How to name a startup

by Eli Altman

You don’t have to be a high tech guru to understand the importance of building something right the first time. The same thing applies to finding a name for your company.

If you’re running a startup, chances are you have a lot on your mind. You need to hire smart people. You need investors to get the idea. You need to build the offering. And you need it all done yesterday.

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Naming your startup? You probably have a lot of other things on your mind.

If you’re a high tech entrepreneur, naming is probably not in your tool set. Nor is it a particularly good use of your time. But it’s way too important to mess up because it’s the first stake in the ground for your marketing. It’s your first shot at grabbing people’s attention and arousing their curiosity.

As a naming company, we don’t have the time to work with everyone we’d like to. So if you find yourself in charge of naming your own company, here are some ideas to put you on the right track.

1. Keep your requirements list short. The more things you want a name to do, the smaller the target you’re trying to hit. In general, the best names communicate one thing really well. Stick to the big ideas.

2. At all costs: avoid a name that is boring and will get you lost in the crowd. The worst crime in marketing: not getting noticed. Even worse: putting people to sleep.

3. Don’t get caught up in anybody’s rules about how to name a high tech company, like beginning with letters early in the alphabet or only looking at names that can turn into verbs. Good names connect with people on an emotional level, and emotions typically don’t play by the rules.

4. You never know where the best ideas are going to come from. It makes more sense to cast a wide net when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Here are a few ways to go about it: (10 ways to name your company).

5. There’s nothing wrong with having a name that has a little mystery or sex appeal. Remember: your company is small and the world is big. There are a million things dancing around in peoples’ heads and your new startup is not one of them. Just try to stay away from cute or trendy.

6. Don’t get pigeonholed with a name that says what you do. High tech companies are famous for boxing themselves in and then trying to chase a new business model with last year’s name around their neck.

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Don’t box yourself in.

7. Some people say there are two kinds of names: descriptive and fanciful. Sure, but this won’t help you name your company. We say there are more like 25. If you’re naming a company, you’re better off with a lot of ways to think
about the problem. (Types of names — a field guide)

8. Trademark first. In the grand scheme of things, it’s more important to find a name you can trademark before you figure out the URL. Trademark can get you into a lot more trouble. So don’t be afraid to spend a little dough on preliminary trademark checks.

9. Do not despair if you can’t find a good URL. You are not the first person to run aground here. At this point, all the beachfront property is under contract. That is to say, if you’re looking for a freely available, short URL that is pronounceable in english – don’t hold your breath. But this isn’t the end of the world. There are plenty of successful companies who don’t have their exact name as their URL. For more on finding a good URL, check out: (How to find a URL without having a brain hemorrhage).

10. Don’t fall in love with something you can’t have. Plan on getting to the finish line with 3 – 5 names that have all passed a preliminary trademark check. Figuring out a URL is a lot easier when you have some choices.

If you want to talk about naming your startup, we would love to hear from you. Contact us here.