Preview:17 Mutable Suggestions For Naming A Startup

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17 Mutable Suggestions For Naming A Startup

 

Naming a startup is hard.  Very hard.  On the one hand, the pragmatic entrepreneur thinks: “I shouldn’t be wasting time on this — for every successful company with a great name, there’s one with a crappy name that did just fine.  It doesn’t seem like a name has much influence on the outcome at all.  I’m going to get back to writing code.”  I sort of agree with this.  You shouldn’t obssess about your name.  But, you also shouldn’t dismiss it as unimportant.  Part of the startup game is to try and remove unnecessary friction to your growth.  Sure, you could build a spectacularly successful company despite having a lousy name — but why not stack the odds in your favor?   

One more reason why spending calories on picking a great name is important:  It’s a one-time cost to get a great name — but the benefit is forever.  Conversely, if you short-change this and dismiss it completely, you’re going to incur what I’d call “branding debt”.  Not bad at first, and maybe not a big deal for you ever, but every year, as you grow, you’ll have this small voice nagging inside your head “should I change the name of the company…”.  It’s going to be annoying.  And the longer you wait, the more expensive the decision is, and the less likely you are to do it.  Save yourself some of that future pain, and invest early in picking a decent name.  You may still get it wrong, but at least you’ll know you triedbrand stamp

One last note before we get started:  Not all of these are weighted equally.  And, remember that these are suggestions not laws.  They’re also mutable. 

The 17 Mutable Suggestions Of Startup Naming

1. Make sure it’s legal!  This should be obvious, but it’s an important step that too many entrepreneurs skip.  Before attaching yourself to a name, make sure that someone else doesn’t already have claim to it by way of a trademark.  In the U.S., you should take a quick peek at http://uspto.gov.  The good news is that if you satisfy some of the other conditions below (domain name, twitter handle, Facebook name), odds are relatively low that someone’s already using the name.

2. Hint At What You Do:  You have two paths to go when picking a startup name.  You can pick a name that is “synthetic” and made-up (example: Wufoo or Quora) or you can use somthing that is somewhat descriptive of what you do (example: Backupify or KISSmetrics).  I lean a bit towards the descriptive side of the spectrum.  But, a lot depends on what you’re building.  Synthetic names are often great in the long, long-term (easily trademarkable, and you can truly “own” them and infuse them with meaning) — but most of the time, I’m more worried about surviving in the short-term.  So, I like simple names that convey a bit of what the company actually does or stands for.

3. Make it easy to remember: How do you know whether a startup name is easy to remember?  You don’t know.  So, test it.  Talk to people.  Describe the company.  At the end of a 2–10 minute conversation, casually ask them if they remember what the name of the company is.  If it didn’t “register” it’s not a failure on their part (and make sure to tell them that), but a failure on your part for not having something that’s memorable enough.

4. Make it unambiguous when spoken:  A quick way to test this is to ask friends and family what they think of the name over the phone — and ask them to spell it back to you.  If a decent percent of them get it wrong — or are uncertain, you’ve got a problem.

5. Make it unambiguous in Google:  Many of the tricks of the trade you’ll use to monitor conversations that mention your company on the web will involve doing some sort of search.  If your name is something like “Pumpkin”, you’re going to have a harder time distinguishing when people are talking about the generic term, or when they’re talking about your company.  Of course, there are plenty of examples where a startup started with a generic word and went on to be pretty successful (Mint.com jumps to mind).  That’s why these are suggestions (not laws) and they’re mutable. 

6. Start early in the alphabet.  In the pre-Google world, this was done so that you’d show up earlier in a lists of things that are often sorted alphabetically (like when you win an award).  In the post-Google world, a similar rationale applies, but what’s more important is the position of links to your website when it shows up in a list of things (like a directory).  If possible, you want to be in the first page of a multi-page article that mentions a bunch of companies.  The first page of a multi-page directory usually passes more SEO authority to your website than subsequent pages.

7. The “.com” has to be “gettable”.  By “gettable”, I mean that it is either not registered yet — or, it is available for purchase at a price you’re willing to pay.  Don’t play tricks with the domain name either — like including hyphens.  Also, stay away from clever domain names like del.icio.us.  The reason is simple:  It’s not natural for people to type domains that way.  (Note: Even del.icio.us eventually switched to the much easier domain, delicious.com).

8.  The twitter handle has to be available.  No tricks with numbers and underscores and stuff.  You want the most natural, obvious twitter handle that matches your company name.  This is not quite as hard as .com domain names — but getting harder every day.

9. The facebook page should be available:  To test this, try visiting http://facebook.com/yourname and see if there’s something there.  Or, do a search on Facebook and see what you find. 

10. Keep it short.  Always good advice, but particularly true in the age of Twitter.  The more characters in your company name, the more characters in the tweets that people write that mention your company name.  The more characters your company name uses up, the less you can actually say in a tweet.  Generally, try to stay 10 characters or under.  Also, number of characters is not the only consideration, it should be short when spoken as well (that is, have fewer syllables).  The fewer the syllables, the easier it is for people to say.  Great examples of one and two-syllable names:  Dropbox, Mint, FreshBooks, ZenDesk.  I’d shy away from anything that is over 3 syllables.

11. Don’t leave out vowels or add punctuation.  Just because Flickr was successful does not mean it’s OK for you to drop vowels from your name.  Name your company in whatever way is natural — for humans.  And, don’t add punctuation (like an exclamation mark) to your name.  Yes, it’s distinctive and it worked for Yahoo! but there’s no sense spending calories on this. 

12. Try to get your main keyword into the name.  This helps with SEO and signals to potential visitors what they might find on your site.  For example, this site is called OnStartups.com.  Not particularly creative, but you have to admit — it’s clear.  (And, is likely partly responsible for my high rankings in Google for a bunch of startup related words).

13. Start with an uppercase letter.  If it’s good enough for Google, Amazon and a thousand other really successful companies, it’s good enough for you.  Sure, starting with a lower-case letter is cute and might demonstate some humility, but 99% of the people are going to spell it wrong and you’re going to spend too many cycles worrying about training them — and you’re still going to fail.  If you’re going to ask the world a favor, save it for the big stuff — not “can you please be sure to spell our company name with a lower-case letter”.

14. Don’t name your company after yourself.  Yes, I know it’s tempting because it’s so easy.  And, you might even think “hey, customers should know who they’re doing business with”.  You might even make an argument like “there have been plenty of successful startups that were named after their founder.”  Though that might all be true, on average, this is a losing approach.  When customers hear something like “Dharmesh Shah Enterprises” (granted, your name is probably not as odd as mine), it doesn’t make them immediately think “Wow, that must be an awfully cool/successful/stable company”.  It sounds a bit amateurish right at the get go.  The other reason is that if you name the company after yourself, too many people are going to want to talk to you.  That’s ok when you’re the only person in the company to talk to, but becomes problematic as your startup grows and there are other people trying to sell/support/market.

15. Don't Use An Acronym:  These were all the rage at various points in time -- but I'm not a big fan.  It's hard to get emotional about a three letter acronym.  It's hard to hug an acronym.  As a corollary to this, try not to have a company name with three words in it, because it's long enough that people are going to be tempted to reduce it to an acronym.

16. Have a story.  When someone asks (and they will), so why did you pick X for your name, it’s nice to have something relatively interesting to say.  Names are a part of your personality, and the absence of a personality is rarely a good thing.  For example, when I started my first company (I was 24, and didn’t know what branding was), the name I picked violated many of the rules in this list.  The company name was “Pyramid Digital Solutions”.  But, it had a pretty good story.  I started first with the acronym P.D.S.  I wanted to name the company after my dad (whose initials are PDS).  He’s a tad superstitious and didn’t want me to name the company after him (it’s  a long story).  And,  wanting to prove him wrong I started with the acronym PDS.  Then, for the first word, I picked “Pyramid” because I was passionate about strong, architectural software design.  We were going to build products that stood the test of time — much like the Pyramids.  The other two words (Digital Solutions) were sort fluff words.  Summary:  It’s OK to be purely scientific in your name selection, but a good story never hurts. 

16. Pay attention to character sequences in multi-word names:  This one’s a bit subtle.  But, if you have a name that is two words stuck together, then be mindful of what character ends the first word, and what starts the second.  I’d stay away from names where both of those letters are the same.  Example: If your company name is something like BetterReading, it’s sub-optimal (because Better ends with “R” and reading starts with “R”.  Normally, that’s OK, but when you type it out as a URL, people will often see:  betterreading.com — which is not terrible, but does cause the brain to “pause” for a micro-second because it feels a tad unnatural.  And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the widely popular example of unfortunate character sequences:  expertsexchange.com.  When capitalized properly, this name is just fine (ExpertsExchange) which is what the site owners intended.  But, it turns out, this can be confused as “ExpertSexChange” (which is not what was intended).  Make sure you think through the combinations properly.

17. Seek timeless instead of trendy:  It seems that every generation of startups has their own “trendy” approach to names.  Examples are the dropping-vowels thing (like Flickr), the breaking up of words (like del.icio.us) or the newly fashionable “.ly” names.  I’d suggest that names that don’t necessarily indicate when you started are a good thing (on the off-chance that your company outlives that particular fad or trend).  Pick a name that is timeliness.  One that people will see 10 years from now and not think “Hey, they’re one of those companies…”. 

That’s all I have for now.  For more on the topic, you might want to check out Guy Kawasaki's article on the topic (makes some similar points, but he's a better writer).  Also, hat tip to the "22 Immutable Laws of Branding" whose title was an inspiration for this blog post.  More floating around in my head, but I’m a believer in the “release early, release often” mantra.  So, what do you think?  Any other tips or rules of thumb you use when coming up with startup names?

Oh, and I'm thinking of creating a simple web-based tool that assesses a name (which I think is hard to do via software).  What do you think of that idea?  What kind of features would you want to see?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Oct 15, 2010

COMMENTS

Amazing timing on this article!! I just met with an advisor who said he wasn't crazy about our name. But we had already taken many of the 17 ideas here into consideration. I liked #4 because -- I asked my 9-year old daughter to spell SkedTime and she got it right the first time!! :)

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:08 AM by Peter Alberti


Nice article and some good tips, I kind of comply with all of these, it's just the alphabetical order point that I missed out on ;-)

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:11 AM by Unihost


I like this, it is spot on. I was once taken through this process, now you are refreshing my mind. Learning is is an infinite process.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:25 AM by Chris Mbekela


I agree with every single one of these points! Great article 
 
Here's a great website to check availability across the most popular social networks -www.namechk.com 
 
Wouldn't pick a name without it!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:27 AM by Andy Cook


http://lmgtfy.com/?q=quorum 
 
Quora is not made up. Plural of Latin quorum. Actually quite descriptive :)

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:29 AM by Hamilton


I used http://www.bustaname.com/ for domain name selection. It was AWESOME!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:29 AM by Peter Alberti


Great article and very helpful... 
 
I would be interested in your opinion about a company name versus a product name. Some of your suggestions make it seem like they will be one and the same, but we plan on eventually having several products with different names under one company name and are trying to plan ahead for that now (for example, the way 37 Signals is structured). That complicates your recommendations because you have to make sure all of the above applies to both the company name as well as the product names, and then that you have connected them together well. Our web site is a good example of the identity confusion, actually, and we're currently in the process of trying to fix that.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:36 AM by Debbie Leander


I have used a random name generator to create a new 5-character name  
 
 
 
Format I used was: CVCVC 
 
( C=Consonant V=Vowel )

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM by Rufus Greenbaum


While it may seem too obvious to include here, I would expand No. 1 to include a basic Google/Internet search for the proposed business name. Whether or not someone has formally registered the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office you will want to be sure to avoid obvious conflicts.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:10 AM by Miles A. Harris


Hi Mr. Author, 
Really its a wonderful work. 
Such an excellent theory will definitely help everyone who are thinking for a startup like me. 
 
Thanks a lot...

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:10 AM by Ashis


Wonderful article, and so timely. I've had a tough time trying to come up with a name for my company. This article just reinforces my choice.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM by Uma Subramaniam


Nice article. These are the same suggestions I make to clients starting a new business. An additional aspect to consider is the logo. Certain names lend themselves to very memorable graphic representations. It also helps to consult with a designer and most will give you a *quick* opinion for free. 
 
Group members, feel free to contact us for naming or branding advice: 
 
http://www/kistnergroup.com 
 
PS. Did you mean to use "Mutable" in the title?

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:14 AM by erin


Awesome review of the key issues to consider. It's important get an understanding of how your prospective name will resonate with your target market. What message does it send and what value and market fit is perceived? Consider doing some market research like Aaron Patzer (mint.com) did at The Mountain View train station or by using services like ask500people.com, Linkedin polls, gutcheckit.com or my startup, AskYourTargetMarket.com.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:19 AM by David Handel


This good advice coming from a non-lawyer. As a practicing IP lawyer, I would like to add a few caveats. 
 
With regard to your first point, the test for trademark infringement is not identity but is confusing sililarity which is a legal issue. To get it right, you should have an experienced professional do the search and interpret the search results. 
 
With regard to your second point, there are five classes of trademark strength listed below from the strongest to the weakest: 
 
Invented, e.g. Kodak for cameras, Xerox for office equipment 
Arbitrary, e.g. Apple for computers, Chocolate for telephones 
Suggestive, e.g. Jaguar for cars 
Descriptive, e.g. Port-o-Potty for movable latrines 
Generic, e.g. chocolate for chocolate 
 
Generic marks have no value and cannot be protected. Invented marks are the most valuable followed quickly by Arbitrary. 
 
Descriptive marks can only be really protected after they have acquired "secondary meaning" through extensive exclusive use. 
 
The best compromise is Suggestive. Contact me if you have questions.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:19 AM by Tom Gallagher


Regarding item 16 on character sequences, another unfortunate example of this being problematic was a website for identifying which agent represented a particular movie star. The name was whorepresents.com. It is supposed to be Who Represents but could easily be read as Whore Presents.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:20 AM by Nick Sidorovich


Great Article as per usual. I am please that my particular venture was on the right side of most of the points.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:22 AM by RIchard Owen


Very good! I am in the throws of a new start-up and had considered all of the points prior. In all the companies I have started the name was the easiest part of the process. I think sometimes when you have a germ of an idea for a company the name is usually already something you thought of at the very begining and maybe even dismissed. Remember most of the time your first thoughts are the best. Great for first timers and old hands alike.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:22 AM by Carolyn van der Wyst


You should check out http://www.namechecklist.com/ it comes really handy for when picking out a name.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:24 AM by Jorge Camargo


As a startup that just went through this you are spot-on! Another issue is "Consistency." #7-8-9 hint around it but trademarks, business name, etc. need to be consistent or fluid. I worked for years on a product name for my invention and came up with it just before going to market, at 4:30 in the morning, having coffee with my mother. Today I changed my DBA to reflect it. Following these priciples are basic, puting them all together isn't. Great job!!!!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM by AarontheWallupdude


Check out my boutique naming agency specializing in startup names: <a>www.purrple.com.  
Mention OnStartups and get 15% off of our already competitive prices.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM by Yair 'Jay' Harel


If you absolutely love your chosen name, feel miserable about any of the alternatives, and feel it is the only name you will feel great about using, does that outrank breaking some (even most) of the "rules"?

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:32 AM by Elizabeth


Dharmesh,  
 
Great list of naming ideas. 
 
My I have permission to add then to my tips sections and to the company name marketing tactic on my website http://www.FastMarketingPlan.com. 
 
Thanks for the great ideas. 
 
 
Sandy Barris 
Business Marketing Services 
Fast Marketing Plan 
http://www.FastMarketingPlan.com 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:36 AM by Sandy Barris


Excellent article, however, it should have been titled "The 18 Mutable Suggestions Of Startup Naming" 
 
 
 
Bullet point number 16 was listed twice ;-) 
 
 
 
Excellent article none-the less. 
 
 
 
Our company name would have made a great case study (and an exception) for bullet points 4, 6 an 15. 
 
 
 
Our company name is XaaS, pronounced "zass", which stands for Anything (X) as a S
 
 
 
It's an emerging term in the IT industry that encompasses SaaS, PaaS & IaaS - Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. 
 
 
 
It does break rule #4 "Make it unambiguous when spoken", however as soon as people see the name and hear the first time, they never forget ... much like "Xerox" 
 
 
 
It also breaks rule #6 "Start early in the alphabet", alternatively, there is proof, if you study website heat mapping that there is value to being listed at the bottom of a web page. 
 
 
 
...and lastly, it breaks rule #15 "Don't Use An Acronym", however when one sees our XaaS logo, they don't forget it. 
 
 
 
Great article Dharmesh. Having started many companies, I can say that this is definitely 'the' roadmap for choosing a company name.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:36 AM by Chris Grady


Elizabeth: Yes, if you're totally in love with a name, you should run with it. Life is short and startups are a very personal thing. 
 
And by the way, these are not rules, but suggestions.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:36 AM by Dharmesh Shah


So I have almost completely violated every rule here - repeatedly! (Leave it to me, right?)  
 
 
 
Latest: http://cexi.me 
 
 
 
Yah gotta admit it's sticky!!! 
 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:37 AM by John Stack


Yet another basic, simple but highly relevant article for startups. The name has to be finalized early on in the startup process and many of us pay least attention at that stage. I was uploading stuff to PhotoBucket in the morning; then I realized that I am uploading Videos! Probably they would have been better off with MediaBucket (if it is available), but many consumers might not grasp it quickly. Of course, pivoting and diversification brings in more issues to the organization name; but I guess those are problems good to have!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:38 AM by Paddu Govindaraj


Let's not forget name generator http://www.dotcomroulette.com/

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:40 AM by Nick


My business name (Les Overhead) describes a benefit to the client and also describes my appearance (in a humorous, self-deprecating way). It's also my alter-ego.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:44 AM by Tom Vandel


Should you hire some creative marketing person for the name selection?

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:46 AM by Jorge Escobar


Great job. More companies starting out should invest in at least 1-2 hours of a branding professional's time from day one. It's kind of like naming your child. 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:46 AM by Ginny Murphy


Great points! I also love the advice of the 7 steps to follow by a great brand guru I follow, Marty Neumeier in his book The Brand Gap. 
 
 
 
As a branding agencu, naming is not our core offering, but we are working on two such projects for clients. I think the biggest thing people need to remember is that you can get stuck in an endless cycle of finding people who don't like a name. But if you pick a name AFTER you determine your brand stratey (who you are, what value you provide, and to whom) it is much easier to land on a name that makes sense, rather than an open field of ideas. 
 
 
 
Remember, the more people you involve in the process, the more opinions you are going to get. Someone, somewhere will have an issue with the name, associate it with something negative, quibble over it, etc. Try to keep the group deciding on the name pretty tight - enough for multiple points of view, but not so big you get EVERY point of view. It's unnatural that people are necessary going to think so much about your name as you will when o are naming and it can quickly dissolve into, "That reminds me of the restaurant where my high school girlfriend dumped me so I don't like it." You laugh, but it's true! 
 
 
 
Stay true to your brand strategy (which is impreative to be developed FIRST - I just wrote a book about how to craft thiswww.red-slice.com/branding-basics-book) - and then brainstorm names that make sense based on the positioning you've chosen. I can't tell you how much it's helped keep us on track when we start to stray during brainstorming. 
 
 
 
And lastly, and one of Marty's tips, the pronounceable factor is key to a certain extent. Many of the tech startups in the late 90's went nuts with silly names no one knew how to pronounce. Marty says don't make your customers feel stupid or like they have to take a spellng test. Sound advice. 
 
 
 
If anyone here needs a brand strategy before embarking on the naming effort, please let me know how Red Slice can help. 
 
 
 
Maria 
 
www.red-slice.com

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:47 AM by Maria Ross


Indeed nice article. When we were picking up a name, I created a spreadsheet with some possible names and the following metrics. Then I asked some of our supporters (friends, family, POC users) to score them for each of the metric.  
 
1. Catchy 
2. Easy to remember 
3. Meaning/Strategic to the product 
4. Availability (or we bought it by then) 
5. It's acceptance in the market segments we were targeting 
6. Personal choice  
 
Then added all scores together.  
 
Two names came close sendeaZy and sendsafely - chose to stick with sendeaZy. After an year or so, we feel we did the right thing.  
 
I believe #5 is very important. Because - If you are targeting a corporate market - a corporate sounding name makes much more impact than a name that individuals would like.  
 
Kiran (sendeaZy.com) 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:47 AM by Kiran Ramineni


Make sure when you register your domain name that you buy the common misspellings. I used to work for ChaCha.com and made sure we had ChaCah.com, ChaChaa.com, HcaCha.com. You get the idea. Thousands of people came to the site each month through misspellings. Have the misspelled domain redirect to the correct spelling.  
 
Also when you register youname.com be sure to also register the domain name wwwyourname.com. People will type it in without the period between the "www" and "yourname.com". Also, if you will be using subdomains like city.yourname.com. Get cityyourname.com. People *will* forget the period.  
 
Remember, getting these misspellings now will cost less than buying them from a domain squatter later.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:51 AM by Steve Kremer


This makes simply sence! I agree with you totally

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:59 AM by Enita


This is a fine list of suggestions. I feel it helpful to add some order to consider. 
1. keep it short 
2. have a story 
3. make sure it’s legal 
4. the “.com” has to be gettable  
 
The rest are useful but of limited importance compared to selling what people want.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:03 PM by Christopher Hill


Strongly agreeing with Tom Gallagher's post above, let me just add a couple of things: Rule #1 is really that -- if you don't do a careful search for potential "senior users" of the name as a trademark, the consequences are dire. At least consult with a trademark lawyer, who may recommend a third-party "clearance search" (costs about $700). Not all hits are bad, as names can coexist in different industries (e.g., Delta, which is used by an airline and a plumbing fixture company without anyone being confused). If a top-level domain is already taken, better check out .com, .biz. .net, and .info to see who is out there. Run a multi-engine Web search on the word alone and then the word plus some descriptors of the business. It really stinks when the start-up invests its scarce resources in promoting a name only to have to undertake a costly and disruptive re-branding evolution after receiving that nasty cease-and-desist letter! 
 
And on the trademark spectrum, don't go lower than "suggestive" because you only get at best a weak trademark if you use something descriptive. For example, "lawyers.com" is very valuable as a domain name but went down in flames when they tried to get a federal trademark registration. 
 
Now jumping off the soap-box! 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:04 PM by Lawrence D.W. Graves


Thanks for the article. We went through the pain of rebranding about a year ago because that little voice became too loud. Using your 17 recommendations we only missed it on one point. The name of the company is By Monday. Thanks!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:13 PM by Rob Storey


Fantastic!! This post will be a big hit. I already passed it on via Twitter, Facebook and email. 
 
I think #14 is controversial. Depends on the type of business.  
 
Not using your own name makes great sense for most companies for reasons you said, but when the owner is the product (such as a coach or public speaker like myself), your own name makes good sense.  
 
In fact, I know coaches and speakers who have changed their business names to their own name for that reason. Perhaps your use of "startups" doesn't include those folks but that's more and more of the new businesses in the US.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:17 PM by Val Nelson


Generating random domain names, finding available domains by creating compound words - www.namestation.com can help with all that.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:20 PM by Tauno


Barbara: I'm a big fan of "22 Immutable Laws". The title of the article was clearly inspired by that. I thought it would be so clear (given the book is a classic) that it didn't need mentioning.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:27 PM by Dharmesh Shah


Dharmesh: Ah, so you did have a grand plan. I thought so. My faith is restored. Funny thing though, I wouldn't make the assumption that new entrepreneurs today remember their history. Therein lies the problem, eh? See See <a>http://www.ries.com/books.php<a>. Cheers.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:35 PM by Barbara Tien


Nice article! Bummer the alphabet trick is out of the bag :) I used it on all my companies (A&Bs only :)  
 
Now Dharmesh we will have to blame YOU for a new crop of A& B companies :)

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:38 PM by Dilyara


Did anyone notice that #16 is used twice? So, this article should really be dealing with the "18 Mutable Suggestions For Naming A Startup" 
 
Brian,  
Entegra

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:45 PM by Brian


Great article. Your number 2 is right on. A descriptive keyword is ok if you are focused on a quick business but to really build something with emotional branding you need something more unique and memorable. You really covered all the points.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:50 PM by Caitlin - BrandBucket


Great advice! As the article began, great companies can be made with a bad name. However, what we have found with clients is that it is a trade-off. A bad name requires more investment in marketing whereas a good name inherently is marketing your company and you don't have to spend as much to get people to know and understand your company.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:52 PM by Alyson Anderson


We launched last week, so as a brand new app it's pretty pertinent to us (although possibly too late to do anything about it!)  
 
 
 
But I am pretty sure that we have nailed every single one apart from #10! 
 
 
 
Thanks Dharmesh

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:59 PM by The Partner


Nice article.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 1:07 PM by Deepak Manjarekar


I have read a number of articles on choosing a company name, and this is the best. I have to admit I feel vindicated against the people who wanted to me to make up these silly names instead of have my domain name more concretely relate to what I do. I hate made-up names! One other question: Does an e-commerce site need to be dot-com--is dot-net ever acceptable?

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 1:18 PM by Jill Simpson


Good Article !

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 1:19 PM by Kuldeep


I got the first company name wrong and found out soon after people tried to spell it. 
 
 
 
I got the second (mostly) right and this is great information for startups. 
 
 
 
Thanks for sharing. 
 
 
 
@jasoncobine

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 2:29 PM by Jason Cobine


It sounds so simple, but is harder than it appears in the post. I've done this a few times, and it's really difficult to find names that are "gettable". Even when we tried making up a name, it's amazing how many other people had already made up the same name.  
 
 
 
Eventually, salespeople come to dislike the "have a story" and you'll have to listen to them complain about why can't we change the name. 
 
 
 
Chose a logo that goes along with the theme and is obvious because you will get tired of having to repeat the story behind the name and explain the logo at every customer meeting. 
 
 
 
You might want to chose a name that can be applicable even if the product or mission of the company changes. Don't name a company Space Technologies and then become an iPhone app company.  
 
 
 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 2:45 PM by cynthia kocialski


Jill, 
 
.com is usually for commerce sites. Google "website extension meanings" without the quotes for more details. 
 
-K

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 2:47 PM by K Vichare


Great article! We were just talking about this at my board mtg. We're trying to convince a friend to limit the name of her group to 3 words but she insissts on a VERY long name for SEO. But nobody can remember it or say it! 
 
 
 
 
 
I originally named my product Story Stones but discovered it was taken and was not available on the web. Changed it to Penny Stones, which was free and clear, plus it has a story. They're icebreakers, or conversation starters, on glass stones, as in "a penny for your thoughts..."  
 
 
 
Thanks for sharing! 
 
Tammy Gentry 
 
<www.pennystones.com>

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM by Tammy Gentry


As a matter of academics and not legal advice, depending on the nature of the goods/services sold under the respective marks, PENNY STONES could be an infringement of STORY STONES. This is particularly so if the word STONES is used in a "family of marks". 
 
Don't feel bad, though, I wasted a lot of money and made a lot of costly mistakes trying to do my own plumbing repairs. Now I don't hesitate to call a plumber who I know will get it right the first time. 

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 3:21 PM by Tom Gallagher


Interesting on #14 - Gary Vaynerchuk says absolutely to use your name in the company name - it personalizes your company. I tend to agree with Gary on this!

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 3:54 PM by G Money


I always seem to run up against squatters that have the name I want in plural (or singular) or with two descriptive words reversed (greatcars.com vs. carsgreat.com for example). 
 
Any advice on what to do if a squatter has a name close to yours? Abandon the name? Keep it and push onward? What if they have the name I want but the plural is available? 
 
Thanks for a great article.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 3:55 PM by Dave


If you have a registered trademark, you can usually force the squatter to give up the name but it will cost money to start the procedure.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 3:58 PM by Tom Gallagher


Good article but... 
 
One more reason why spending calories on picking a great name is important: It’s a one-time cost to get a great name — but the benefit is forever. Conversely, if you short-change this and dismiss it completely, you’re going to incur what I’d call “branding debt”. Not bad at first, and maybe not a big deal for you ever, but every year, as you grow, you’ll have this small voice nagging inside your head “should I change the name of the company…”. It’s going to be annoying. And the longer you wait, the more expensive the decision is, and the less likely you are to do it. Save yourself some of that future pain, and invest early in picking a decent name. 
 
Any evidence to back this up? Just curious, not trying to be combative. 
 
Harry Beckwith's "Selling the invisible" still has the best advice I've seen on naming.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 5:13 PM by Kevin


Great article, and timely as I'm in the process of naming a new company and have already considered all these tips, and some of the comments too, plus have a few rules of my own...and was thinking of doing a blog post myself. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned 'scalability'...you don't want a name that will pigeon-hole you into one sector if you think you might expand long-term or the markets and technology force you to change direction. Also, choosing a name that could be used as a verb (think Google) is always good if you have grand plans to dominate the world.

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 5:20 PM by Leslie-Ann


Great post (and a wonderful and often informative expanding set of comments)! I have recently been involved in naming a company and we tried to follow most of these suggestions - which often are enlightened common sense when you think about it. 
 
A couple of thoughts. I generally recommend only considering names for which the top-level (i.e., .com) domain names are available. While a lot of these have been taken, a surprising number are available if you are creative. I also suggest registering the domain BEFORE you register the name. This guarantees you have it. After you have begun to use the name you may also want to register normal variants such as .net, .org and others to protect against infringement. Remember that reserving most names is not expensive - US$10 for most extensions. (Most of us know, but you can research and purchase domain names throughwww.whois.com and other sites). 
 
The second thing I would add is that you should be careful about the pronunciation of the name among your employees and initial customers. A company I am working with chose a name that included the number "three". When some of the non-native English speakers in the company pronounce it they tend to drop the "h" sound, making the name sound like "tree". I should have forseen this but didn't, oh well . . .

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:37 PM by TheKris


you could use the same list (nearly) to name your children ...

posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:20 PM by cowper


Hi Dharmesh, You correctly pointed out the first point to check the name availability in respect of trademark, I would suggest the startup companies to check the availability in Indian trademark registry to conduct the trademark search <a>https://www.ipindiaonline.gov.in/etmr/publicSearch/searchmain.aspx 
 

posted on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 1:17 AM by Senthil


Good one! Helps StartUps!!

posted on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 3:09 AM by Ramachandra Murthy Pulumati


Great guidelines to go by. I spent years thinking of what to call what is now Designated Editor. And the business has evolved beyond editing, writing & blogging, making me think I may have to do it all over again?!

posted on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 7:27 PM by Suzanne McDonald


Great Article.. and very useful.. 
Remembering how we coined the term EzeeSolve, which was more of an accident but meant a lot. 
Also the tag line "Easy Solutions for your web" 
and "Relax.. Think Ezee" 
 
Thanks for the thought provoking article :) 
 
www.ezeesolve.com

posted on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 8:54 PM by EzeeSolve


Dharmesh: 
 
Very good article. Last year when we were starting up we passed through these questions. We work in Geospatial domain and build Knowledge Products and Services and this is why we arrived at the name "Geokno". This has all good points as you have mentioned but only one problem that different people pronounce it differently--like jeo-keno, jeo-k-no, ge-ke-no and so on. It is actually "jeo-no" with k silent. However, when we tell the story behind the word people quickly remember it and also the meaning. We also introduce the genesis of the word Geokno along with our logo through a small video in our website and this works.  
 
In addition to your points, my advise to people here please also see how the word is pronounced and how you want it to be pronounced.  
 
Bharat

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 2:36 AM by Bharat Lohani


I searched both Facebook and Twitter and the name is taken. However, each is owned by separate entities. I do own the .com which my friend purchased 5 years ago. She wouldn't give to me then. A year later, she forgot that I still wanted it and let it expire. I managed to get the domain just a few months ago. Should I file for Tademark?

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 9:03 AM by John D.


Repost because of advertorials 
------------------------------  
 
I searched both Facebook and Twitter and the name is taken. However, each is owned by separate entities. I do own the .com which my friend purchased 5 years ago. She wouldn't give to me then. A year later, she forgot that I still wanted it and let it expire. I managed to get the domain just a few months ago. Should I file for Tademark?

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 9:27 AM by John D.


Great article - I wish I had seen it a few months back when I went through severe issues choosing a name, and then rejecting it for a few reasons. I'm thrilled that the new name follows almost all of the principles stated while the former name was taken on Facebook and Twitter (which is a huge part of my marketing strategy). Thanks to all that recommended namechecklist.com - that's how I found out my current name is available and the former name was taken. It is invaluable!!! 
 
 
 
Now I need to snag those names on FB and Twitter as soon as possible I guess! 
 
 
 
cs

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 11:39 AM by Cristina S


Great article. In my experience, it's often a tradeoff between some of these rules. When we first named our company, we actually adhered to most of them (short, story, timeless, .com, etc etc). However, we eventually realized from people's reactions that we were failing on #2,3, and 4 - people took too long to get what we did, different folks pronounced it differently, and we got sick of people forgetting what it was called. Making the decision to change the name was one of our best moves - and we saw an instant improvement in understanding and recall. Sure, the new name (<a href="http://www.softwareshortlist.com>Software Shortlist) is arguably too long ... but the benefit of having our business already partly explained by the name is huge. Unless you have a mega-marketing budget to invest a new synthetic brand with meaning, I'd suggest going for the more descriptive as per rule #2.

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 4:41 PM by Xavier


Excellent pointers here good Sir. A guide I intend to follow upon naming my upcoming company. I strongly agree with the SEO part because business is more less done online during this internet age. Thanks again for this. 
 
Cheer, 
Zulfiqar

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 7:32 PM by Zulfiqar Zulkifli


Wow! this post is really helpful for people like me :-)

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 8:16 PM by Praveesh


I am passionate about naming as well and had spent too many hours coming up with names for all kinds of potential startups. 
I created a Google Excel sheet that helps selecting the right name using a scoring system based on the Igor naming guide. 
Here is the link to the name scoring tool -> http://bit.ly/bj8AEE

posted on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 11:28 PM by Miguel


Excellent tips, especially tip #16. We certainly have a story to tell.  
 
(BTW, did you notice that two tips are numbered 16?). 
 
What do you think of our name? Does it convey the message of "bite-sized apps" -- candy for your computer?

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 8:43 AM by softwarecandy


I'd like to expand on one point you just briefly touched on. Don't make your name something that would not be normally used in a sentence. When people search on your name, they need to find your domain, not every paper, advertisement, report, and website that happens to include those two words together. Some examples: Simple Sewing, Robust Technology, Chocolate Fountain, Talent Acquisition Specialists, etc.

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 10:20 AM by Margaret Johnson


I meant - "don't make your name something that WOULD be normally used in a sentence." Oops. Don't see a way to edit my previous post.

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 10:21 AM by Margaret Johnson


Great article. One thing I would mention is, if you are going to use an abbreviation, is to avoid certain letters if possible, because they are hard to distinguish from one another and you will find yourself repeating yourself a lot. 
 
B and P and E and D all sound alike. 
S and F sound alike. 
 
When I was CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, I had no choice. Our website was bbbsba. You try saying that to someone over the phone and see if they get it right the first, or even the third, time! When I did marketing for the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the URL was JCFSF. Try that on for size! 
 
I am a big fan of company and product names that are an indicator of what they do. One of my most successful clients took a product that was called something like "Aporia" and changed the name to "PrintMaster" and - changing nothing else - we took it from a nothing to a bestseller. 
 
You can tell from my company name what I do. I kickstart companies and startups and speed growth, therefore,www.kickstartgrowth.com. 
 
Tell me what you think of it. 
 

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 1:49 PM by Richard Miles


So Stoked ('70s term). Read this as I was looking for a shorter url for my latest online story in my "hackers fighting for freedom" book. Found a great url, that I will use for the full books name. Redirected to the emerging story for now. 
 
Wait for it... 
 
CyberHug.me 
 
Thanks for the help. It works for books too,

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 3:35 PM by Allan R. Wallace


Hi, 
 
Request you to provide your expert reviews on my latest startup http://www.tellyfillums.com 
 
Worldwide TV Shows and Movies Aggregator (Oldest, Latest and Greatest) 

posted on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 4:53 PM by Vani


Great article, thanks Dharmesh. I've spent a good many days coming up with names for web apps (eg. Talentag, Posterbee) and by the looks of things there's more to come :) 
 
Has anyone come across specific techniques for coming up with new names? I use 4-5 websites to come up with synonyms, rhymes, .com availability etc. and follow a fairly straightforward simple process but at times I wonder if there are best practices out there that would save time and help to get a better result.

posted on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM by Andrus Purde


EXCELLENT ARTICLE!! I blogged about it and added 3 of my own tips for naming a business! http://www.grayspoon.com/grayspoon/blog/ 
 
Thanks for the article! 
 

posted on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 10:27 PM by Grace


One additional rule I would add: If you're using a two word name, don't put a space between the two words.  
 
Two reasons: 1) it helps uniquely identify you better in Google, but 2) lots of people will combine the two words into one anyway. I've struggled for years getting people to use "Lab Escape" as two separate words. 
 
Also, glad to see the posts of links to name generation websites. In the past I would create a spreadsheet with words in the first row and first column and concatenate all the variations, then look up each domain manually. So much easier now. 
 
Great article. Wish I had read it years ago, as "Lab Escape" definitely is in the branding debt zone. We now have brand recognition within key markets, making it too costly to change it for the benefit we'd get.  

posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:17 AM by Trevor Lohrbeer


Excellent article and all points are highly relevant. 
 
If you or anyone you know is having trouble creating the right batch of names or are short on time, you should check out <a>http://NamingMachines.com.  
 
Naming Machines a smart new naming service for startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs.  
 
Quality is great. Costs are accessible. And ordering couldn't be easier -- everything's handled online.  
 
Visit <a>http://NamingMachines.com.

posted on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 2:10 AM by Scott


Great guidelines. We are currently hosting a naming contest for our software atwww.namethissoftware.com. We are looking for a great name and are offering a $10,000 marketing makeover to the individual / company that comes up with the winning name.  
 
We are also giving everyone that enters the contest a "Business Boost Package" that has lots of free consultations and discounts on tons of marketing items to everyone boost their business.  
 
We love all the tips and are suggesting our participants read this article before submitting a name.  
 
Good Luck to all,  
Kimberly Dubbeld - Deas 
SBHBTools.com 
NameThisSoftware.com contest has begun - now through Nov 14.

posted on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 4:17 PM by Kimberly Deas


Another consideration for the domain name is if it something that might get blocked by filters. I have one domain, strikemodels.com, that can't be viewed by friends on computers out at an Air Force Base, presumably because it has the word models in the domain.

posted on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 6:16 PM by Keri Morgret


Another suggestion for naming a startup:www.ud.com which searches for domain names, social media names, and trademarks in one place. Quite a timesaver and great for brainstorming.

posted on Tuesday, November 02, 2010 at 12:19 PM by Kate Hutchinson


I kinda should've seen this earlier... ;-) - Thanks for the information, it'll come in handy with a next venture.

posted on Friday, November 05, 2010 at 5:26 PM by Linux Website Hosting Articles


Mostly good advice, but 10 and 12 are in conflict, and frankly 14 is just wrong. More on naming: http://bit.ly/avbmHA

posted on Tuesday, November 09, 2010 at 8:57 AM by Lisa Merriam


 
I know this is really boring and you are skipping to the next comment,moncler jacket but I just wanted to throw you a big thanks - you cleared up some things for me! 

posted on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:06 PM by sdgdfg


Excellent Tips. Thank you. 
There are 18. No 16 is repeated. :)

posted on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 10:46 PM by hm.evots


We held a naming contest to name our marketing software. We had over 100 submissions and we ended up with what we believe is a great name! It ended up being a lot harder to decide than we thought - and it came down to the domain name that we could buy (at a reasonable price). Thanks for all the tips.

posted on Wednesday, December 01, 2010 at 1:32 AM by Kimberly Deas


Success Lies in Accepting Something New 
 
 
 
People often ask me how to be a successful person. From my point of view, being a successful person is a simple thing for those who are willing to accept challenges and changes while rather a tough thing for those who are reluctant or who refuse to change anything. A potential successful person must be a man or woman who is not afraid to learn new knowledge and make mistakes. In the process of learning new knowledge, a lot of ways of dealing with different situations are equipped.  
 
 
 
Nobody is a born success, so if you would like to go further with this topic, there are some helpful tips to expand my ideas. The tips underneath will give you some suggestions to complete your tasks more efficiently especially when you are in a crumbling state.  
 
 
 
1. Define what you are trying to accomplish.  
 
If you are a boss, try to make sure you team knows what situation everyone is facing and the goal he/she should achieve. Once you figure out something new or useful, do let each of them know it. Only in that way, everyone in your company will stand with you when you are in bad situation. For example, when the [url=http://www.mostbuying.com/cheap-discount-200mW-532nm-Mid-open-Green-Laser-Pointer-Pen-%282-x-AAA%29-Green-Lasers-dz00633-online-shopping_g7462.html]200mw green laser pointer[/url] pens your company produced are not sold as well as other [url=http://www.mostbuying.com/cheap-discount-Green-Lasers_category585-b0.html]Green Laser[/url] pens, tell them what problem the company is facing with, and encourage them to strive for bright future with you.  
 
2. Figure out what fundamentals still hold.  
 
Although your situation has changed, it’s likely some things you have to depend on are unchanged. Make a quick check of what you know and can depend on in your now unfamiliar situation.  
 
3. Identify critical priorities that cannot be compromised. 
 
I am sure every day you have a lot of things to do. Why not list them on a piece of paper or in your notebook? For some of the top crucial points, solve them right away and never make any excuses? For instance, there is a conference concerning sales promotion of [url=http://www.mostbuying.com/cheap-discount-Green-Lasers_category585-b0.html]Green Laser Pointer[/url] pens the day after tomorrow, just prepare materials for it right now.  
 
4. Increase your ability to maneuver. 
 
5. Beyond shedding resources for flexibility, prioritize early decisions and actions which keep the greatest number of current options. Flexibility is valuable, so hang on to as much of it as you can for as long as you can without compromising achieving your objectives. Some of your former decisions on promoting [url=http://www.mostbuying.com/cheap-discount-200mW-532nm-Mid-open-Green-Laser-Pointer-Pen-%282-x-AAA%29-Green-Lasers-dz00633-online-shopping_g7462.html]200mw green laser pointer pen[/url] are still helpful; however, they are perhaps not appropriate for the present [url=http://www.mostbuying.com][b]wholesale[/b][/url] market any more.  
 
6. Develop mini-plans.  
 
With the potential scenarios, figure out what you can reasonably prepare for, just in case. Use mini-plans–checklists which contain two or three steps–to plot your potential courses of action. With a series of mini-plans, your timeline from start to finish is short, and for variables change, you can choose from among the most appropriate mini-plans. No more worries are with you from then on, you will feel everything goes smoothly.  
 
 
 

posted on Wednesday, December 01, 2010 at 8:16 PM by brendat


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