Hint To Startups – Use Your Domain In Your Email Address

On a daily basis, I get an email from someone at a seed-stage startup where their email address does not include their website URL.  For example, I just got an email from joesmith@gmail.com for his company CoolThing. 

I wouldn’t have thought of this except for I’m deep in the proofreading of a book that David Cohen and I are editing called “The Tao of TechStars.”  One of the essays in the “Working Efficiently” section is written by David, titled “Don’t Suck at Email”, and talks about this.

Specifically, David says:

“Another way that founders suck at email is by sending email from a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other generic account.  Every time you send an email like this you’re missing a branding opportunity for your company.  Send and receive email from your company domain so you don’t suck at email.”

Joe’s email to me should have been from joe@coolthing.com.  There are so many reasons this is better than joesmith@gmail.com, including the simple reason that the chance of me associating “Joe” with “CoolThing” in two weeks is much greater than the chance of me associating “Joe” with “Smith” and then with “Coolthing.”

Now, I know some of you out there will say, “but Feld, you use brad@feld.com instead of brad@foundrygroup.com for your email – what gives?”  Ah, the irony of some things in life (although brad@foundrygroup.com works just fine.)

  • So true and it is especially bad when a company that has been around for years still use generic account accounts. Many of my local competitors still don't use their domain in their email addresses and I am hoping they don't come across feld.com.

  • I've never understood this, especially when so called "experts" have helped them set up their online outpost. It's not difficult – heck even sitebuilders like Weebly tell you how to do it.

  • Look at the top of the Related posts, you can configure Gmail to send from any address. Settings->Accounts and Imports->Send mail as. Then you can use it for everything, but keep looking professional.

  • Joe

    It's more than just a missed branding opportunity. It's a tacit admission by the founder that he/she doesn't expect the company to be around for more than, say, a year. ("Please contact me at my Gmail address, because I don't know if I'll pay to keep this website up if my idea doesn't pan out in 6 months, and I still want you to be able to reach me.")

    I don't think it's an issue of tech-savviness at all; it's unbelievably easy to set up a domain, website, and web-based e-mail.

    • Steven

      I disagree, some people just refer to be more personal and some really don't mean to not use a business email and then there are the less tech savvy folks. The number of people looking to use their personal email as a cover to jump ship from their startup really have no reason to be contacting on behalf of the startup anyway and branding wouldn't do them any good. Use of email, while it's a good branding opportunity, isn't just designed for branding purposes. Its just a way to communicate. As describe in my response above, I strongly feel there is great value in utilizing a personal email as long as you've established the connection with your business email.

  • Steven

    Here is the setup I use. I integrated my business email with my gmail so that my gmail essentially can send and receive emails with steven@company.com.

    The first few emails I sent out, I always use the steven@company.com which is set as my default. Somewhere along the line, I may switch my email to steven@gmail.com early on. The reason for this is some times, you build valuable relationships that goes beyond just business with your current start-up. It's valuable to maintain those relationships through your personal email and more importantly, that these contact have access to your personal email.

    Now at first glace it may not seem all that important but this came to me after I exited my last startup. In hindsight, what I was doing naturally accidentally did help people get in touch with me after I exited and no longer had access to my steven@company.com email after I left the company and they no longer wished to forward emails to me.

    So while I agree that there is a branding opportunity in the first few emails, I think there is also value in utilizing your personal email a few emails later after you've established the initial connection. With any luck, most people will hopefully have something like firstname.lastname@gmail.com which else establish and identify them although this of course is not necessary. just my two cents

    • I agree – somehow is similar with giving your private phone number after making contact on your business phone number.

  • Where is the irony in brad@feld.com? Based on the web presence and various business and social media interactions, I’d say that feld.com is a pretty strong brand in and of itself.

    Even joe@smith.com would have created a slightly stronger connection in Brad’s mind, although it would have cognitively positioned the businessman ahead of the business.

    • Yup – agree – but I figured I’d toss it out there just in case someone said “er – what about brad@foundrygroup.com

    • Steven

      Wouldn't that be more of a personal brand than for your business. It's the same as saying anyone who have firstname@lastname.com should have the right to use that as their email too when the point of the post was originally to demonstrate the power of branding your "startup", not the individual. I'm not going to argue that brad@feld.com has it's point but it's definitely not branding foundrygroup in anyway either.

  • And you can use your domain within gmail so it's not like you have to change habits. Getting the domain is the real issue here. Without a strong one your marketing gets a lot more difficult. Fortunately I've got the .com domain I wanted for my new business but the site's not up yet so I'm keeping my gmail until we're live.

  • You missed a chance to plug one of your investments! If you use Gist.com, the company coolthing.com will automagially go into your company profiles section if the sender uses joe@coolthing.com.

    I know not everyone out there is using Gist, yet, but it's a factor.

    • Setting aside the opportunity to plug Gist, there are many tools (besides Gist) that assimilate people with domains. Using an email address other than your domain simply creates a disconnect with business intelligence tools.

  • Richard Forster

    I’m amazed this happens, a personal email address is just that.

    If you have have a business domain and you are contacting someone about your business you use your business email, end of.

  • I agree wholeheartedly, and it happens surprisingly frequently.

    In addition to foregone branding opportunities, it also signals a lack of commitment. If "Joe" isn't committed enough to "CoolThing" to take the 30 minutes to host email under his domain on Google (and it doesn't require much tech savvy to do), how seriously should someone receiving an email from "Joe" take "CoolThing"?

  • It’s so easy to do it that there’s really no excuse to be using Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo!

  • Brad,
    Solid advice, which as a proto-founder is much appreciated. We’ve worked for months but haven’t found traction yet so no need to incorporate. My thoughts on being a memorable pitch is showing 100k active users, along with positive cash flow. The best deals for startups is the ones they don’t have to make.

    My new favorite email, messel@100kusers.com heh. Working it.

    We live in our email too much 😉

  • Re: brad@feld.com — it is just like Guy Kawasaki says "do as I say, don't do as I do"

  • It seems like a big faux pas for a tech company founder to be using a gmail account for anything pertaining to their startup. For $7.95 at GoDaddy, you can get a custom domain that helps you "appear" to be corporate/professional AND helps reinforce your brand.

    • Heck, if you want to use the Gmail interface, you can get Google Apps Standard for FREE and have joe@coolthing.com & the GMail UI. Register the domain, get GA Standard, update a couple of settings, and boom, you're good to go.

      • Google has made it super easy to set up Google Apps if you buy a domain through them. They give you this option when you go to set up Google Apps. I now buy most of my domains through Google because they set up Google Apps almost instantly, and I don't have to mess with any DNS records.

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  • I completely agree with this post but I actually use my gmail address instead of my yipit.com address.

    The issue we ran into is that one out of every 20 emails were getting caught in people's spam filter. (I've heard other startups having this same issue). That's enough for me to keep using my gmail address.

    At some point, I'll take the time to look into it. But, at our stage, I don't have the luxury to spend time on that.

  • If you’ve mapped your domain to Google, this shouldn’t be an issue on outbound emails.  If you continue to have a problem, check out http://www.sendmail.com<br</a&gt; />

  • If you’ve mapped your domain to Google, this shouldn’t be an issue on outbound emails.  If you continue to have a problem, check out http://www.sendmail.com

  • Great debate! It’s something we say to every one of our customers – we did an analysis of businesses in Scotland and 12% are still using @ISP or generic consumer webmail addresses. We are a Google Apps Reseller helping businesses take advantage of Google’s tools online to make their business work bigger, better and ‘louder’.

    I noticed a few people here stating that spam is an issue when using their company email address. You should really look at using a service like Google Apps, when setup correctly this can avoid being considered as SPAM. Get it done professionally and SPF records etc will be sorted for you.

    Giving off the perception of a larger company with the use of info@ or sales@ is also something that we recommend. Aliases are fantastic and mean that it’s easier to setup workflow processes to manage mail rather than being reactive to everything that hits the inbox.

    Having multiple domains can mean multiple email addresses and there quite a few accounts to manage or a web of forwards. This can also be managed easily within Google Apps with Domain Aliases.

    I understand Steven March’s statement that personal address is sometimes useful. That is why it’s great to have the ability to setup multiple sending addresses – these again are sent through the relevant servers so you won’t have the considered as spam issues.

    If we can help with any your queries don’t hesitate to get in touch.


  • Totally agree, using your branded email is a no brainer. With all due respect though Brad, you not following your own advice is hypocrisy, not irony. Unless of course you are trying to brand Feld.com (you) instead of Foundry Group (your company).

    • True. Ironically I always get hypocracy and irony confused.

  • Joe

    There's a thread about this over at answers.onstartups.com:


  • thanks for you share

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  • Pablo

    When the options are company domain name, or gmail, it's clear. But what about when the two options are a personal brand, like feld.com, and a company brand; especially at the beginning, when the personal brand is much stronger.

  • I don’t have a great answer for that one since I clearly used feld.com (vs. foundrygroup.com).  Part of it is that I’ve been using feld.com for 15 years and I just can’t seem to use something else!

  • Thats great, I never knew before this blog

  • I completely agree with you on this. I work for an insurance company that is about 18 years old, but over the last year has finally stepped forward and given everyone an email address for the company. First I think it is a no brainer and makes things more professional, but even further you are right on branding and associating sales rep or whom ever is contacting you to the name of the domain or company. Simple way to get the name out there on day to day emails.

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