How Box.net became Box.com for just shy of a million bucks

CEO Aaron Levie got lucky: The company that owned the dot-com of his company name wanted a lot, but not as much as they could have held him up for.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read
Just Box.

I just had a nice talk with Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box.net. I mean, Box. I had to ask him how much it cost for the company to drop the ".net" and become a ".com," a change that happened in December of 2011. I expected that the three-letter common-word domain of an already-successful, well-funded company would go for a lot, several million dollars possibly.

"How many zeros?" I asked.

"Six," Levie said.

How big an integer in front of those zeros? I asked.

"The lowest. And actually, it was five zeros with the highest integer."

Levie said he bought the domain nine months ago from Digimedia. "We got to know the guys who owned it over a couple of years," he said.

"You've been working them for a while, eh?" I asked.

No, Levie said, it wasn't like that. He said the Digimedia guys were really cool.

Or, perhaps, Aaron just plays a really good game of domain-name poker.

My colleague Paul Sloan, who has reported extensively on the domain name business (see this story from 2007), told me about Scott Day, the founder of Digimedia. Formerly a watermelon farmer (yes, really), Day took his experience buying Watermelons.com and turned it into an early domain business. "But these are good guys," Sloan told me. "They're not doing trademarks, they're not doing porn." They own names like Shampoo.com, Skier.com, and Prayer.com. Also: FBI.com.

Prior to owning Box.com, Levie says, "We had narrowed our name from Box.net to just Box, since with didn't own Box.com."

Levie told me he was fully prepared to pay "a small fortune" for the Box.com domain. His thinking: "It will be better for the next ten years just to be, 'Box.'"

And it will be much easier to do that if nobody else can make trouble for him with the domain, "Box.com."

For more news of domain name sales, see the 2012 leaderboard at DNJournal and the all-time biggest domain name buys at Domaining.