This week we acquired workhound.com. We’ve be trying to do so since launching the company. This post details the steps we took to get the domain.
This blog is a weekly reflection of WorkHound’s time at Dynamo, a logistics-focused accelerator based in Chattanooga, TN. This is week 12.
The experience was a year of frustration, uncertainty, and terrible communication. The process is painful, but it’s a worthwhile achievement for our business.
Why we did it
If your company is X, then you should have X.com — that’s the thinking according to Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. Having the .com domain is easier for people to find and it demonstrates strength. All emerging companies are building brands. Having the .com of your company strengthens the brand.
Buying domains is a terrible experience
In the summer of 2015 we picked the name “WorkHound”. The name sounded cool and it speaks to what we do: help companies sniff out the biggest issues. We saw workhound.com was taken, but figured we could get it for cheap. Wrong. The domain squatters asked for $10K. This is a deal for established companies, but a deal breaker for an emerging company tight on cash.
If possible, pick a company name where you can get the .com. The problem with this is that you wind up with some goofy name. Ours would have been werkhound or workhounds, or something stupid like that. We didn’t want to go that route.
Buying a domain is like a terrible real estate experience
Buying domains is like buying land. But instead of developing that land, domain squatters just put up billboards or leave the lots empty. If you need to buy that land, they will then look at the value of your business before selling you that space. The more valuable your business, the more they charge.
On one hand: we respect the hustle, as there’s a lot of money to be made. On the other: domain squatters create confusion for consumers, headaches for brands, and just plain stupid company names.
Domain squatters are hard to communicate with. They don’t care about any particular problem or driving any specific value. They only want cash for real estate they grabbed 15 years ago. This makes it painful to work with them. Sometimes they’ll squat on a domain an extra few years in the hope of getting more money off of it. They may try to squeeze a few more dollars out of a company, based on how important they think the domain is. They usually work with domain brokers to complete a transaction.
Domain brokers are a real pain in the ass
Domain brokers are the facilitators for domain squatters. They chase down the biggest opportunities based on the pool of domains available. Over the past year, they’ve attempted communication with both Andrew and me, but it was always spotty. We would email, they wouldn’t respond. They would have a phone number, but never return voicemails. Pretty annoying. This happened several times over the past year. It was like going to an open house and having the real estate agent leave for a picnic five minutes after you arrived.
Our latest attempt to get workhound.com finally led to success. Naturally with frustrating communication involved. The reason is that squatters won’t talk to interested domain buyers. They run everything through brokers.
Momentum increases the cost of a domain
Buying a domain for your business is an art and a science. You have to buy when you can afford the domain, while also not waiting too long to buy as your hype increases price.
As a founder my job is to hype our business for prospective customers, investors, and talent. We’ve had several press articles to boost our momentum. They’ve helped us close customers, but they are terrible for domain purchases.
We know companies that have paid $100K for their domains. We also know those who can’t get their domain because the squatter wants $1MM or more.
One must buy the domain as soon as the business has the capital to do so while not emptying the bank account. Waiting too long may make the price unaffordable. Too soon and you may buy the domain of a dead company.
How we bought workhound.com
The process is a mess. So we got creative. We set up a separate email address using an alter ego. We told the broker the purchase was for a project, nothing more. The domain broker responded a week later with an offer of a few thousand dollars — a steal in our eyes. Our guess is they assumed the WorkHound company wasn’t going to buy the domain.
In the sketchy world of domain buying, it’s important to protect yourself. Fortunately, this broker used a well known escrow service. After agreeing to a price, and wiring money this escrow service, we received the authorization code to transfer the domain. We quickly linked the new site — we’re live at WorkHound.com!
Domain horror stories
We were fortunate, as there are numerous domain acquisition horror stories.
Recently, a squatter had ClintonKaine.com and tried to sell it to the Clinton campaign for $90K. The Clinton campaign didn’t budge, even at $10K. Ultimately he sold it to an anonymous buyer, who turned out to be the Trump campaign for $15K.
A company in the UK changed its name from “Mondo” to “Monzo” and a rival scooped up their domain before they did. Talk about a gut punch.
This is why it is ideal to get the correct domain for your company as quick as possible. And why we are the proud owners of WorkHound.com.
Read our previous posts about our time at Dynamo
What is WorkHound?
WorkHound is a software platform built to help carriers keep drivers and improve the truck driver experience. Truck drivers use their smartphones to share feedback and ideas with the carrier, which WorkHound aggregates and turns into actionable insights to help manage and retain drivers. WorkHound is co-founded by Andrew Kirpalani and Max Farrell.