With an estimated 550,000 companies started every month globally (6.6 million annually), not every company is going to launch its offering on the best domain name. Some do, most do not.
If you brand as EXAMPLE your main domain name should be EXAMPLE .com. That’s the ultimate goal and the very clear pattern of successful companies today with global ambition.
If you can launch with the best domain name, I’d highly consider doing that, even if you have to purchase the domain name on a payment plan or even offer equity to do it. It’s a wise early investment that you will not have to worry about down the road, it gives you early credibility, plus many premium domain names are assets and can be resold if the company fails.
The majority though, launch a company on what is considered a starter domain.
So what is a starter domain name?
A starter domain name should match your branding but will likely consist of a less popular or known TLD (top-level domain). There are literally hundreds of TLDs. .co, .ai, .us, .net, .club, .app, .io, .whatever . The problem with most of these TLDs though, is the majority do not know they are domain names when looking at them. .com is everywhere and well known. Interestingly, domain name professionals do not even know many TLDs exist. .kim, .ruhr, .jetzt, .cymru, .tirol, .schule, .archi, .alsace, .abogado and .ieee are likely some TLDs you may have never heard of.
Sometimes starter domain names consist of the popular .com TLD but contain an added word as a prefix or suffix. TheBrand .com or MyBrand .com or GetBrand .com. TryBrand .com or BrandApp .com, BrandBlahBlah .com
Currently, many startups are using .co, .ai, and .io as a default starter domain TLD to exactly match their brand name, without additional terms added to it. Most of these domain names are actually already owned by somebody, so you still should expect to pay a few thousand for a fairly popular term (sometimes even into the five-figure range) in an uncommon but more popular TLD like .co, .ai or .io for an example.
I personally would use a .com domain with a prefix or suffix added on, because the general population will know it’s a domain name and that’s important.
What to avoid with your starter domain/brand?
I consistently see new companies choosing a brand for which there is little chance of acquiring the best .com domain name later on. This is a huge mistake. You should select a brand for which there is a reasonable chance of acquiring the matching .com domain name later.
Branding as “Consider” and using the starter domain name Consider .co is cool and all but you must also be mindful of whether an established company is already running its business on Consider .com. The chances of acquiring the best domain name for your brand later are very small in those circumstances, and the purchase price is going to be very, even if it can be purchased!
Inability to acquire the matching .com puts your brand in a very tight spot and not a fun one to be in. Research the .com domain name and understand your chances of acquiring it later, before you pick your brand name/starter domain.
There are many premium .com domain names owned by individual investors, larger companies, etc. that you should consider the odds — if you have the money — of acquiring in the near future, e.g. in a year. This still doesn’t guarantee you will be able to acquire the best domain later, but you can highly improve the odds of acquiring the best domain before picking your starter domain.
Avoiding a rebrand is important because once you have the ball rolling, changing brand names is tough and expensive.
Many of the familiar brands today began their journey with a different starter domain, but it's prudent to think ahead and brand with a keyword that you have a very reasonable chance of acquiring as a matching .com domain name in the near future.