Catalytic is an automation cloud, founded in 2015, with the goal of freeing people to do more thoughtful, creative and meaningful work. In this interview for MarkUpgrade, Sean Chou, CEO and co-founder of Catalytic, talks about the origin of the brand name, what has been the effect of having the domain name Catalytic.com for his brand and why buying the right domain name should be a priority for startups.
What was the original source of inspiration for you to start Catalytic?
Working at Fieldglass for over a decade, I became painfully aware of the drudgery and inefficiencies that are a part of day-to-day life for many workers. We knew there had to be a way to incorporate the coming wave of automation with the high-value decision making that only human workers can offer. At the time, I was responsible for our product, delivery, and ongoing operations, and I was always pushing us to make our processes better, faster and more efficient. A lot of this comes from my passion around productivity and technology. I’d rather spend two hours building a solution that saves me from 15 minutes of daily drudgery.
Who came up with the brand name “Catalytic” initially? What is the meaning behind it?
My co-founder Ravi and I came up with the name Catalytic. We wanted a solid, trend-proof company name that stood out in a sea of odd-sounding portmanteaus and awkward made up adverbs. I like names with a story that ties into the purpose of the company. I originally formed an LLC called Catalytic Labs because it tied into a vision of a technology startup researching how to help companies with massive, sustainable acceleration to business processes and operations. Plus, truth be told, I was able to grab catalyticlabs.com. I then pitched the name to my co-founder, who loved it.
Once we set up Catalytic Labs, LLC, we thought it was worth going after catalytic.com even as a long shot given that it was already taken. We used a domain broker to help reach out to the domain owner, who initially asked for much more than we were willing to pay. So, we countered with a reasonable but much lower offer. Many days went by and we thought it was game over. We told them we were not going to continue discussions, and that’s when they came back very close to our offer, and we jumped on it.
Your business is run on a short and memorable domain name. How did you come to select the name and what has been the effect of having it for your brand?
We wanted a name that was easy to remember, easy to spell, and tied into our purpose. The name Catalytic elicits thoughts of change, motion, and acceleration. It also sets us apart from many software companies who either choose uninspiring but safe names or overly trendy names that will quickly sound dated.
Startups often compromise on their company domain name, you clearly didn’t. How do you justify investing in a good domain at such an early stage? Would you advise others to do it?
Coming off the sale of Fieldglass, I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could lock up the domain name we wanted. It is a great investment if you can afford it early on, but don’t make compromises in other areas of your company with the hopes of utilizing an expensive domain name down the road. Had we not gotten lucky in negotiating our domain name, we would have chosen another company name. I would advise other startups to have multiple potential names and be prepared to go with the one that doesn’t use up too much of your funding. Also, although .io, .ai, and other top-level domains have gotten popular lately, I personally think anything other than a .com is mostly free advertising for the .com version of your name.
What domain did you use before Catalytic.com?
We started with and still have catalyticlabs.com. But we did grab catalytic.com so early that we didn’t really have much tied to catalyticlabs.com.
What was the best and worst part about the process of acquiring the domain Catalytic.com?
The initial asking price was pretty disheartening, although I’ve heard of startups that have paid probably 5–10x their initial asking price. We just weren’t going to be one of them. The best part was being able to start sending email from our domain name. I still love it!
How important is the presence of your brand online? What plays the most important role in people finding you on the web?
It’s critical to have an online presence. It legitimizes your company and provides information at scale to future and current customers, employees and suppliers. Based on the type of business, different types of presence and initiatives are going to matter. We’re an enterprise software company with mostly a direct sales model, so our online presence is mostly about information availability and distribution.
If Catalytic is a person, how would you describe its personality?
Helpful, approachable, not taking itself too seriously. We are that friendly co-worker that just wants to make your life better so the workplace is happier.
Do you think that buying the right domain name should be a priority for startups?
Yes, it should be a high priority. It touches so many parts of your business, you’ll be stuck with it for a long time, and moving off it later is a painful process.
Who is your go-to person for branding advice, for domain names and in general?
I tend to go with my gut initially and then quickly look for input from colleagues, especially those with a marketing background and/or good aesthetics. I also like to run them by kids to make sure they don’t immediately see something ridiculous that I don’t see.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
Branding is not a democratic exercise. You can’t get a large group of people to agree on something as subjective as names, colors, logo design. It has to be a small group of people driving the bus soliciting input, and accepting some people will not like the outcome.
What should your global audience expect from you now, what’s next?
There’s a lot you can expect and we expect a lot from ourselves. As a software company, our biggest investment will always be to our core platform and our customers can expect continuous innovation. But as we grow and invest substantially in marketing, your global audience should expect to hear more from us.
We hope this will be of use to you in the process of getting your perfect domain name. If you have any questions, need any help or just want to chat with someone about the process, book a free consultation at MarkUpgrade. We are always happy to hear from you.
Find out more about Catalytic.com
Written by: Kristina Mišić