A third of Y Combinator startups branded on non .COMs


I found a really interesting report recently on NamePros written by James Iles about the domain extensions used by startups in Y Combinator. Just in case you don’t know what Y Combinator is, it’s an accelerator based in Silicon Valley that has some pretty well-known alums like AirBnB and accepts batches of startups that get funding and mentorship all leading up to a demo day at the end.

James did a really solid job of analyzing the domain extensions used by Y Combinator startups in the past and how it’s shifted over the years. From 2005 – 2016 over 86% of startups in Y Combinator branded on a .COM domain, last year that dropped to 66% as startups started to explore other domain extensions with .CO and .IO being the top two alternatives.

Both .CO and .IO remain popular with startups, with a combined 17% of this year’s YCombinator startups using them. Some of these names are one-word domains that would cost at least five- or six-figures to acquire as a .COM, but as .CO or .IO, they were likely relatively cheap to acquire. Some examples include Torch.io, Atrium.co, and Ben.co. (Source – NamePros)

Here’s a pretty nifty chart that shows the domain extensions used by startups that went through Y Combinator in 2018 picked.


Both .CO and .IO have seen a lot of growth coming from startups and it looks like this is only accelerating. The reality is, many startups find themselves in a similar position, they want to call themselves something, something.com is taken, so they have to decide between three options:

  1. Stick with .COM but go with a domain like GetSomething.com or SomethingOnline.com
  2. Get the exact-match name but in another extension (i.e. something.co)
  3. Pick a different name

In the past companies would choose between .COM, .NET, and .ORG. There was an easy formula, .COM’s taken – get the .NET, unless you were a non-profit, then go for the .ORG. Then, with the launch of .CO we saw a shift as this was the first extension to really brand itself as a domain extension for startups.

Now some of the biggest brands in the startup world, like Launch.co run by Jason Calacanis, brand on a .CO domain. While .IO has gained a lot of attention over the years as well, it has been more focused on dev-related products and services vs .CO which has really become the broad go-to for startup in the non .COM space.

While a zillion new gTLDs have come out of the last few years, it’s pretty interesting to see that .IO and .CO seem to be holding their own very well as clear market leaders. The question here is – how will this continue to shift over time? Going from 86% to 66% is a big change and something tells me it’s only going to lean more in this direction as time goes on.

What do you think? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton