Posts filed under ‘Business Planning’

Choosing a domain name for a startup

While working at Reinvent and for the domain genius that is Kevin Ham, I gained a lot of appreciation for the concept of a domain name. Prior to Reinvent, I viewed a domain name as a necessary, albeit very important branding tool. I wasn’t aware of the concept of direct navigation, whereby a significant percentage of the population believes that if they type in a generic concept and put a .com at the end, chances are whatever is at the other end is related to the concept. This, and the fact that a surprising percentage of the population thinks that the search box and the browser URL is one and the same…and the fact that the keywords within the domain name are thought to influence search engines

As I delved deeper into the world of domain names, the importance of securing a domain name for any startup became much clearer. Much like when a person looks in the yellow pages for a specific term, chances are they have that expressed consumer intent for that particular product or service (i.e., if a person is looking for a plumber in the phone book, they probably need one and it is not just a weird fascination with words that start with the letter “P”… It is also unlikely that as they approach the listing and pass by the section on “Pizza” that they may decide “while I am waiting for my plumber, how about I order some pizza”. It is possible, but you shouldn’t blow your marketing dollars and count on it).

A domain name is the same thing. should help a person find a plumber in Vancouver. And the person who types this domain in has a pretty clear need for what is on the other end. The same holds true for advertising on Google or Yahoo! as a person who searches for “Vancouver Plumber” and then sees paid search advertising in the top and side panels has expressed a defined need for the service. You might even say that the first level of lead qualification was already done… though getting the person to act once they get to your site is another story (and another opportunity for those of us who provide consulting services).

If you are considering a startup, or are in the early stages of a business, really think about what your product or service offering is going to be and then try and secure the domain that best matches it. Yes, you may have to buy the domain at a premium via an aftermarket or via a broker, but in the long run, it will help your branding and search ranking (as detailed here by Aaron Wall).

Owen Frager, over at The Frager Factor has a good post today called “Life After Domains… continued“. In the post he provides “a litmus test to evaluate names BEFORE purchase to ensure that you are making more informed and prudent decisions.” In this post, he also quotes Frank Schilling’s comment that, “A good domain name reduces your lifetime marketing costs and increases marketing opportunities. Mark Twain said: “History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes” .. The past may not be a true indication of the future, but domain names ‘are the Internet’. You need a domain for email, in fact the only constant since the dawn of the commercial internet in 1993 (Netscape 1) has been the domain name. If you feel comfortable investing in anything related to the Internet it should be a generic domain name.”

Here are half of Owen’s14 questions he wants you to ask when considering a domain purchase:

==> Is your name is dictionary word that is easy to spell, pronounce and describes what it is and what it does.

==>Can you take this domain and put it on eBay and close a $50-100 sale within a day?

==> Is it a dotCOM extension. If you are in the US and unless you are a gizillionaire in dotCOM name already, or are buying another extension to protect your brand or surname, if you don’t own a dotCOm please look in the mirror and repeat “I am a fool and I’ve erred. Repeat again, “I am a fool and I’ve erred.”

==> Does this name in its exact wording describe matching words that can be found in your local paper’s classified ads for something being offered or desired (jobs, autos, 1967 corvette parts)?

==> Are their advertisers on Google paying money for this word or word combination on the results pages (and do you know whom they are and how much they are paying)? Can a parking page monetize this domain with those SAME advertisers?

==> Have you done a business plan? Do you understand the size of the industry this word represents, its role in it? Who its biggest players (prospects) are? What is the total value of advertising for the industry? The average cost to acquire a new customers? The vale of an average order? Referral? Lifetime customer value? Annual 800# costs?

==> What call to action media exists now using a derivative of these words (bus, billboards, direct response, radio, TV, packaging, infomercial)? What is the cost of a a motivated prospect lost due to inability to recall their call to action?

==> Have you secured rights to this name by filing for a business license, having it appear in the phone book, making a corporate website explaining your intentions with an about us page that clearly identifies yourself, claims and credentials for being in this business with full and open access for contact? For example, if it’s a medical domain “” are you either an addict or doctor? What is your claim to this domain?

Something that I have been doing since I left Reinvent is to acquire domain names every time I come up with a business concept that I am interested in pursuing. A few of these are listed below. While I am open to pursuing names within the secondary markets, all of the names below were registered anew in the past month:

  • [I want to turn this into an outsourced livechat management service]
  • [Realtors are willing to pay for lead generation services. Kitsilano is one of the most expensive and high turnover regions of Vancouver]
  • [This will be a portal to connect early-stage startup consultants & experts engaged in launching small businesses with the businesses that they wish to help. This site will also provide services to the consultants themselves to help launch, market, and systemetize their business processes]
  •,,, [OK… These are speculative. Naramata is a region in BC’s Okanagan Valley. Consider it our “Sonoma” to Napa Valley. A large number of developments seem to be planned for the region, and I envision working with a developer or realtor to develop and promote these properties through an integrated web strategy]

So I guess my short post should have been, make sure you get a good domain for your business. And while entire businesses can be built around nonsense phrases or trendy concepts [or should I say Konceptz!], you might as well start with a leg up on your competition and make your marketing easier.

April 24, 2008 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Canadian Self Employment Program

I have NOT been working on my business plan. Nope. Not me. No sir.

You see… I came across the Self Employment Program offered by the government of Canada in which they provide “financial assistance to eligible individuals to help them create jobs for themselves by starting a business.”

It sounds good right? While the details are a little scarce online, it sounds like Service Canada will allow you to earn additional funds over and above EI payouts during a self employment program. In other words, EI payouts will continue as long as you are adhering to the Self Employment contract you establish. Perfect. That sounds right up my alley.

Unfortunately, as may be all too typical in government, you cannot start creating a business plan until after you get accepted into the program (which sounds like it could be a couple of week thing). If you start creating a plan prior to acceptance, you may be deemed ineligible for the program. Right now, I have a meeting set up with a “back-to-work” case worker on Thursday. From trolling through some discussions, it sounds like I have to get the case worker to suggest that this might be a good idea for me to pursue. I just can’t say I have started a plan or say exactly what I am going to do… Which actually is a good thing because I don’t know exactly yet. I mean … my plan is only half way written I am a blank canvas awaiting the suggestions of my case worker.

I will keep you posted as

April 2, 2008 at 12:43 am Leave a comment

Startup Incubator to Launch in Maple Ridge, BC?

Can a small-business startup incubator exist and thrive in Maple Ridge, BC? Well that is what I am going to find out. You see… I am about to start one. Sort of. Eventually. Well it is a bit of a long story.

Two weeks ago, I was let go from Reinvent Technology as part of a corporate reorganization. Quite the shock to me I admit, and I was not ready for the, “It’s not you, it’s me” speech given by Kevin Ham, “The Man That Owns the Internet.” You know the one that starts with, “Your work has been top notch, you are well-liked by your peers, and you are very enthusiastic and passionate, but…”

That word hangs out there. But. But what? But.

In any case, the cheese has been moved, and I must dive back into the maze, but…

There’s that word again. But. But what? What on earth am I going to do?

I’ve spent a large part of the past two weeks trying to decide exactly that. Am I going to go back and find a “real job”? You know… the kind of job that your parents attempt to understand and the kind that makes your wife happy that you have a corporate benefit plan and a steady pay cheque [even more important when your wife is also self employed]. Or am I going to do something completely different?

But what?

You see…I am an ideas man. I always have been and always will be. I am also entrepreneurial and a bit of a dreamer. I get my kicks out of imagining the impossible. I derive incredible satisfaction from listening to new business concepts and pitches, offering my two cents, and then sending the concept back for further grooming. In essence, this is what I have been doing for the better part of the last ten years. While yes, I have ran a startup. But I am more referring to my experience within the local hightech scene. Be it as an active participant in early stage ventures, restarts, or well-established companies looking to reinvent themselves. My role has always been the painter. The one that crafts the vision, spit-polishes the product line, or sets the direction of the ship heading over yonder. But…

Damn that word. But… But how does that pay the bills?

Well, this is where the leap of faith comes in and my vision for the future. I am going to launch a small business incubator that caters to the entrepreneur in suburbia. Kind of like Bill Gross’ IdeaLab, but without the initial bankroll. And I am going to be my first client.

For those of you who may, in some off chance be reading this and have no idea who I am or where Maple Ridge is, it is a suburban town about 1-1.5 hour’s drive out of downtown Vancouver. And there is no industry to speak of. Just commuters. But there are also a lot of people who work in home offices, and there are also a lot of the techies who are commuting. The way I see it, it is about demographics. Those who are young entrepreneurs and heavily vested in the technology sector can’t afford to live downtown anymore. They (as I did) are at the stage in their lives where they are thinking about starting a family. But as soon as that young family comes, it really can be challenging to work out of the home.

 Yep… I am going to get out of the house and incubate my own startup (or startups), perhaps inviting others into the mix in the near term as well. But first I need a business plan. You see that is what every good business has. I read something earlier today when I was reading about the government-subsidized Self Employment Program that 9 out of 10 businesses that don’t have a business plan fail, while 7 out of 10 that do have a plan succeed. Quite the statistic if it is accurate.

So I need a plan. But… But what is the business?

Well initially it is a business that is … a business. One that will be focussed on surviving through scratching and clawing and doing whatever contract work I can. Whether this is by helping others with their business plans, writing marketing strategy documents, creating product specifications and market requirements documents, or even freelance advertising copy. I am sure I will even try my hand at trying to win the occasional government issued RFP and then leveraging freelancers to fill in the gaps where they exist. Or at least… I will do this for 80% of the “work” day. I will do this to pay the bills and survive. The other 80% of my time (or really, 20% plus whatever I can spare), I will invent.

Some ideas will be in stealth mode, and some will be public. Some will succeed and some will never get off the ground. In today’s economy and technology world, any good idea can be outsourced and grown quickly, organically, and with near complete automation. My goal is to have 5 companies by the end of 2008 each making $1000 in profit (or with a clear line to that profit marker). In 5 years, I will have 5 companies each making $1 million in profits. I will also have incubated and helped many more get off the ground.

This is the launch point of the business. Blast off.

March 26, 2008 at 6:54 am Leave a comment