Vanity Fair Reveals Cost of Domain Name

Vanity Fair published an interesting article about Uber and Travis Kalanick, the company’s CEO and founder. If you enjoy reading about startups, you are going to enjoy Kara Swisher’s article, especially if you have used ¬†Uber before. The company was first called UberCab, and it later became known as Uber.

As someone who is active in the domain space, one of the most interesting tidbits from the article was regarding the deal the company made to buy the domain name, as well as how much it actually cost the company. The acquisition came shortly after the company received a C&D order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the California Public Utilities Commission, which cited the company’s usage of the term “cab” in its name, among other issues.

Here is the deal the company made to acquire the domain name, as written by Swisher:

“Instead, the start-up ignored most of the order and simply changed UberCab to Uber, buying the domain name from Universal Music Group for what was then 2 percent of the company. (Later, Uber bought back the shares, which would now be worth hundreds of millions, for $1 million.)”

As someone who evaluates domain names for branding potential (among other things), the “uber” brandability is very strong because it has a meaning and resonance. This indicates that the domain name would have significant value without consideration of the brand it has become.

As it turned out, selling for a 2% stake in the startup was a shrewd business decision. Selling those shares for $1 million might not seem great in hindsight considering the value of the company, but the article doesn’t state when the buyback occurred nor do we know contractual specifics. If we look at it objectively, netting $1 million for the domain name was a very good price.

You should take some time to read the entire article when you have an opportunity. Uber continues to grow in popularity, and I think you’ll enjoy the article.

Thanks to George Kirikos for sharing this via Twitter today.

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. Nice one. Recently I replied about wanting a % stake in whatever was behind a buy inquiry sent through a famous broker/sales service, indicating of course that means they’d have to tell me who.

    • Thanks, though I do want to acknowledge again (older thread here) that as near as I can recall, any thought of equity % with me is derived from having heard about it with Rick S. first. I’m “ideasy” too, but passionate about acknowledging if I did or didn’t think of something on my own first.

      Anyway, I did also ask for cash, plus the %. Yes indeed, what I was thinking is that as this may become more popular and commonplace, these types of broker players should simply tweak their business model and procedures a bit to accommodate it so that everyone wins. And hey, buyer’s usually paying the commission and fees there, so definitely works in that sense too.

  2. Thanks Elliot for covering this domain story. This is one of the best posts in recent time on a trendy service. This music company struck gold selling for 2% of Uber. However, they made a bad deal giving up the 2% stake for $1 million. The 2% stake is probably valued at $250+ million.

    The music company struck gold and exchanged it back for copper.

  3. Got another request for another domain. Gonna reply with cash, or less cash plus equity %.

    The industry really has to modify the way it does business to accommodate this. They can’t just stay stuck in a cash-only mode and no flexibility.

  4. True the music company could’ve held off for more money and ended up getting a possible 250 million instead of the 1 million they received, but they were probably happy getting the 1 Million out of the deal compared to what they originally purchased the domain for. Pretty sure it was a nice ROI for the selling party even at a 1 million dollar sale.

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