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Gift Lizard - One Week After Launch: Stats, Failures, Successes and Lessons Learned

What is Gift Lizard? It's a gift shopping site where you describe the person you want to buy a gift for using tags. It helps you discover interesting and awesome gift ideas.

First Off, The Numbers for Gift Lizard

11,870 Visits (11,509 Uniques)

15,984 Pageviews (1.35/visit)

24 Seconds Average Time on Site

89.20% Bounce Rate

96.96% New Visitors

75% US Traffic

54.60% Chrome / 34.03 % Firefox / 3.89% Safari / 1.83% Internet Explorer



Fail. I did, so can you. I created a Gift Lizard fanpage and invited my friends. I got maybe 4 likes from messaging ~600 people? My facebook status did better and got 15 likes and 12 comments, 2 shares and someone posted it back to me. Not bad, but total facebook traffic for the week: 105 visitors, almost all from the status. Fanpage is probably a more long term benefit.

I know some traffic came from here, but it doesn't actually show up on my logs once. Nothing big enough to notice any substantial traffic coming from the 12 or so tweets broadcasting the site.

Reddit Advertising
It's only run for 1 day and there has been no a/b testing. I am still running this ad with the copy:

“Gift Shopping Made Easy! Describe the recipient and instantly get gift suggestions tailored just for them.”

It generated 44 clicks of 71,551 impressions on 26,877 different users. However, those users had 1 minute 54 seconds average time on site and only a 37.14% bounce rate. Better users, incredibly small volume. I also got some fantastic feedback from one particular user about some ways to improve the site that I was unfamiliar with.

MVP Launch

I launched with an MVP (minimum viable product) and there is a lot of things people didn't like (and still don't like!). The interface isn't as good as it could/should be to make it clear how the site works with tagging. There are still bugs in the way it behaves and improvements I know I should be making. But the site does function and I fixed major problems as the came along as best as I could. Other more structural problems are still there and probably won't be solved before the end of the holiday season.

Those are some of the biggest failures and problems I ran into when launching.


Finding a marketing strategy that works and can be replicated is hard. But I think I've found one.

My original plan of finding 'good' gifts and tagging them across multiple categories was well meaning but it was/is highly subjective and hard to scale. I will still add gifts in targeted popular categories, but that's not where I will spend most of my time.

I realized that niches were far more engaged in their very specific interests and more likely to interact with something targeted than a blanket message about finding gifts.

To that end I tested my idea with a starcraft gifts page and posted it to starcraft subreddit. The thread received around 99 comments (about half were me responding). I engaged them in a constructive and inclusive manner adding any item they thought would make a good addition. It's also important not to be greedy, I want people to find good gifts and share it with their friends of similar interest (funnily enough some of the people's sites I linked also responded on the thread thanking me for promoting their products - and I was genuinely happy to to it!). The goal is creating a great collection of gifts for anyone who likes starcraft regardless of what site the product may be on or what type of relationship I have with that site. It was a HUGE success. The result was 10,494 visits this week to the starcraft page and I only posted it 3 days ago (so it's only 2 days worth of stats).

Fluke or repeatable?

The next day I decided let me try it for another niche and see if I can get a similar response. I created a World of Warcraft gift page and posted it to the WoW subreddit. The result was 1,143 visits to the WoW gift page. The article was more popular in terms of relative ranking (peaking at 5th versus around 12th for starcraft post) but the subreddit is a lot less active it would seem. The engagement was a lot lower, despite being only half the size, it received 10% the traffic volume. The gift collection was still relatively popular in its niche. Success! And it looks like the model is repeatable and possibly scalable.

This massive influx of traffic from one social media site was nice. A secondary effect was linking and stumbles (I got no facebook likes or tweets from these it would seem).

StumbleUpon generated 134 visitors though from one person stumbling the page and setting off a chain of stumbles presumably. Content was sticky enough to be shared and promoted. Success!

Someone even bought me 1 month of reddit gold for the starcraft gift page (thanks anonymous stranger <3)

Finally, email lists worked well. I am on a couple mailing lists and sent a message out to them, the more personal and connected you are and/or your message are, the better it worked out. My co-working space had an amazing response. I saw people browsing it all day and they would come up to me and give feedback (and even bought a few things! <3 Affinity Lab)

Lessons Learned:

  • Easier to connect with a niche audience.
  • Don't be greedy and help others, it makes people like you.
  • Launch it and fix it on the fly.
  • Just because it's not perfect or even great doesn't take too much away if you have great content/value.
  • Google Analytics is mesmerizing (that's going to have to be another post!)

What I would do differently:

Facebook Event in conjunction with a facebook page. I would like to try creating an event and invite everyone to it announcing the launch. Events are stickier I think because the user has to either acknowledge it to remove it or ignore it for a long time while it shows up. Of course the risk is you may only get one chance with this strategy because users may ignore event invites from you. High risk, high reward. I'd choose who I sent the event invite to carefully.

Link directly on social media sites, it may seem like a less popular idea, but I posted to a few subreddits as comments to get feedback (design_critiques, startups, twoxchromosomes) and it generated very little interest or traffic. I think direct links, when possible, are a better idea if you can communicate effectively in the short title.

Happy to hear thoughts, feedback, questions, ideas, your stories or anything else you wish to share!

Launched: Gift Lizard - Gift Shopping Done Right

Posted in

Yesterday I launched

Gift Lizard let's you describe the person you are shopping for and it makes recommendations based
your description. It's a more natural and free way to search for gifts because you don't need
to know what you want to buy for them but can get customized suggestions for the giftee.

The story behind the idea is kind of interesting. I was at Startup Weekend a couple weeks ago
and I didn't join a group on the first night. I went home after a long night at the bar and woke
up before my alarm clock with this idea in my head. It was a unique experience waking up with an
idea stuck in my head (and being up at 6am without an alarm going off).

So I quickly wrote it down on my idea pad and went back to the event. I started designing a mockup.

I showed a few people and we decided to work on it as our weekend project.

The final result was interesting, but it wasn't exactly what I had imagined. I didn't think much
about it for the next week or so. But eventually I realized I couldn't let it go. I had to build
my vision out or I wouldn't be satisfied that I had at least tried.

So yesterday, I launched Gift Lizard.

Rejected from YCombinator & Startup reaches a major milestone

Posted in

This was the expected, default even, outcome.

We're sorry to say we couldn't accept your proposal for funding.
Please don't take it personally. The applications we receive get
better every funding cycle, and since there's a limit on the number
of startups we can interview in person, we had to turn away a lot
of genuinely promising groups.

Another reason you shouldn't take this personally is that we know
we make lots of mistakes. It's alarming how often the last group
to make it over the threshold for interviews ends up being one that
we fund. That means there are surely other good groups that fall
just below the threshold and that we miss even interviewing.

We're trying to get better at this, but the hard limit on the number
of interviews means it's practically certain that groups we rejected
will go on to create successful startups. If you do, we'd appreciate

Domains and Startups ( from TechStars TV featuring Fred Wilson)

TechStars TV Episode 3 (around 15 minutes)

What happened: SocratED renames to Veri and gets the domain

Transcript (might be a few mistakes, I went through 3-4 times to try and copy this word for word):

David Tisch: Socratic + Education = crap name

Founder: Seeing how no one was able to pronounced our old name, SocratEd, we thought it might be a good idea to move to a much shorter 4 letter domain that meant something, so we moved to

David Cohen: That's a good name, veri being truth.

Fred Wilson: four letter domains? impossible. you can't get a four letter domain.

David Tisch: where did they get the money for that is the first question I asked?

David Cohen: so here is the crazy thing, Lee has owned that domain for the past 6 years.

Fred Wilson: There you go. They are the team of that week for that alone, that's going from the out house to the penthouse.

I thought this was interesting for a couple reasons.

From a startup perspective, it's interesting to see how impressed investors can be from a domain name. A strong domain truly does send a signal.

From a domainer perspective, it's shocking to realize that it stuns these investors that a startup has such a good domain. They don't think they have the money and it's not sure if they believe a company should be spending that money so early either on a good domain.

Social media, the reshaping of communication and who controls how we talk to one another

The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." Social media are media for social interaction, as a superset beyond social communication. Enabled by ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques, social media substantially change the way of communication between organizations, communities, as well as individuals.


WTF does that even mean? The term social media with this definition is truly focused on media - how we are communicated to and are suddenly empowered to communicate back to the powers which use the media.

24,000 Domains Article Postmortem: Traffic, Revenue, Business Models

I published a post listing 24,000 available brandable domain names that anyone could register a couple days ago.

It was far more successful than I ever imagined receiving over 17,000 page views. Ranking 3rd on HackerNews frontpage and 2nd in a major subreddit with over 30,000 subscribers.

I wanted to go through the entire setup of the article, the marketing, the goals, the traffic, the results and conclusion.

The Other 24,000 Available Brandables .COM Domains - Full List

This is a continuation from this article.

My pickups were:

There is a lot Japanese sounding names in there which I liked but didn't take. Enjoy!

Update 7:09 pm: Request for an affiliate link. So I picked my favorite consumer facing registrar NameCheap.

DISCLAIMER: these domains were checked against the zone file, NOT the registry. Some names ARE TAKEN but for whatever reason did not have name servers when the zone file was downloaded. Possible causes: somewhere in the delete cycle or simply no name servers registered.

2643 Potential Brandable Startup Names with .com available

This is part 1 of a series I would like to call, the end of the 'there are no more good domains left' problem.

I heard it once too many times and cracked. I also was stuck on a particularly challenging problem and needed to distract myself for a while to distance myself and gain some perspective. So in the meantime, I came up with a way to generate millions (first run generated 350 million+ domain names, which is about 3.7 times the size of the .com zone file). Too many, to start with at least without ranking them somehow.

Ranking attempts:

  • Using letter frequency and assigning points based on frequency in English language.
  • Using bi/tri-grams and their frequencies from Peter Norvig's data
  • Modifying these techniques to penalize duplicate letters (stuff like was ranking at the top

Ultimately, none of it worked well enough to filter the top, it only removed the crap. So I went smaller (down to 5 letters from 7) and used only certain pronounceable patterns and only put letters that made sense in certain positions/orders.

The other problem is that, I couldn't find any objective way to identify what was or wasn't appealing as a brand name. It depends on a lot of factors such as country, language, region, business area, founders names, etc. There is no ultimate way to rank them (I tried using google search volume for a small sample... gave some very strange results).

I cherry-picked a few for myself for future projects and to give you an idea of what I found here are a few:

So I will present them alphabetically in the full story.

DISCLAIMER: these domains were checked against the zone file, NOT the registry. Some names ARE TAKEN but for whatever reason did not have name servers when the zone file was downloaded. Possible causes: somewhere in the delete cycle or simply no name servers registered.

Do Domainers Block Innovation in the Domain Name Space?

This train of thought occurred to me while having lunch with another domainer and discussing a company that approached me about entering the domain space.

This new company was trying to innovate a way to sell more domain names. We discussed the idea, it wasn't novel in concept, but still hasn't been executed successfully. (Note: I am being vague and speaking in theory because I have no idea if the company has launched or if I am allowed to speak directly about them as I was approached privately)

I expressed my doubts about success and listed the reasons. The primary reasons were a lack of credibility and lack of their own portfolio.

Let's investigate those assumptions:

Lack of Credibility

Domainers are a pretty small group of people and it seems you're only ever 2 degrees away from virtually anyone in the business (a mutual acquaintance). Everyone knows everyone loosely. Reputations often precede any interaction. We are a fairly xenophobic bunch, don't trust people from the outside and have this view that everyone would like to take advantage of us, given the chance.

If you just look at the language used when talking about ICANN, Google/Yahoo PPC accounts, parking companies, there is this inherent mistrust that our interests aren't being looked after. I won't debate whether it's legitimate or not, but getting a positive reputation (credibility) is a difficult task in this business. The fastest route seems to be big sales or at least the claims of such.

Not Having Your Own Portfolio
This ties into lacking credibility, having good domain names and big sales generates credibility and trust. So if you don't have anything notable in your portfolio or didn't sell something that made headlines, it's infinitely more difficult to launch any domain related innovation. Who is going to signup and test you out? Not me, not other domainers. We are generally risk averse with our domain names (think the absurdly high reserves we see at auctions time and time again).

One of the biggest successes in recent years has been Rick Latona's mailing list. Who absorbed that initial risk and attracted buyers by offering good deals? He did. He sold his own domain names to attract people before anyone else would list with him. Once the sales were happening, I think he probably had more people interested than he could handle. What made it possible? He owns his own domain portfolio.

Innovating in the Domain Space
If we return to our original question/problem: do domainers block innovation in the domain space?

I think the answer has to be an unequivocal yes. I think we harm our own interests by being so risk averse and have created unconscious barriers to entry which prevent many people who might have entered from entering.

So what? Why does that matter?
The result of this system is that innovation is endogenous in the domain industry. Only domain industry players can successfully 'innovate.' Who has the credibility and funds to launch new domain innovations? A very select few that meet our basic criteria.

If you've been around the domain space for a long time, you may feel like I do (yes, I am getting personal now and it's anecdotal), there isn't much going on in the space. I often wondered why, but only now have I had the time to sit down and think about it. I am still using the same tools I wrote 8 years ago and they are still really effective. Perhaps that's a testament to my awesome skills or more likely, there hasn't really been any major waves in the business in a long time.

Don't you have a solution?
I don't think there is a clearcut solution for this problem. It's a systemic issue. Most successful innovations in the domain space are scalable and take advantage of economies of scale. Domainers will bandwagon any success and companies are generally rewarded by this bandwagoning. Thus, whomever takes the initial risk isn't disproportionately rewarded, therefore, let someone else do it is the consensus.

If we really want to see innovation flourish within the domain ecosystem was need to take more risks, try more new services and encourage outsiders to enter the space. SO next time a company approaches you, make an extra effort to help them. Also don't dismiss their chances because they don't have any credibility or their own domains to absorb the risk with. Maybe even lend them a domain or two!

ccTLDs of Politically Unstable Countries, Example: .ly and Libya Sanctions

I just read that Libyan Spider, a reseller for .ly has been suspended by it's hosting company for violating US/UN sanctions. This is posted on the front of their website:

March, 31. 2011

Dear LS clients,

Our servers have been shut down by

We are currently trying to resolve this issue. They believe we fall under the blocked list of the UN/US sanctions.
We are a private company run by ordinary citizens that have no affiliation with the government. We are currently trying to
resolve this issue as soon as possible. This is out of our hands until can reactivate our servers. Please contact
them too to show them that you too are affected by this shutdown. We really are sorry that this error of judgement has occurred.
It is a complete injustice to us. They shut us down without even checking to see if we fell under that category. We will release a statement shortly.

Please email us at
We hope that this issue will be resolved soon.

Best regards,
Hadi Naser
CEO Libyan Spider, LLC.

So the interesting question becomes, what sort of extensions really are sensible for a company to use? Can you imagine that you're violating a UN sanction for buying your domain name from a country that is attacking it's own people?

This registry in particular has a history of questionable practices which have brought up the concern about what extension/registry/country you use for your domain name. Is this just another concern nobody conceived of until it happened?

It seems to me, sticking with the popular gTLDs (com/net/org, hell, I will even throw in info/biz for stability) is an even safer bet these days. Is that better sounding name from a foreign country really worth it?

To finish this the only way I can see appropriate, a little domain humor.

Beeth> Girls are like internet domain names, the ones I like are already taken.
honx> well, you can stil get one from a strange country :-P


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