Disclaimer: It is only through the kind collaboration with the previous owner of buffer.com that we were able to now be the new owners, and a key interest for them was to stay anonymous and not to draw any attention to them in this announcement, which we are very keen to honor. So we have redacted all names and replaced them with “Bob” for the individual and “Company corp.” for the company name.

In similar interest to protect their privacy, the previous owner also wasn’t comfortable in sharing the price of this transaction, for various, very understandable reasons. This has also been a very interesting experience for us in terms of being fully transparent. As many of you know, we believe making everything about Buffer transparent, starting with salaries, equity, revenues, fundraising and so much more, is something that helps us build a better, more empathic and trustworthy company. At the same time, our values aren’t always the same values cherished by others, which is what we experienced here, and not forcing our own values onto someone else is a key thing to do, we felt.

So all things said, we tried to find a good balance of still sharing most of the details around how this happened and yet also honor the privacy of the previous owner with this announcement.

Introduction, by LeoThere was a great blogpost that Joel wrote on how to name your startup, where he mentioned that the domain name of your startup doesn’t matter. In fact, thinking about Buffer’s own domain history, we originally started out with bfffr.com, when Joel launched Buffer in late 2010.

Joel went on to change it to bufferapp.com, to make things more clear and worry less about not having the exact domain of your startup’s name, “Buffer” in our case. It can be a huge time-suck in the early days of your company, where your first and foremost goal should be to hit product-market fit and building something people want.

Spending time on acquiring a certain domain name could be a very futile exercise without a product that works. In fact, as Joel illustrates, most well-known companies all had “placeholder” domains for a long time before they got their actual name as their domain too:

  • Square was squareup.com
  • DropBox was getdropbox.com
  • Facebook was thefacebook.com
  • Instagram was instagr.am
  • Twitter was twttr.com
  • Foursquare was playfoursquare.com

We felt that after we’ve established ourselves as a company that at this point generates over $5m/year, has over 30,000 paying customers and that sends around 700,000 social media posts every day on our users’ behalf, making our brand consistent and recognizable was an important step. So, for the last 1.5 years, we’ve been working on acquiring the domain Buffer.com.

On top of that, we felt that the longer we waited to buy the buffer.com domain, the more expensive it would get. Every year that Buffer would get bigger would mean that the owner could feel comfortable charging a higher sum. So going about it sooner rather than later felt right.

So our domain journey in short has been this:

bfffr.com -> bufferapp.com -> buffer.com

Here is the story of how it all happened.

First contact

Buffer.com was originally owned and registered by Company corp in 1997.

We first got connected when some of our customers landed on buffer.com and tried to call them to discuss a credit card charge, and Bob later told us that he was surprised since he did not usually deal with individual clients at his company. Bob went on to do some research and tried to call us, unfortunately we did not have a direct line for him to call, so he sent us an email about it.

We acknowledged being digital neighbors and worked out the issue around the confusion, although this would become more of an ongoing occurrence as Buffer grew bigger in size and more and more people thought that buffer.com was our domain.

Deciding on transparency for buying the domain

We then had a long discussion about how to go about possibly acquiring Buffer.com, after just having established contact with its owners. We asked some mentors for advice and also Googled about the topic. We found a few articles from domain acquirer experts and stories of how they did it.

A lot of them involved tactics like emailing from a Yahoo address, to hide your true identity to make yourself appear like a smaller company or letting a different entity altogether work on getting the domain. Of course all of this was aimed towards getting the smallest possible purchase price.

Recently—after we completed the buffer.com transaction—Bob told us that several people had previously approached him to buy buffer.com, emailing him from “personal emails” to make him offers, and he frequently had to decline.

We never felt that this was quite in line with our values and how Buffer has been doing business and I remember Joel being one of the most vocal to make sure we’d be doing things in a clean and transparent way. So instead of obscuring any of our intentions, we were as transparent as possible—to a point where we later on even showed the owners our bank account to help them understand why our offer to buy the domain at our stated price was the stated price.

Right from the get-go, it was clear to us, that the transparent approach would likely mean we would be paying a higher amount for the domain than we could have gotten away with through other strategies. We were ok with that, and our approach to be completely transparent with the owners was the one we were most comfortable and happy with.

So a few weeks after the confusion with our voicemail, we reached back out to the owner, Bob, stating our intent as clearly as we could:

buffer.com email 1

Their response was pretty clear, that they were open to chat, and at the same time, didn’t want to give up the domain for various reasons:

buffer.com email 2

 

After a few back and forth emails, it was clear that Bob definitely wasn’t interested in giving up the domain at this point. It ended with this email which we didn’t get a response to, after which we got busy with other things:

buffer.com email 3

Our initial offer clearly couldn’t have been a very exciting one, so we put things on hold for another 10 months, before Rodolphe came on board and started to pick things back up.

Enter Rodolphe, 10 months later, who picked things up and made it happen.


Rodolphe:

Re-Opening the conversation on Buffer.com

I joined Buffer in April 2014, jumping in to help with all things Business Development. About a month in, a Special Project came my way—trying to reconnect with Bob about buffer.com.

buffer.com email 4

I took a couple of days to think on how to reconnect with Bob in the best possible way, and settled into writing an email to give some context to the discussion. It felt like a good opportunity to connect and start to know each other better – trying to provide some value through an intro email.

buffer.com email 5

After sending this email, and a follow-up email about 10 days later – we didn’t quite manage to connect with Bob.

Since email didn’t really help us connecting, we felt like reaching out to Bob some other way: In June 2014, the amazing Nicole (who is looking after the Buffer community) called up Bob’s office to learn more about what he likes! Nicole sent a great hand-written letter to Bob together with a small voucher for his favorite coffee shop, as a token of appreciation.

This care package gave us a nice way to start a conversation. I called Bob in July 2014 and we had our first chat. It was great to hear that Bob remembered us, and he explained how buffer.com has been very useful in the past for his company to gain new business, since buffers is one of their most popular lines of business.

It was great to connect, although at that point when I asked about a possible price range, Bob said that he’ll consider it and that it was still “too early for now.”

Later on that summer, I called back to check on Bob. At that point, Bob shared that he would probably feel like holding on to buffer.com.

Meeting in person, getting closer

By chance, Buffer’s next retreat was planned to happen in NYC in September 2014, and Bob lived close to the city. So, since we would be present in NYC, we decided to see whether we might try to meet up and chat:

buffer.com email 6

Meanwhile, Bob had gotten some more information about domain value through an acquaintance and suggested we came up with a number for him to consider:

buffer.com email 7

We were buzzing with excitement, wondering what might happen next! Once we all got together in New York, I called Bob and we agreed to both do some thinking and meet up in person on a Friday.

On Thursday afternoon, Joel, Leo and I stepped out of the building and went out for a walk to discuss the best way to give Bob a fair offer. Hiten Shah, who was visiting the Buffer team, was also kind enough to offer some thoughts.

Pondering to up our offer and how much we were prepared to pay

At Buffer, we have been long-time advocates of the Lean Startup methodology (Eric Ries has invested in Buffer), it was quite a new discussion to explore purchasing an asset—even a virtual one—for a large portion of our available cash.

At the same time, we felt it was a very important component of our identity, and it would be such a nice addition to our service going forward.

We decided to be as transparent as possible in our approach, and to be as fair as possible. I went ahead and did some benchmark on a list of previously sold domains, how much they went for and when.

Buffer.com is a great domain, only six letters and it has a meaning in the English language. It was interesting to look at previous transactions. We also knew that Buffer.com is a little bit more “illiquid,” in the sense that some more generic domains such as color.com can be used in many different contexts, whereas we were likely to pay premium for Buffer.com as an asset that could be harder to sell for the same price we would pay for the transaction.

Also, we decided to give Bob all aspects of the Buffer story for him to have as much information as possible. On Thursday, we printed our balance sheet; we had $844,386 in the bank that day.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 11.56.40 AM

When Bob and I sat down for coffee, we had a great chat, and I got an opportunity to share our rationale:hackpad.com_V21PAbNhD9S_p

  • Our priority is to serve our Buffer users, and to guarantee payroll for Buffer employees.
  • We wished to make the best offer we could on the day, without putting Buffer “at risk.”
  • We shared our balance sheet for that day, together with the list of previously sold domains.
  • We thought about the dollar amount, and percentage or our available cash that we would be willing to pay  to acquire buffer.com.

Bob replied that he would consider it. He walked me back to the train station and I hopped on the train back to town towards Penn Station.

After we met, Bob and I kept in touch through some phone calls and emails for a few months.

Getting to a final number

Meanwhile, Buffer went on to raise $3.5m round at a $60m valuation in October, and we shared why and how publicly on this blog.

In early December 2014, Bob emailed us with a new number that he obtained based on the advice he had received and his own research.

After some thoughts and conversations from both ends, we agreed on a price on December 13th!

buffer.com email 8

Throughout December 2014 and January 2015, our legal advisors over at WSGR and our accountants from Foresight assisted us to set up a domain transfer through Escrow.com – where the money would be held until the domain will be transferred.

hackpad.com_V21PAbNhD9S_p.141985_1423798013286_Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 2.26.32 PM

 

hackpad.com_V21PAbNhD9S_p.141985_1423798070247_Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 2.27.29 PM
We’re happy to announce that we now own buffer.com, and are very thankful to Bob for being such a great partner in this transaction! By giving the fresh domain a spin, we hope it makes using Buffer even more seamless.

Some stats on the Buffer.com transaction

  • Emails sent: 16 (as of Feb 2nd 2015)
  • Emails received: 8 (as of Feb 2nd 2015)
  • Phone calls placed: 34 (dialing, not necessarily connecting – as of Feb 2nd 2015)
  • Time elapsed between first contact and effective domain transfer: 624 days (June 5th 2013 – Feb 19th 2015)

Would love to hear your thoughts or questions on this in the comments. Hopefully sharing all our steps and the final outcome might also be helpful with your own efforts on getting the right domain for your projects and companies!

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Written by Rodolphe Dutel

As a Buffer Product Specialist, Rodolphe spreads the good word about Buffer to current and future users! He is also the founder at Remotive.

  • I am fascinated by this as I happen to own a domain name that means a lot to me. When somebody interested in buying it contacted me about 3 or 4 years ago, I didn’t want to sell and his response was annoyance. I wonder now whether I might have changed my mind if he’d had a different attitude…

  • Reej

    This was an extremely interesting read, since Day 1 of using Buffer and I’ve been wondering when you’d change from Bufferapp to Buffer. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us.
    I was wondering whether your tech team could work on a blog post about site migration and the steps you took to migrate safely from bufferapp domain to buffer without losing any link equity…as this would be very helpful for my field of work. Thanks! =)

    • LeoWid

      Great one Reej, this is one that’s coming up very soon for sure!

    • I’d love to see that post also! Great work Leo and team.

    • Mark Michos

      I’m excited, too. Very interesting read, Rodolphe. Thanks for sharing this insight.

  • Rachel Jackson

    Super duper interesting! Thanks for sharing your whole process!

  • Such an interesting read! Thanks for writing this.

  • Melanie Allgood Hygema

    Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing so much detail.

  • WoooHoohohoOOo! I am so excited about this news!!! Good job and congratulations!!!

  • Awesome! I can finally remove the entry in my HOSTS file that redirects buffer.com to bufferapp.com :)

    • Mark Michos

      Haha, nice!

  • Cyril Pepito

    Well done guys! And thanks for sharing the whole process, very interesting.
    That is what I call tenacity :)
    And it always pays off!

  • Michaela Angemeer

    This was fascinating! I’ve always been impressed by your transparency – even more impressed at the level of respect you’ve shown Bob with this post.

  • melindavenable

    As always, amazing transparency. Really love the storytelling style of the post, Rudolphe. Impressed by the fact keeping for the past 2 years. And most importantly, congratulations on your diligence, success and much admired attitude.

  • fascinating process and always keeping focus on Buffer as a brand, Buffer employees and the Buffer community.

  • timothynichols

    Maybe I missed it. What was the purchase price of buffer.com?

    • No, you didn’t miss it. It wasn’t shared: “In similar interest to protect their privacy, the previous owner also wasn’t comfortable in sharing the price of this transaction, for various, very understandable reasons. “

      • timothynichols

        Thanks Laura, I thought I just missed it.

  • Sweet move! Time to update my bookmark.

    I had a wistful desire to read a Silicon Valley-style story about how the buffer.com domain was eventually acquired. You mean to tell me no one drove to your home with a shotgun in hand ready to blast some heads off??

  • Congratulations! Great job, Rodolphe!

  • Kat Zien

    I love that you chose the honest approach to buying, without cheeky tactics – it’s very rare these days and shows that doing things in a clean and transparent way pays off! Congratulations!

  • rayfilwong

    simply a great read + very useful

  • Doreen Simon

    Congratulations Rodolphe
    and Buffer team! Thanks for sharing the emails, the approach and the specifics
    too such as setting up a domain transfer through escrow.com. So insightful!

  • Awesome post… so good in fact I read it twice. And who said domain squatting doesn’t pay lol?

  • alex

    Congratulations! Love that you guys stuck to your values and were very respectful and patient through the process.

  • Absolutely awesome read guys! Thanks a lot for sharing this one. This is how to negotiate. It is pretty much incredible it took almost 2 years, but I know from previous experience negotiations about purchasing a domain are long.

    I remember couple times landing on the Buffer.com page and was quite surprised what it is. I can still see it through Wayback Machine :)

    Anyway, which domain has Bob now? Is he satisfied overall? I’m little bit sad we can’t see the final sum of how much have you paid and what was the initial offer, but being transparent all the time works I see.

    So, now you’re going to negotiate http://www.pablo.com/ right? :)

    • You can do a Google search for Bob’s company name to find his current domain. Essentially, it’s company.com.

  • Verdii

    Alway inspiring to read your transparant stories. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your purchase.

  • WOW, I’m impressed! That’s Dale Carnegie at it’s best!
    I would love to know how did you deal with TIME!
    Didn’t you get impatient at some point?
    Do you think time should NEVER be considered in a negotiation process? Never rush?
    Was there a considerable difference between your first offer and the last?
    Was it a MONEY thing?
    I’m sorry to bother you with all these questions but I think this is highly interesting!

  • Guest

    WOW, I’m impressed! That’s Dale Carnegie at it’s best!

    I would love to know how did you deal with TIME!

    Didn’t you get impatient at some point?

    Do you think time should NEVER be considered in a negotiation process? Never rush?

    Was there a considerable difference between your first offer and the last?

    Was it a MONEY thing?

    I’m sorry to bother you with all these questions but I think this is highly interesting!

  • Dan Sodergren

    Wow I am going to buy up all the domains NOW for our new start up. I don’t like the sound of a almost two year long process with an undisclosed amount of monetary expense at the end! Thanks for sharing – love what you guys are up to

  • Awesome! I know this will make things easier for your fans and users. I know it took me awhile to get your website/handles right. I knew you were Buffer in places and BufferApp in others, but it took awhile to keep things straight.

    And as always, I love reading about your guys’ personal experiences as a startup. Keep writing these stories. :)

  • Maria Djaleva

    I didn’t even blink while reading through that! Such a fascinating story, thanks so much for sharing! Transparency and honesty when communicating such sensitive topics are so rare these days. Your values as a company and as a team are something we all need to aspire to.

  • Really love the transparent process you went through. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Beth – http://EncoreWomen.com

    I really enjoyed reading this. I had wondered how this sort of thing happens. I am so impressed with your caring, transparent, and patient process. It just adds to my appreciation of the great content you provide.

  • Shop

    I’ve been in a similar situation and wouldn’t advise buyers to reveal who they are in such a negotiation. I found it excruciating to the point of severely denting my motivation. Why not do something else where the first thought that came into my head each morning wasn’t going to be the guy holding me to ransom.

    I probably took it too personally, but buying a domain name is the most brutal kind of negotiation you can be involved in if the seller knows you want it and aren’t going away.

    Perhaps in this case the seller would have guessed who was enquiring anyway, so revealing identity may have made little difference.

  • Jay Castro

    Wow. I love this and all things transparency that buffer shares. Keep em coming

  • Awesome story. It all shows that through will power and transparency we can achieve any feat. Thanks for sharing it with us. Domain names are very important. Even I landed on buffer.com to reach nowhere when I first typed your URL back last year.

  • Thank you for the communication and transparency.

  • VERY interesting!

  • hambo

    Would you consider a move from domain.io to domain.com a necessary one if the .com was attainable?

    • LeoWid

      only if you have product market fit I’d say! In the early days, I don’t think it matters much at all.

  • Phil Shaw

    Really interesting story, thanks. And well done!

    Did you ever consider just running with buffer.net or similar?

  • Logan Hale

    Wondering: what’s the email client used? (seen early in the article – the first email seen – where we see “you replied” with photo)

  • Lynn Keddie

    Fascinating to hear how you tackled this. It’s a great business story- how honesty, time and mutual benefits worked out for both parties. Its all about trust.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • William3780

    Makes Total Sense! The difference between bufferapp.com and buffer.com is night and day. I believe your ROI on this acquisition will be tenfold. Smart move.

  • So much fun! Cleanly done, no dirt involved ;) AWESOME news, Cheers!

  • Great read. Thanks for sharing (as always!). We’re constantly debating this with our product Goodbits, being hosted at goodbits.io, it always comes up in discussions.

    I wonder if your acquisition analytics from “Buffer” organic searches will drop now? ;)

  • What a redemptive approach! Wise as serpents and soft as doves! Love it Leo! Great job as always my friend!

  • This was a great read, particularly how you chronicled the acquisition of the ‘coveted’ Buffer domain! Your approach was honest, refreshing and I have to agree that transparency worked! Congratulations!

  • Congrats!

  • paddlechristian

    At some point I have to write the story of how we acquired Paddle.com (another 6-letter, dictionary word domain), it was a hell of a ride! :)

  • Question – please explain your logic to show your balance sheet to the seller and visualizing how much money you have? Did you not get concerned that he might see that you have money, therefore knowing he could ask for more?

  • I thought something was up when the URL suddenly changed from bufferapp.com to buffer.com. Great read. Well done and congrats – we love using buffer!

  • Wow! Really great insight into how you got http://www.buffer.com! I’m glad you were able to work it out, so your online presence has a nice clear starting point =]

    Also:

    “In similar interest to protect their privacy, the previous owner also wasn’t comfortable in sharing the price of this transaction, for various, very understandable reasons. This has also been a very interesting experience for us in terms of being fully transparent. As many of you know, we believe making everything about Buffer transparent, starting with salaries, equity, revenues, fundraising and so much more, is something that helps us build a better, more empathic and trustworthy company. At the same time, our values aren’t always the same values cherished by others, which is what we experienced here, and not forcing our own values onto someone else is a key thing to do, we felt.”

    That’s great! One of the most important things about having a set of values you aspire to, is to not fall into the trap of stepping over the values of others. Good job *hi five*

  • uma singh

    today news telugu
    Nice post.