Company Naming · Branding

How to come up with a company name?

Alan Levine Graduate Student at Hebrew University

January 6th, 2015

I'm in the process of creating a web app that I plan to raise seed-money for in the next 6 months. Does anyone have advice on how to pick a name? Are there any proven consultants out there who can help? How did you name your product?

Steven Schkolne Computer Scientist on a Mission

January 6th, 2015

Hi Alan, coming up with a name is a difficult process. There are many great firms out there, and if you can afford it I recommend you hire one. If you're asking this question you may not have a lot of experience naming - in which case you should probably work with someone who has.

The most important thing is to avoid a bad name. Consider some basic parameters:
* when heard, the name should be easily written
* when seen written, the name should be easily pronounced

It is amazing how many bad names I have seen that avoid these basics. Consider also avoiding a name with a forced double entendre, highly engineered portmanteau, or cryptic alternate meaning. This is newbie mistake #1. Trying to be too smart, too clever, and ending up with a name that tries too hard and fails. A good name doesn't really help you. A bad name can definitely hurt you.

Another thing to consider: your URL. Use a site like pcnames.com to test your names. Think seriously before doing anything but .com. A good URL is, for me, the final test and ultimate constraint for a good company name. (putting a good SEO term in your name should also be considered).

With all of that said, seeing that your seed stage, at this point you should probably call yourself "New Company", "New Product", or "ABC Company" basically whatever allows you to stop worrying about a name and move forward. There's a lot more to success than a great name.

ss

Corey Blaser Sailor. Mormon. Entrepreneur.

January 6th, 2015

Lexicon is a great group and they are one of the leaders in naming. But expect to spend some money, their services are not cheap.

Tim Scott

January 6th, 2015

This is worth a watch: 
http://thisweekinstartups.com/name-startup-wsgr-startup-basics/

Christopher Johnson Verbal branding and communication pro

January 10th, 2015

Hi Alan, I'm The Name Inspector, the naming consultant that Steve Huson recommended above. A couple local companies that I've named are zulily and Gist. I'm happy to talk if you'd like to learn more about how I work. 

Rich Goidel Business strategist, group facilitator, agile practitioner and corporate muse

January 12th, 2015

Good advice here, all the way round.

I wholeheartedly agree with using an outside party. This is not something you should try at home. It takes a unique combination of creativity and process that is a bit of a rarity.

Also, I'd agree about not worrying too much right now ... if you can help it. My experience with brand and startups has shown that many are bound to discover their value and market position shifts more and more as they go to market - so the name you choose now may not be an expression of your brand in a year or two.

Conversely, you must weigh that against the challenge of dropping whatever brand equity you've built if you do decide to rebrand later. (I would argue, it's only the instant success stories that need to be concerned about that.)

Over time, the market will associate your name with your brand, regardless of what you're called. But that assumes the market actually cares. Which assumes you have something they care about.

To that end, the exercise of "branding," when done well, is one of the best strategic gifts you can give to your company. It can illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of your brand promise - and get everyone aligned on that promise - like few other endeavors.

Stephen Huson Leader in Internet lead generation, SEM / PPC / SEO and analytics

January 6th, 2015

Hey Alan - I recommend checking out The Name Inspector (www.thenameinspector.com).  I worked with him on a naming project (I hired him and was the client), and this is definitely his specialty. I'd encourage you to read the writing on his web site and contact him. If he isn't the right fit for the job, I expect you'll get good insight in any case.

Brent Laminack Principal at OpenFace Systems, Inc.

January 7th, 2015

Alan, I've seen these general categories of names: 1) From an established brand: jcpenny.com. This isn't you. 2) a descriptive name: DoYourOwnPestControl.com. 3) completely abstract name: amazon.com, reddit.com, ebay.com, twitter.com 4) semi-meaningful twisted spelling: kuler.com, fiverr.com Each has their pros and cons. With the new top level domains (TLDs) coming

Will Dukes Business Development Strategist and Professional Speaker

January 7th, 2015

There's definitely no set formula (though try to keep it under 5 syllables), and there is some good technical advice in Steven's post.  Just remember that a name becomes a symbol of your brand, even more than your logo if you care about word of mouth.  

With that in mind, what's your app all about? How do you want people to feel when they use it?  The name should reflect that.

Is it fun - a game or social app?  The name should be fun to say  -like "SnapChat"

Is it an organization utility?  Keep the name streamlined, as few syllables as possible (1, 2 max) and avoid hard syllables.

Is it a community? Reflect connection.

Will users feel more in control of something?  Reflect order, command, dominance.  

You get the idea.

The name doesn't have to say it all, or be easily/quickly "gotten" by everyone (What does Uber have to do with rides) but there should be some connection that fans can discover - another story to tell.  Go look up the origins of Wild Turkey's "Forgiven" whiskey, for example.  

Bottom line, the name is a symbol.  Is it easy to share, and does it reflect the brand in some way? 

(And go read Seth Godin's post today on Logo vs. Brand to strengthen the point that you should invest much more time in your Brand)


Alan Levine Graduate Student at Hebrew University

January 7th, 2015

Hi All,

I really appreciate you taking the time to answer. I will check out all of the links you sent.

Steven, you said I should not spend too much time on a name right now.  I tended to agree with that, but when I met with a potential seed investor, I began to think that a serious name, URL, and logo would help my presentation. 

It seems like a name would help secure investment. It may give me a little negotiating leverage, and perhaps would encourage less unsolicited input from investors. 

Does anyone have thoughts on that? 

Thanks for all of your advice. 

-Alan

Alan Matthews Entrepreneur

January 8th, 2015

If you want to be noticed... keep it short (single word 6-8 letters) and make sure www.yourname.com is available.

Most 5 and 6 letter ordinary words are taken as URL's so you can add things to distinguish them. That a good limiting factor imho.

Sometimes you want your name to be forgettable and not memorable. I've named six companies that way:-

The Boylston Group
Remington International
All American Group
McArthur Associates
Talener Group
Atlantis Partners

etc (a few more I think which I can't remember)...

but these were placement agencies and I don't want a secretary stopping my call from going through so I have a deliberately vague name that sounds a bit like a financial organization.

Other's I've named have more pop to them because I want people to notice them.

Rapid7
Percussion Software
Professional VM
Matronics
Bond Technologies

I don't think you should mangle a name by misspelling it or using ambiguous words because you'll need people to find your web site by sound (hearing) and seeing (written) and even better just thinking about what they want (bulbs.com) but you'll have to buy those!

I also don't think you'll need to buy a consultant to get your name.... you just need ideas and a web to lookup what doesn't exist.

Rapid7 was named because my co founder Tas and I lived in Queens NY and Manhattan NY when we founded the company. The number 7 train from the Interborough Rapid Transit line went between our apartments hence Rapid7 (the theme of being underground ran through the security meme).

Overall have fun.