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Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO at Hubspot and chief blogger at, laid out some gems of advice at this week’s annual Mozcon conference in downtown Seattle.

Since Shah has managed to raise over $100 million for Hubspot, scale the company to over 500 employees and still manages to code while writing viral blog posts, everyone perks up when he speaks.

Here are a few of his startup tips.

#1 Don’t buy a $10 domain

Companies should spend more time thinking about their domain name before launching and invest in the name just like companies invest in everything else, Shah says. For something as valuable as the brand associated with your entire company, he thinks it is odd that so many companies choose to go with what is currently available for $10. To pick something, Shah suggests going for a simple name, which is easy to remember.

#2 Negotiate for a domain properly

Domain squatters are savvy people and you need to approach them in the right way if you want to have any chance of getting a domain for a reasonable price. Rather than just sending a blanket email asking if the person is interested in selling, he suggests getting the upper hand in the negotiation by being transparent with the registrant. Inform them that you are considering it along with other options. Also, give an outright offer to ensure the greatest chance of 1) getting a response and 2) anchoring the conversation with a number you can work with.

He suggests using some of the following words in the introductory email: “I am working on a project for which the domain name which you own is interesting to me including others, I would like to give you an offer of $XXXX.XX to buy your domain.”

#3 Good Marketing Is About Being Innovative

Maptia team with Johnny
Johnny with the Maptia team

Any good marketing tactic goes down in value with time as more and more marketers start to use it, Shah says. Facebook was amazing to market on in 2006, as were infographics back in 2006.

To combat against this trend, good marketers need to really brainstorm and go in places which others don’t think about.

As an example, he was impressed by the marketing tactic which the Maptia team (a TechStars Seattle grad) used to get buzz around their brand. Rather than just creating another blog post, Maptia stalked him to see the questions that he was asking on Quora.

When he asked the question “What are the coolest startup culture hacks you’ve heard of,” Johnny Miller of Maptia decided to create the most comprehensive amazing answer possible, suggesting to move your startup to a developing country like Morocco – where they are currently based. It currently has been viewed 167,832 times.

#4 Be 1st on a Fast Moving Platform

There is an inherent advantage to being the first. The first people on Twitter naturally have more followers today because the company promoted those users early-on.

Good marekters should keep their eyes on new publishing platforms. For example, Shah was one of the first 50 people invited to start blogging on LinkedIn. Now, he says that his LinkedIn blog posts are read an average of 10X more than the average post which he posts to OnStartups.

#5 Be Uncomfortably Transparent

In a world of increasing choices and decreasing trust, brands which create humanizing experiences which will be the ones which gain our loyalty, he says. Most brands are constantly presenting the sunny side of their brand. But in order to really humanize something, he says that it must feel slightly uncomfortable to share information in order to make a connection. Only by being vulnerable will strangers feel a connection.

Embracing transparency hardly comes easy to most people. It requires a willingness to speak about problems as willingly as we regularly highlight our successes. Moz has wholeheartedly embraced this practice — leading CEO Rand Fishkin to talk about marital problems on his personal blog and post their annual financial performance.

These are the slides from Shah’s talk.

Naysawn Naderi is in the process of founding a new company.  He previously founded and was a Program Manager at Microsoft. 

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