The Problem:

Outgrew their name
Needed to be taken seriously

When we started working with NBT Technology in May of 2003, the company was four guys in a room on Bryant Street in San Francisco. The last time we looked, their market cap was over $3 billion. NBT stood for, believe it or not, Next Best Thing. The name was a bit of a joke that fit the bill for an early startup. But the players were a team that had already met with serious success at Inktomi and Fast Forward Networks.

Spearheaded by Steve McCanne, a former Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, they had a powerful idea, a history together, and they were nice guys to boot. But communicating what they did required a bit too much time at the whiteboard.


The Fix:

Express their core functionality
Find a name that grew with the company

Our first job was to make everything as simple as possible. NBT had something that everyone needed—but no one really understood it. They had a brilliant new way for data to travel between remote offices and headquarters. But the technology was new, and the method was complicated. Even IT people, their main audience, couldn’t wrap their heads around what NBT did.

Alphabet soup wasn’t going to cut it any longer. But what would be the inspiration for their new name? We wanted to find something big, a name that matched their aspirations, but also felt solid and said something about moving data. There was a personal aspect, too. We discovered that we were working with a bunch of fly fishermen. That’s what ultimately led us to Riverbed.

“What’s good about our name is that most tech startups use some nonsensical word that starts with an I, an X, or an E and means nothing. Taking the opposite approach helped us make a name for ourselves.”

— Jerry Kennelly, CEO, Riverbed


Rivers are the pathways of civilization. They’re how information traveled. And there’s something powerful and timeless about riverbeds: they contain the history of rivers, and they’re the solid foundation under what’s flowing.

Riverbed showed that there was something important happening underneath the flow of information. As with most companies, their mission evolved. But over 10 years later, their name still works, and it still makes sense.

“We took a name from nature that is memorable and personal. People think it’s warm and engaging.”

— Jerry Kennelly

As Riverbed grew they came back to us again and again for more work. We developed their website, ad campaigns, and an animation that Laika, Will Vinton’s Portland-based studio, produced. Next came more names for Riverbed products, and years later, names for companies that Riverbed alumni founded.

Need to see more? Check out some of our other naming case studies and see how we do what we do.


More you say?