Domain name trends among startups are something that I like to track for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they’re a broad representation of end-users across different industries. Analyzing that data can help both domain investors and potential startup founders to see what’s popular in the wide world, although for very different reasons.
Secondly, the domain data is readily available to anyone with a Crunchbase Pro license.
Here, I’m using said Crunchbase data to show some domain trends from startups that have been founded in 2020.
The data comes from general searches for data of companies founded between January 1st, 2020, and November 12th, 2020, when I started compiling information for this article.
I’ve removed companies listed without a domain name listed since they’re largely irrelevant to what we’re looking at here. That leaves 3,728 companies that were founded in 2020. In this analysis, I’m going to be looking at
- The most popular extensions
- TLD Share
- Domain length
- Standout domains
- Brand names (1 word, 2 word, brandable, etc)
The Most Popular Extensions
As you might expect, the most popular extension for the startup class of 2020 is .COM. What may surprise you is that this share is just 58.1%. That may seem dominant, but compare those to some studies I made a few years ago of more established companies.
- In 2016, I noted that 87% of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments use a .COM.
- In 2017, I noted that 78% of TechStars companies use a .COM.
- Also in 2017, I noted that 67% of 500 Startups investments use a .COM.
Yes, these are different datasets. Notable is the fact that the three articles I linked to above use data from funded startups — whether that’s early stage, Series A, or later. However, the data from 2020 founded startups seems to suggest that more early-stage companies are looking to .COM alternatives early on.
This makes sense. As a bootstrapped startup, a domain name is usually low down on the list of priorities. Therefore, founders will often seek out the best available domain rather than hunting the aftermarket or employing a buyer broker.
There are many examples in the 2020 dataset of companies that have launched using common, single-word brand names that have chosen new gTLDs over a sub-prime .COM. Those include:
- Slap – launched on slap.events
- Cozy – launched on cozy.finance
- Trace – launched on trace.tech
- Blush – launched on blush.design
These startups may upgrade or rebrand later on as they gain traction, but as initial domains, these new gTLDs fulfill their needs of offering a professional domain destination.
The most popular domain extensions, in decending order, are:
- .COM – 58.10%
- .IO – 7.24%
- .CO – 4.31%
- .IN – 3.00% (including .CO.IN and .IN)
- .AI – 2.65%
These top .COM alternatives, especially .IO, .CO, and .AI, are what we might expect as leading .COM substitutes.
If .COM only accounts for 58.1% of domains listed, what does the TLD share look like? We’ve seen above that extensions such as .AI, .IO, and .CO are among the next-most-popular individual options for startups, but what does the TLD share look like?
Below, I’ve broken down the results into 7 categories:
- New gTLDs
- ccTLDs (excluding .AI, .IO, and .CO)
- Others (including .NET, .ORG, and .INFO)
Here are the results:
The firm favorites — .COM, .AI, .IO, and .CO make up 72.3% of all domains used by startups founded in 2020.
Aside from that, ccTLDs account for 14.2% of all domains. The top extensions classed under “ccTLD” are:
- .IN (combining .CO.IN and .IN)
- .UK (combining .CO.UK and .UK)
- .AU (combining .COM.AU, .NET.AU, and .AU)
In total, there were 77 different ccTLDs, not counting .AI, .IO, or .CO. Most startups using a ccTLD were operating a service targeting one specific country. For example, Slab operates on Mexico’s Slab.mx, and offers services to Mexican customers.
In contrast, some companies are using ccTLDs creatively to succinctly describe what they do. For example, Mixo operates on Mixo.dj, and offers a DJ library. Also, Hire.ar displays job openings specifically for the augmented reality (AR) industry.
New gTLDs, such as .APP, make up 10.1% of domains used by startups founded in 2020. These are the most popular new gTLDs:
In total, there are 99 different new gTLDs used by startups in 2020. The trend seems to be that companies with shorter brand names (not necessarily just single-word, but also short brandables) have turned to new gTLDs rather than settling with a longer .COM. For example, Eva launched on eva.guru, Cure launched on cure.finance, and Alloy launched on alloy.institute.
Following on from our new gTLD findings above, you might assume that new gTLDs would represent the shortest domains in our dataset. You’d be right. Based on my findings, new gTLDs have the shortest mean, median, and modal length determined by the number of characters left of the dot.
.CO, .AI, and .IO also have relatively short average character lengths. .COM has the longest average character length with 10.49 characters per domain, left of the dot, on average.
Here is a chart displaying the average lengths of domains, left of the dot:
The shortest new gTLD name in our list is the single-character r.estate. As for .COM, the shortest is MIY.com, a three-letter .COM used by a jewelry store.
I took a look at the spread of domain extensions used by companies opting for a short domain. In this instance, I’m defining short as anything between 1 and 4 characters. New gTLDs stand out as the most popular for newly founded companies opting for a short domain in 2020. That’s likely because of the general availability and choices on offer at a relatively low price in comparison to short .COM’s, .IO’s, or .CO’s.
During my research, there were some standout names.
- Zext.com – NameBio has a $3,900 sales price for Zext.com at NameJet in June 2019. It may have been resold to the current owner.
Compilation of data takes a considerable amount of time — so if you found this useful, please consider buying me a coffee!