For Dot-Coms, What's in a Name Is Becoming Increasingly Lucrative

Software.com is sitting on a hot property. Plus: more moolah for ePinions, plus a kiss from Goldman.
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The twentysomething-year-old Israeli founders of

contact.com

, a yet-to-be-launched "contact-management" Web site based in Redwood Shores, Calif., recently paid about $400,000 for that killer domain name. That sounded like a lot of money just a few months ago. But the young company was spending money from its venture capitalists, including

Accel Partners

in Silicon Valley, and in light of the $7.5 million incubator

eCompanies

has paid for the name business.com, perhaps the Israelis got a bargain.

So when I first became familiar with

Software.com

(SWCM)

, a Santa Barbara, Calif., company that's been around since 1993, and makes messaging software for Internet applications, I had one thought: They don't need that name.

After all, companies that are focused on

all

kinds of software likely would be more than willing to fork over at least $7.5 million for such a moniker.

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

, for example, could make hay with the name Software.com. Newly public

mcafee.com

(MCAF)

, while exploiting an admired brand name in consumer software, really wants to be so much more than an antivirus company. And, of course,

Beyond.com

(BYND) - Get Report

-- once

Software.net

-- would be much better off with software.com, methinks.

Software.com CEO John MacFarlane begs to differ.

"The name is actually quite appropriate," he asserts, pointing out that Software.com had its name long before most of us knew how to say "dot-com." He says just answering the phone at the company was a challenge in the early days because callers had trouble processing the name. The name is golden today of course, though probably not the reason Software.com's shares have rocketed from below 20 after its midsummer initial public offering to 108 1/4 Friday. The success has come from Software.com counting many of the top telecommunications companies as its customers.

SiliconStreet: Join the discussion on

TSC

message boards.

Still, MacFarlane says that folks call "from time to time" to inquire about the name. Beyond.com in particular wanted the name before abandoning Software.net, but Software.com wasn't interested in selling.

Everyone -- and every company -- has its price, of course. Apparently Software.com's price just isn't $7.5 million.

And Briefly, on the VC Front

ePinions

, the Mountain View, Calif., company that enjoyed a fawning, full-bore article about itself in

The New York Times Magazine

before it had a product, will announce today something even better than good publicity: It's raised more money and recruited a major investment banker to its board.

According to ePinions, Brad Koenig, who heads the

Goldman Sachs

technology banking group in Menlo Park, Calif., is becoming a director. Not surprisingly, Goldman Sachs is becoming an investor as well. Goldman, together with

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

Bowman Capital

(a pre-IPO backer of

TheStreet.com

(TSCM)

) and previous investors

Benchmark Capital

and

August Capital

, is investing a total of $25 million. The company raised $8 million earlier in the year.

The ePinions press release even has a comment from Goldman Internet analyst Michael Parekh, who normally passes judgment on public companies. Is there any doubt who will take this company public?

ePinions sports a cool concept: totally unbiased opinions from experts and users on consumer items from autos and home appliances to ski resorts and cell phones. It also rates banks and online brokerages, but not traditional investment banks or venture-capital firms (admittedly not consumer services). Still, an unbiased view of those industries at ePinions would be a viewpoint worth reading.

Also from VC land, Accel Partners will ballyhoo today the closing of its latest Internet fund and some of its high-profile investors: Dell,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Nortel Networks

(NT)

,

Novell

(NOVL)

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

and

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

. Top executives from another slew of leading Internet companies also have invested in the fund.

For those unclear on how this all works, follow the money-generation recipe: VC firm invests in startups and makes a killing, sometimes taking them public, sometimes selling them to big corporations; VC firm raises additional money and takes in big corporate partners and successful entrepreneurs as investors, promising to make them more money; VC firm makes a killing for its investors (the big corporations and prominent executives) by taking the start-ups public or selling them to big corporations and then makes investments in new startups founded by, guess who, executives from big corporations and previously successful entrepreneurs; repeat.

Isn't this

fin de siecle

stuff grand?

Check out part two of today's column: a review of the Credit Suisse First Boston technology conference.

Adam Lashinsky's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Lashinsky writes a column for Fortune called the Wired Investor, and is a frequent commentator on public radio's Marketplace program. He welcomes your feedback at

alashinsky@thestreet.com.

Edie Yates assisted with the reporting of this column.