, 2012
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I remember back in 1996 when my grandmother (since passed, bless her soul) caught me off guard, as she had a knack for doing, with a highly-esoteric tech question. She had invited me for lunch at the Hobees in Cupertino, an annual ritual in which we caught up on each others’ lives.  Toward the end of the meal, she turned academic in her own inimitable way and spoke, “Now, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you: what is a dot-com?”

It’s hard to imagine today how unusual such a question would have sounded, but this was back in 1996, and coming from my grandma, who had never even touched a pc. I scrambled to piece together a professorial explanation on a topic which was still relatively new even to me.

But this was Silicon Valley, and my grandma was a voracious reader of the news, so she quickly picked up on this emerging new jargon.

An asset whose value even my grandmother could perceive sixteen years ago has now become an indisputable requirement for any business. Yet, amazingly, even today some web businesses fail to grasp this detail.

I was reminded of this during recent conversations with two different digital media startups. One is launching a new product; another is a startup in stealth mode that is now in the process of choosing its trade name prior to launch.

Even for European ventures, the dot-com is the neighborhood to inhabit. Sure, feel free to register your local country extensions and other name variants, but if your digital media venture does not possess the dot-com for your core name, I submit that your company’s value will be inescapably diminished.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures advises his portfolio companies to spend up to $50,000 to acquire their dot-com if they don’t own it already. He also offers some excellent suggestions for procuring this asset, such as rent-to-own or purchase-for-equity schemes.

Perhaps even better yet, consult the available dot-com’s — or probe the secondary domain market for those on reasonable offer — before finalizing your product name. Failing to secure your dot-com early will make you rue the day you’ve built a successful business only to witness an unrelenting drag on your marketing efforts.