Find a Founders Program
If you are bullish on the new gTLD domain names but don’t want to spend a lot of money on a targeted keyword domain name, you might want to check out the various founders programs to see if you qualify. I believe that many new gTLD registries offer a special program to give domain names for free (or cheap) to people who qualify with a good development and marketing plan.
Domain registries like .CO and .ME offered up some of their “premium” domain names to companies that wanted to develop a business or website using one of their domain names. In some cases, domain names were given away for free if specific requirements and hurdles were met, and in other cases, reserved domain names were sold (one of my companies participated in the .CO Founder’s Program a few years ago). My guess is that it depends on the business idea, amount of funding and resources that will back the website, and perhaps other requirements to strike a deal.
I did some research, and listed below are a few examples of gTLD registry operators who have a founders program or something similar that will put “premium” domain names into the hands of people and businesses that will build on them:
- .Club Founder’s Club
- .NYC Founders Program
- .Vegas Premium
- .Uno Founder’s Program
- .Archi Founder’s Program
- .Ski Founders Program
- .Host Pioneer Program
- .Rest VIP Program
- .Bar VIP Program
The registries have different requirements that need to be met in order to get a “premium” domain name, and the requirements may differ depending on the idea and scope of the project as well as the applicant. For instance, if a major company wants to launch a companion website using a reserved domain name, they might pay less than a startup without a track record. Some registries are less restrictive and are happy to give good domain names to people and businesses who will use them in commerce, regardless of a financial commitment, and some are more stringent. It all depends on the domain name, the registry, and the business plan.
Obviously, a founder’s program is not for everyone. It is in the registry’s best interest to ensure their domain names get great exposure, and for many people and companies, that will require a significant capital expenditure on development and marketing. There are companies who would love to build a business, app, or other website on a non-.com domain name, and working with a registry is a good way for those people to get great names they may not have been able to hand register.
If you have an interest in a specific domain name that is either priced too high for your budget or is on a registry reserved list, you might want to look into a registry founder’s program to see if you can work out a deal. Even if a registry does not have a formal program, perhaps you can reach an agreement that will allow you to take control of a desirable domain name at a fair deal.
As with any deal, make sure you read the fine print!
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