In South Florida, dozens of startups, including sewlove.co, nightpro.co, punchme.co and mijaresart.co have embraced the domain, as well as organizations such as Launch Pad Tech, Startup Florida, HackDay and SuperConf.
Since its launch, .CO Internet has starred in two Super Bowl ads with Go Daddy – and a third will air next month, reaching an audience of more than 100 million people.
The company also attends and sponsors major entrepreneurship events worldwide and often gives out “.co scholarships” to register for .co sites. “There are three to four Startup Weekends every single weekend somewhere in the world. Everyone gets a scholarship,” Calle said. “We want to be at the point of inception, the point where ideas are formed.”
And increasingly, unlike most domain registries that act more like a utility, .CO Internet wants to continue the relationship. When the team visits a city, for instance, it will hold a “co-er” dinner for local entrepreneurs with .co websites, said Wardi. Last month, a dinner in San Francisco had grown to 40 people and turned into a party at Bun Mee, a restaurant owned by a “co-er.”
“When we would find someone building on the site, we’d get really excited, we’d email them, tweet at them, call them, and we’d say ‘we’re your domain registry, how can we help you?’ We got so inspired by the reaction from them, that it dawned on us the only way we can differentiate ourselves is to do that all the time, touch them in a human way, give them connections and support to help them fulfill their dreams,” said Wardi.
About six months ago, Charlie Hilton, founder of Urban Times in London, which launched in 2010, said his team met for lunch with Calle and Wardi after LeWeb, a huge technology conference in Europe where they received one of those free .co domain cards. “We got on famously and decided this is right for us because they really support the startup culture.”
Since then .CO Internet has helped Urban Times in numerous ways, such as connecting the company with partners, helping them with the link shortener ut.co, and giving the company SEO (search engine optimization) audits, all smoothing the transition from theurbn.com to urbantimes.co without losing traffic. “There may be quite scary implications of changing your website, but we aren’t finding that,” said Hilton. “Nothing was disrupted, it just got better... We can contact them and know that they will be supportive and helpful in any way they can. That’s really quite novel.”
The challenge now, Wardi said, is how to continue this level of support as the .CO community continues to grow. “That’s what keeps us up at night.”
The company’s current push in that direction is i.go.co, which is being beta tested and will be formally launched at the giant tech and cultural conference South by Southwest in Austin, Texas in March. The idea is that the free i.go.co membership can offer .co site owners tangible benefits such as free tickets to startup events, Google Adwords credits, personal SEO consultations or vouchers for free co-working visits, as well as inspiration and a sense of community. Members can read about .co success stories, for instance, or share their own offers of expertise.