A few interesting insights from a startup founder building their brand on a .AI domain

Yesterday I met with the founder of a super interesting startup that leverages AI to automate a valuable part of the sales funnel. They are branding on a .AI domain and I talked to the CEO about how he ended up with a .AI, his answer – for what they do it was his top choice next to .COM.

Of course, like just about every founder I talk to, .COM is at the top of their list, but when the .COM wasn’t available .AI was next on this founder’s list.

This is a relatively new phenomenon that we’re seeing and just like .CO and .IO have become staples in the startup world, .AI is quickly gaining traction. One of the things that stood out to this founder about .AI is the ability to hand-register their company name vs. having to deal with the back-and-forth negotiation required when buying in another namespace.

At the same time, we covered a topic that comes up all the time. Without branding on the .COM, when discussing their company name they have to say the name and .AI, the domain extension has become a critical part of the name…but in many ways I find founders are seeing this as a good thing, and I think this bodes well for the future of other TLDs like .TECH where the domain extension provides additional context as to what the company does.

For example. If I owned the domain name KitchenSink.com, I think most people would imagine an eCommerce site that sells kitchen sinks. However, KitchenSink.tech makes me think of some high-tech version of the kitchen sink, maybe a voice activated faucet? Yes, those exist. The exact same is true for .AI, if a company is specifically solving problems using AI, the extension helps make that point.

On the flip side, I think this also shows the strength of extensions like .CO, .IO and .TECH where much more broad use cases are possible. Branding on a .AI name is great if AI is core to your brand, but I can see it limiting a brand in some ways as time goes on. Still, as an early stage startup leveraging .AI, I can understand why this founder was so happy with his choice of TLDs.

That being said, our conversation did end with…now I wonder how I can someday get my hands on the .COM.

With high registration and renewal fees I think .AI will always be relatively cost-prohibitive for domain investors and thus provide more opportunities for founders that like the idea of hand-registering a domain for their business. As an investor I’ve dipped my toe in the .AI waters a bit but still can’t see myself going in as deep as I have with .COM due to the cost of holding the names for multiple years.

As a startup founder picking a name for a startup there are more options than ever before, and while most people start with trying to get their hands on the .COM, the next best option isn’t the same for everyone.

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton