Startups: Lock Down Social Before Launch

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It seems to happen every couple of years. A major company launches a new initiative, backed by millions of dollars in cash and some brilliant people at the helm, only to forget one crucial detail: Locking down the URLs and social-media handles with the initiative’s name.

That very thing just happened with Alphabet, the newly announced holding company that contains Google, Nest, and a handful of other next-generation tech firms. While Alphabet CEO Larry Page and his army of lawyers made sure to file all the appropriate legal paperwork for the move, they forgot to secure, which is controlled by a “geek dad” named Chris Andrikanich who lives in Cleveland, Ohio; nor did they seize control of, which is owned by BMW.

(As far as URLs go, Alphabet seems to have, which is… sort of memorable?)

“Well, that was an interesting way to end a Monday…” Andrikanich tweeted, soon after Google announced the reorganization.

Three years ago, a similar thing happened with Qwikster, Netflix’s attempt to spin off its DVDs-by-mail business as a separate company. Not only was the rollout an utter failure, but Netflix neglected to secure the @qwikster Twitter handle before the launch, meaning that thousands of people quickly landed on the Twitter page of a very confused teenager.

While such advice seems obvious, it bears repeating: Make sure to secure your brand’s name across all channels before launching a new product, initiative, or company. The idea that someone can build and activate the infrastructure associated with a business, and forget to wrest away the appropriate Twitter and Facebook handles from whomever controls them, is frankly mind-boggling; yet it seems to be a trap that tech companies fall into again and again.

If someone already has the URLs and handles for your venture, you may need to pay some cash to release them, or figure out an alternative set of public identifiers. If Google wants the Alphabet Twitter handle, it will almost certainly need to pay Andrikanich quite a bit.