I seem to have endless arguments over the importance of owning the URL that exactly corresponds to your company name, or in the case where your company name is irrelevant to consumers, your product name.
Of course, Paul Graham, my go-to-guy for startup advice, has a blog on the subject: Change your name.
Perhaps you think this is just a Silicon Valley rule and doesn’t apply to the rest of the world. Mostly you’d be right, but in this particular case you’d be wrong.
Put down your coffee and listen to me: YOUR COMPANY NAME MUST BE EXACTLY THE SAME AS YOUR URL.
If you’re called The Widget Company and your most popular widget name is Gary the Goat, then it doesn’t enormously matter whether you own widgetcompany.com (although it is a big bonus), it only matters that you own www.garythegoat.com.
Let me explain: As unlikely as it may seem that one day your brand could be worth a billion dollars, it is not impossible.
And if that day comes you better own the .com that exactly matches your brand. Otherwise some imposter will make a truckload of money off your name and goodwill, possibly tarnishing your brand in the process, or you will be forced to shell out millions to buy your .com from a very happy squatter.
Lets use a local example. MTN. It launched in 1994, right about at the birth of the World Wide Web. Www.mtn.com would definitely have been available.
But like most startups then (and now) they either didn’t think the Web would be important, or they didn’t really believe they would ever be a global success story, so they registered www.mtn.co.za, leaving www.mtn.com untouched.
Fast forward 21 years and MTN is a global mobile network operator with a market cap of R324billion. It is ranked 395 in the Forbes500 biggest public companies in the world, with tens of millions of customers in 22 countries, and over 21,000 employees.
Its website? www.mtn.co.za. What does that URL say? It says “Hi there, I’m a little company in South Africa”.
Who owns www.mtn.com? I don’t know, but there is one thing for sure: The owner will one day be paid a truckload of money for his domain. Even a company as big as MTN cannot ignore this glaring omission and will eventually suck it up and shell it out.
MTN is not alone. Has anyone noticed that www.voda.com does not point at Vodacom?
Come to think about it, why didn’t Vodafone register the domanin www.voda.com back in the day?
Because they were not thinking far enough into the future.
Your company .com is like the taxman. It will always catch up with you, and you will always be forced to pay the price.
Avoid that pain. When you’re starting a company the first thing you do is choose a name, the shorter the better, preferably less than 10 characters, and make sure you register the exact .com.
If you can’t get the .com, change your name.