The man who beat Jack Ma apparently shares the same view on domains

Robin Zeng’s company belatedly acquired the matching .brand.

It’s a strange world. A teacher (Jack Ma) founded an internet company and became very rich, then a farmer (Robin Zeng) established a battery company and became even richer. Today, Zeng beats Ma with his massive $50 billion net worth. In the domain space, however, Ma led and Zeng followed.

In 1999, Ma founded Alibaba. He knew the importance of .com and brand-matching right away, so he invested $4,000 to acquire Alibaba.com from its Canadian owner.

Zeng was less fortunate. When he established CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited) in 2011, he understood the importance of .com but not brand-matching. He registered CATLbattery.com instead.

Within a decade, Zeng created the largest global producer of rechargeable cells for plug-in vehicles and the company went public in 2018. Finally, Zeng followed the footsteps of Ma and acquired CATL.com from California Association of Texas Longhorn Breeders in 2019 when the association switched its domain to CATLbreeders.com.

Interestingly, both Alibaba .cn and CATL .cn do not resolve. Unlike Alibaba, CATL also has the Chinese brand “Ning De Shi Dai” (宁德时代), but a 3rd party owns the matching NingDeShiDai .com.

So, what can we learn from this story?

  • .com is king in corporate China and it is the first choice.
  • .cn is secondary and optional to Chinese companies.
  • English brand is more important than Chinese brand in domain acquisition.
  • Brand-matching creates opportunities to sell domains as upgrades.

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