Lean Domain Search founder Matt Mazur explains why he sold his business to Automattic.
Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has acquired domain name discovery company Lean Domain Search.
I’ve written extensively about this company over the past year, as it was one of the best tools on the market for finding available domain names.
I reached out to Lean Domain Search founder Matt Mazur today to learn more about the acquisition.
DNW: Now that Lean Domain Search has been acquired, the service is free. But LDS was somewhat unique in offering paid services for better searching. Was getting people to sign up to the paid version harder than you expected?
Mazur: When I originally launched Lean Domain Search in January 2012 the service was completely free and it earned its income solely through affiliate commissions. As I continued to improve the service by adding more results and increasing its speed, I realized that the free version was offering a lot of value and that I might be able to switch to a freemium model where I provided some of the results for free but charged power users who were interested in the full set of results.
Pricing the freemium plan was difficult. I originally tried charging $299 once for two months of access or $99/month for long term access, but didn’t have a lot of takers at that price point. I experimented with different variations: $24/month, $79 once, $199 yearly, and more. The one I settled on, $79 for two months access or $199 for yearly access, seemed to be a price point that worked for a lot of people.
April 2013, the last full month I charged for the service, was actually the first month where the premium plan revenue exceed the affiliate commissions. So yes, it was hard at first, but nothing that a little time and experimentation can’t solve.
DNW: Did Automattic find you? Were you in talks with other suitors?
Mazur: Matt Mullenweg, one of Automattic’s founders, originally reached out to me about working at Automattic in 2009 after seeing Domain Pigeon, Lean Domain Search’s predecessor, on HackerNews. At the time, however, I was still serving in the Air Force and couldn’t pursue it.
Several months ago I was checking out WordPress.com and it occurred to me that there still might be an opportunity to work at Automattic on its domain name services so I reached out to Matt and, well, here I am.
DNW Will you work solely on domain search/discovery for Automattic or additional projects as well?
Mazur: Automattic is fairly flexible in that if you want to devote some of your time to other projects you’re welcome to do that. For the time being, however, I am exclusively working on new domain name initiatives for WordPress.com.
DNW: Would you consider this an “Acquihire”?
Lean Domain Search was acquired and now I’m working at Automattic so you could probably call it that. What’s so exciting about this opportunity is that I can continue doing what I enjoy — helping people find domain names — on a scale that I would never have been able to do on my own. It’s truly a dream come true.