Lamine Zarrad, CEO of Joust, is an innovative thought leader and futurist in the banking industry. In founding Joust, he’s pushing financial services toward greater inclusiveness through technology and aims to create economic vitality for independent workers. Lamine talks about the origin of the brand name, how his business became a complete brand after buying the Joust.com domain name and what are the most important lessons that he learned while he was waiting on public transportation as a kid in Russia.
Lamine, what is your background, and what led you to start Joust?
In short, I’ve been a refugee, an immigrant, a U.S. Marine, and a federal bank regulator. Why not be a tech startup founder too? I’ve had a bird’s-eye view of the financial industry and saw a clear need in the market to develop solutions that serve freelancers, entrepreneurs, and independent professionals. On a gut level, I know what it’s like to have to hustle. I wanted to challenge myself with creating something new, and I wanted to do it for people with a similar grit and determination.
How did you come up with a name Joust, what’s the story behind it?
Freelance professionals are our key demographic, so we looked into the history of the word “freelance.” Though the term “free lances” first showed up in Ivanhoe, it refers to a real phenomenon of unaffiliated medieval soldiers. From there we got to “Joust.” And, well, the URL for “HiredGun,” was already taken. (just kidding)
In addition to the lance concept, the shield worked well for us because PayArmour, our anchor product, serves to protect freelancers.
You did a great upgrade from JoustBank.com to the exact brand match domain Joust.com, why did you choose to buy JoustBank.com over Joust.com at the time?
We were always interested in the Joust.com domain. We located the owner and came to an arrangement. Having this Joust.com domain made us feel that our branding was complete. It’s simple and easy to remember.
How did you find out that Joust.com was available to purchase?
We had to actively seek it out.
What was the best and worst part about the process of acquiring the domain Joust.com?
The best part was that we got it! The worst was that it was one more issue to deal with, but that’s par for the course in startup life.
Did you notice an immediate impact to your business, have you seen a rise in web traffic and sales that can be attributed to domain upgrade?
Luckily, we completed the transition to Joust.com before we launched our product. So for most of our users, there was no impact. However, we can say we’ve had a positive response to our branding choices for Joust.
How important is the presence of your brand online? What plays the most important role in people finding you on the web?
Very, because we’re digital. We’ve been thoughtful about choosing our brand partners, who connect us to our customers and make us part of an ecosystem that’s natural to our customers.
Does the short, generic, premium domain name eliminate the need for online marketing or advertising, or do you still invest in promoting the site in search engines and social media platforms?
Yes. For us, these elements (domain name and online marketing) are not synonymous. The word “joust” is not going to come up for our key customers (vs “trace” for ancestry). So yes, we still do promotion.
Can you give an example of an early lesson in life that shaped you to become the person you are today?
One of the most important lessons that I learned in life was waiting on public transportation as kid in Russia. I waited countless hours at bus and train stations and developed a sense of tolerance for the unknown along with endless patience for life’s small but meaningful rewards, like catching a bus or raising funding for a company.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are wondering whether to invest in the perfect domain match for their brand?
I would say make sure that you have a working business first.
If you compare your startup with a car, which car would it be? What model and why?
Lamborghini LM002, a military-grade, V12 powerhouse wrapped in the user experience of the Lamborghini brand. Unfortunately for LM002, it came out way ahead of its time.
What is next for Joust, where do you see the company in 4 years from now?
The vision is to continue to grow our platform, adding features and developing the services requested by our users.