What’s In a Name – Does Your Domain Name Really Matter?

September 19, 2008

Last week while listing to the TechCrunch50 conference live broadcast, I noticed an interesting trend that seemed to concern VC’s on the judging panel that were asking questions and evaluating the presentations of the participating startups. Several times during the feedback and commentary the panel would give to the startups that just presented, concern about the chosen name for the company was raised. This was most evident when listing to the Yammer presentation, and highlighted at the end of TechCrunch’s post about Yammer with this quote from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff: “The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.”

And during the presentation of FootNote, a sort of social network for remembering the lives of the deceased, panelist Jeff Weiner made the comment:

I don’t know if anyone wants to be remembered as a footnote.

But you have to ask yourself – does the name really matter? Would Google or Yahoo! really have been any more successful if they had launched with the name “Web Search” instead? moreDo you even know anyone who has ever been to the domain search.com? I can’t think of even one instance where I would type in the domain name of the service I want instead of a memorized company name that’s offering the service. Do you go to pizza.com to find pizza in your area, or go to a useful service you know instead, like Google Maps or Yellowpages?

These panelists seem like they’re the type that would have also recommend that Flickr, now one of the most popular photo sharing sites in the world, change it’s name to something like “Photo Sharing” instead while it too was in the early startup stages. The idea that a more generic name can have any kind of profound impact on your startup is preposterous. The name or domain name of your business or startup generally doesn’t matter. The only cases I can think of where changing the company name would really matter is if the original name was offensive or incredibly hard for the average person to spell.

So in short, no – the name of your company or the domain name you choose to launch your products and/or services on doesn’t really matter at all. And the puzzling part about all of this is that you would think that Venture Capitalists and other investors in startups would understand this concept most. If your product and/or service is good, people will flock to it, no matter the name.

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