cyber-squattingIt’s a daunting task every budding startup faces: Picking the perfect company name. There is a lot that has to be expressed in a name. It needs to tell the world who you are.

So after hours of thumbing through the thesaurus, whiteboard brainstorm sessions, and agonizing debates, you find The One. You immediately head to the Internet, breath held, only to have your worst fears confirmed: Your perfect domain name has already been registered.

When we first started NUVI, we were faced with this very challenge. A private individual owned NUVI.com, and when we approached him about buying it, he asked for what we felt was an unreasonable sum. For us, it just wasn’t feasible to pay what he was asking. The risk was too great.

Instead, we purchased the less flashy but still useful NUVIapp.com. And as we had expected and hoped, NUVI took off as we started to make a name for ourselves in social media monitoring and analysis.

Later on, even though our future was a more secure, we still weren’t willing to pay the amount the owner was requesting, so we had to think of a more creative solution that would be mutually beneficial.

So we made the following proposal to the owner: Rent us the property for three years and let us build our brand and online presence. At the end of the three years, if we’ve been successful we’ll purchase the domain outright at a previously agreed upon price. In the unlikely chance that NUVI doesn’t become as successful as we hope, the domain will once again be free, and the owner can look for another potential buyer.

This scenario was ideal because it mitigated risk on both sides while simultaneously giving both parties a benefit they wouldn’t have otherwise had. In the end, if all goes according to plan, we’ll both come out on top, and if it doesn’t, neither one of us loses out on too much.

If you find yourself in the same situation we were in, here are some things you can do to get that dream domain name:

1. Decide how important the domain name is to you.

If you aren’t married to the domain name, try adding a hyphen or “the” or “company” if you can.  Be creative. It’s possible there is another domain name that is just as good, or even better, as the one you originally came up with.

Also, remember that there are dozens of extensions available; however, .com remains the gold standard for businesses. As of Q4 2013, there were 271 million registered domain names, and 112 of those were .coms. 123.5 million of them were country codes, so .coms and country codes make up roughly 87 percent of all registered websites.

2. Contact the owner of the domain and make an offer.

You can contact the owner of a domain by using a domain brokering service like Sedo. Through these types of services, you can negotiate to see what the owner is willing to sell the domain name for. Brace yourself for the owner to want an exorbitant amount of money, as this is a common practice.

3. Weigh the costs and benefits of buying your perfect domain name.

At this point, you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to try and negotiate with the owner of the domain name to get that coveted online space. Instinctively, it feels like you should fight for the name since a good online presence will be essential to your burgeoning company’s long-term success. But it is important – especially straight out of the gate – to make thoughtful choices that mitigate risk in order to give your company the best possible chance to get off the ground.

4. Treat your dream URL like it’s real estate.

When you view your domain name as real estate, you will be able to design a game plan for how to acquire it. If you don’t have the means (or the inclination) to buy the domain name outright, there are some other ways you could incentivize the owner to let you use the name. You could offer him or her equity in your business, you could lease it out for a certain amount of time, or you could rent from the owner.

The bottom line is, there are many creative solutions you can pursue when dealing with acquiring the perfect domain name for your new company – and numerous other issues that inevitably accompany starting a new business – but you have to remember to consider the risks and benefits for all involved parties. The path to starting a new business is different for everyone, but being imaginative and considering issues from all perspectives will go a long way to establishing a strong and successful business.