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:

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 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!

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Elliot,

    This is good advice.

    In fact, every new TLD Registry should be running a Founder’s Program to ensure early adopters. So, if you don’t see your preferred TLD on the list, reach out to the Registry and suggest they run one.

    Every new TLD is allowed to allocate up to 100 names to early adopters. In ICANN-speak, these are being called “Qualified Launch Programs”. Approach a TLD before they submit their Start-up Plan to get in early


  2. Just a hunch, but if you add founder program domains and reserved domains and domains registered by sisters and Schwartz and Berkens and yourself, it will equal the gross total number of gtlds registered.

    I see no end user traction taking place. Total fail. Just like before.

    • A side note, from the .bar and .rest Registry…

      Yes… Real user adoption might be slow, but it is growing steady in some cases.

      We have more than 40 real restaurant applications in our VIP program that are building meaningful websites under their new .rest domain name, and some actual Restaurants with a live domain name, such as or

      Since we are targeting a very specific niche (restaurants and bars), even if growth is slow, it will be very valuable in the long run; and “user traction” will grow as more restaurants and bars adopt the TLDs, of course.

      Yes… I work with the .rest and .bar Registry

    • I am part of the ownership group who will be launching Liberty.Foundation later this year. We have real capital behind us and at present 18 key well-known contributors. We will basically operate as a worldwide think-tank, providing thought leadership, research & data, as well as talking points for political leaders worldwide with particular focus on embracing, promoting, and protecting Liberty.

      We love this domain.

      – JC

    • By definition, “premium” implies that it is of superior quality as compared to non-premium. IMO, a domain name like Hotels.NYC is a premium name compared to something like HotelFares.NYC or something else non-premium.

      Obviously, right now, I’d rather own vs Hotels.NYC or vs. Hotels.Paris, but if I could get Hotels.NYC for free and Google doesn’t care which domain name I use, why not save 5 or 6 figures and build on the alternate name?

      That question could likely be debated for hours, but I am merely pointing out that “premium” in this case refers to the better/best names in a particular extension when compared to everything else.

    • I understand but they should be called something else until they are actually proven to be premium. Right now they are just bullshit.

  3. Yeah, putting “premium” and “gtld” together in a phrase just doesn’t seems right. How about “internet sewage” instead? Seems more accurate.

  4. “Registries offer a special program to give domain names for free (or cheap) to people who qualify with a good development and marketing plan.”

    Why would anyone with a good development and marketing plan want to waste it on a address in the middle of nowhere?

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