On The Record: The Story Behind Develop.com

It's rare to come across a company that launches on an ultra-premium .COM domain, but that's exactly what Develop did.

Develop's parent, Global Knowledge, acquired Develop.com several years ago, but the name was never used, until 2020 when Global Knowledge built an online business and IT skill training platform.

In this interview, I speak with Ricky Cadden, the Marketing Director of Develop and how Develop.com has been a key part of the company's early success. This is a rare insight into how an ultra-premium domain name can help companies gain notoriety and traction from the beginning.

Can you tell me what Develop offers, and perhaps a few statistics about the platform?

Develop.com launched in April 2020 as an online business and IT skills training platform. We have three primary subscriptions for professionals to have unlimited access to high-quality, expert-led online classes. Our Foundation subscription is designed to help you gain essential skills across a broad range of topics, including Software Development, Project Management, DevOps, and Data Science. Our Data Academy and Cybersecurity Academy are built to help you go from experienced to expert, with hands-on practice exercises, instructor-led demonstrations, and live lab environments.

Subscribers become students who have unlimited, on-demand access to hundreds of classes, and every course also includes a completion certificate to document your progress.

How did Develop come about? What was the driving force behind the desire to build Develop?

Develop's parent company, Global Knowledge, is the world's leading provider of IT training and development, with its primary focus on the enterprise B2B sector, helping businesses train their teams across a broad range of subjects.

Through their annual IT Skills and Salary Reports, Global Knowledge's leadership team saw a huge opportunity in the direct-to-consumer skills training market and decided to launch Develop as a direct-to-consumer arm to address the massive skills gap in the marketplace.

Develop is a great brand name for the services you offer. How did you settle on Develop, and what were the considerations that went into choosing a brand name?

Through a review of existing Global Knowledge assets to support this new project, we saw that we had acquired the Develop.com domain through a previous acquisition, and it wasn't being used. The name fits perfectly with our mission statement of enabling people to become lifelong learners, taking control of their careers, and reaching their full potential.

If Develop.com wasn't already in the company's possession, would you have sought out the name to acquire it before launching? Was the domain that essential?

Yes, we absolutely would have sought it out. A good domain is very important. However, in that situation, if we hadn't been able to secure the domain, I don't know if that would have had a major impact on our launch. More likely, we would have sought similar alternatives, or even potentially chosen a different brand name with a more readily-available domain.

Was domain name availability a factor in choosing a brand name?

Absolutely! It's a really great, simple domain that would stick easily in people's minds and embodies our passion for helping people develop their professional skills. We want to help Develop subscribers become life-long learners.

How did Global Knowledge go about acquiring Develop.com?

In 2015, Global Knowledge acquired a company called "Develop Mentor," focused on developing online learning content for Software Developers. They registered Develop.com in 1993 when it was just openly available and easy to get - great job by them!

What are the positive impacts of launching your brand using a premium domain?

In addition to the obvious advantages - simple to remember, direct connection to our mission, etc., the Develop.com domain has a clear history, as well, which allowed us to gain SEO authority with Google and other engines quickly.

It also made it easy to secure the @Develop handle on Twitter - not an easy feat, as you can imagine. We weren't so lucky with Facebook or LinkedIn where we used @LearnWithDevelop, but "LearnWithDevelop" is a nice compromise that helps people understand what we do.

How has owning Develop.com influenced your ability to effectively secure partnership, and offer your products?

While we don't have any announcements right now, having such a prominent brand and domain has certainly helped to open conversations with some great potential partners that we hope to showcase very soon. The domain and brand are very aspirational - who doesn't want to develop themselves? So it's led to some great conversations and opportunities.

Develop.com is the initial touchpoint for Develop, so a good domain name helps create an instant sense of legitimacy. Would LearnWithDevelop.com, or similar, achieve the same instant result for you?

I don't think it would have - I believe having a longer, less unique domain would have made my job as Marketing Director significantly more challenging. Part of the power of a good domain is making it easy for potential customers to find you organically, but it also has a really strong impact on your overall impression once they arrive at your site and choose to do business with you.

As a consumer myself, I'm more likely to do business with a company who seems like an authority in their space. "Develop.com" vs "LearnWithDevelop.com" is only a slight difference, but it conveys a level of authority and authenticity. This is a company who is built to last, not a fly-by-night who picked up the cheapest domain they could. Imagine "Google.com" vs "SearchWithGoogle.com" or "Amazon.com" vs "ShopWithAmazon.com".

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Thanks to Ricky for taking part in the On the Record series. If you want to learn more about Develop or any of Develop's courses, you can visit Develop.com or follow @Develop on Twitter.

This interview has been edited for clarity.