10 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Good article. I tend to think that if a name is short and spelled-like-it’s-pronounced, that’s plenty good. When you look at a bunch of the dominant brands in the world, their names are (when you divorce them from the brand they’ve created) pretty weak. Microsoft, MacroMedia, Yahoo, Apple, etc.

    Some further reading on the subject is over here:


  2. Choosing a name is very difficult. For sidereel we went through many rounds research and purchased a number of domains. But what was most helpful was to get some outside feedback. To this end we created a survey (using surveymonkey.com) that we sent to around 300 people. The survey listed our top 5 names and had folks rank the names across several criteria:
    – memorability
    – descriptiveness (of our business)
    – and other criteria

    The data was extremely helpful and helped us to narrow the name.}

  3. I’m almost embarrassed to admit what my first company name was. After reading a dozen business advice books which all had a chapter about not getting overly complex with your name I went ahead and did it anyway. I ran with “Virulence Industries”. No one could ever get it right over the phone. Just like you, I had a spelling & pronunciation nightmare every time. Not to mention the odd connotation of my word choice. I had a nice deep philosophical explanation for it, as if that should be something that begins every business meeting… The things we do when we are young and green! :)}

  4. Matt – interesting you say that, “deep philosophical explanation for it”, since I have noticed a few people do talk about where their company name is coming from when you first meet them. Sometimes that can be a good ice-breaker, or a “story”, but I don’t think it works if you are selling to the consumer. The other problem that I see, and that’s particularly true for startups, is ending up with name that doesn’t reflect what the company does anymore. That’s why my hunch is to go for punchy and short rather than smart (and long).}

  5. Yes, that’s true about the icebreaker. Unfortunately I was trying to do phone sales on the one hand, on the other it was meetings where people had furled brows wondering why I’d used such a harsh negative word in a name.

    Virulence: The quality or state of being virulent or venomous; poisonousness; malignancy.

    If I was selling weed killer it might have been appropriate. BTW- the word choice, it was a whole concept about breaking something down to rebuild it… yada yada. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well.

    You just mentioned something else that makes a very good point. We are now Trossen Robotics, we used to be Phidgets USA because the company started as a reseller of a product line called Phidgets. Naming your own company after another companies product line is a HUGE no-no. You have immediately locked yourself down to being identified with only that product. It also is very confusing to everyone else who thinks you are the same company. So listen up dear readers, don’t do that! 😉

    After having two experiences with bad name choices I kept it simple and conservative this time around. Trossen Robotics is pretty darn to the point.}

  6. Other than being your last name (something I don’t I could do 😉 Trossen Robotics is also pretty good because I’m guessing your clients (in the robotics industry) call you “Trossen” (not Trossen Robotics), right? (which does back to short, etc).

    Another concern we had when naming Wambo was bad connotation. Prior to deciding on polling people, we would run a few names and run a search on the Urban Dictionary to check that. There are LOTS of slang words and I highly recommend checking these out…

    Example: we liked “hify”. Sounds a lot like “Hyphy” – the rap word…}

  7. I’d say there are two sets of criteria. First it has to pass the easy to say / spell / explain test, and you have to be able to get the domains. But I’m not a fan of research or focus groups (except the informal kind Xavier describes, which I love), since they’ll never produce a name about which the founders are passionate. Fundamental comfort with the name is in a way more important than any meaning others might attach to it, since your life will become inextricably bound up with it.

    We picked ‘Gaboogie’ despite some feedback that it was ‘dumb’ or didn’t mean anything, because we liked saying it and it was easy to attach what we were doing to the name. Oh, and because it works well as a verb. Nothing more, nothing less.}

  8. A good domain name works for you while you are sleeping. It’s most important.

    The right domain name is the startup for startups. I read and browse the internet, magazines, ads etc. and start thinking and checking what’s available. Create a name, put names together. You are inventing a new business, this is step one. Don’t turn the page till you’ve got a domain name you like. Talk to friends, talk out loud, keep talking. It does come sometimes early, sometimes later. Use aids, like dictionary.com and it’s components to start working it. The domain must NOT be spelled differently than spoken. You don’t want to explain how to spell the domain name each time you say bob@spellthedomain.com.}

  9. I wish I had read this blog before I dashed off and registered my start up’s name

    2 years ago – I was scratching my head trying to come up with names which were available as a .com domain. Out of frustration I made up a misspelling of the word “berserk” as I was going Berserk search for names – at the time http://www.bezurk.com seemed like a good name.

    We have a successful business now – but we still loose out on customers not finding us as they type berserk or bezerk looking for us. We are now forced to spend more on SEM and SEO.

    If I ever do another start up – I am going to map out my naming requirements properly and consider misspellings . You live and learn}

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