The one tip startup founders need to know about tracking down domain name owners


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You know exactly what you want to call your company and immediately go to register the .COM. Then you realize what you were probably expecting from the beginning…someone else owns the domain. The normal reaction at this point is to think to yourself, “stupid squatter!” and instantly become both angry and annoyed at the person who bought the domain name before you and aren’t using it for anything.

Here’s the reality.

That “squatter” that owns the domain name probably isn’t a squatter. It’s unlikely that they thought about you and your founders sitting around coming up with the name and therefore with years their incredible clairvoyance went ahead and registered the domain. In many cases the owner of the domain is one of two types of people:

  1. Another startup founder like you who also came up with the name just years before you did but never got their business off the ground
  2. A domain name investor who bought the name to sell for a profit
In either case you need to first determine if the domain is for sale (much easier if it’s a domain investor since the answer is yes) and next get in touch with the owner. The truth is, domain investor want to sell their domains, and they make it easy to get in touch with them. Startup founders, like you, aren’t necessarily trying to make money selling domains. They might have the domain under privacy protection and they also might still want to hang onto the name since, like you, they bought it for a business they once (or still do) believe in.

Either way, there’s a lot of confusion about how to get in touch with a domain owner so I thought I’d share a few tips to do it. While a good domain broker can definitely help accelerate the process, and in many cases can save you a few bucks on a domain, you can still try your hand at it at first and if you don’t succeed, call in the experts. There isn’t a big multi-step process for tracking down a domain owner, just one go-to technique that I have found worked the best years ago and still is the best way to reach a domain owner today.



That's a smart way to look at cyber squatting. Glad you brought it up because I always saw it as an easy way to bully money out of another person or company with a similar name, but it makes more sense that the domain owner is most likely a failed business or a domain investor with no evil intentions. Thank you for sharing this!


I've never looked at it in this way and it's good that you actually brought this up. I'd be very disappointed if I chose a domain name, only to realize that it belonged to someone else.


This is a great thread. A lot of people give up on the first try if a domain name is gone, I know I've done it myself, instead of investigating further.
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