A rose by any other name might smell as sweet…But does the same apply to startups? Picking a name is one of the most definitive early stage decisions you’ll make; it’ll affect everything from your branding to your target audience to your domain costs. It’s best to get it right – or at least, very close to right – the first time round. And believe us, we’ve rebranded and we know.
To help you out, we’ve compiled 25 of our favourite expert tips on naming a new business. Let’s jump in.
1.Naming a business is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Click To Tweet
“Naming a business is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Once it’s in place, the entire foundation and structure is aligned to that original stone. If it’s off, even just a bit, the rest of the building is off, and the misalignment becomes amplified.”
– ‘8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business’ – Phil Davis, President of Tungsten Branding
2.Your name is the first thing to come out of your mouth every time you pitch your company. Click To Tweet
“No one will ever see the name Zobonkii.com and think, ‘Oh, what a creative company.’ In reality, anyone with even a tenuous grasp on the tech industry will think, ‘Great… Another trivial startup that’s piggybacking on social media trends.’ You should never underestimate how many choices consumers have. Stand out. It can all start with your company name, which people will be typing, clicking on, or tapping on every day.
Conversely, a great company name conveys the opposite of these red flags. To put it bluntly, I can get ten seconds of complete focus and attention from nearly anyone in tech if I start a pitch with, ‘We’re Nest.com.’ Does your name elicit, ‘Oh, interesting, tell me more!”’ when you share it with others? Never forget that your name is the first thing to come out of your mouth every time you pitch your company.”
– ‘Before Naming Your Business, Read This’ – Julian Shapiro, Founder at NameLayer .
“What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to small-business success. The right name can make your company the talk of the town. The wrong one can doom it to obscurity and failure. Ideally, your name should convey the expertise, value and uniqueness of the product or service you have developed.”
– ‘How to Name a Business’ – Entrepreneur Media
“You want your business name to create an immediate impact. It must be memorable. According to Jay Walker-Smith of the Marketing Firm Yahkelovich, ‘Everywhere we turn we’re saturated with advertising messages trying to get our attention.’ He estimates that we’re inundated with about five thousand ads a day.
If you want a chance to stand out in that noise you must find a winning name, something that people will remember five minutes after you talk to them. If you do it right, they may even pass it along to others, giving you free word of mouth.”
– ‘The Name Game: How to pick a business name that will be successful for years to come’ – Laura Sherman, Aabaco Small Business
“Opt for easy to spell names: Any name you pick should be easy to spell and remember. If your name is similar to another brand name, then it may create confusion in the minds of your customer. Brand recall becomes more difficult. It becomes tedious when you have to constantly correct the misspelled name. So keep it simple, concise and easy to spell.”
– ‘How to Name Your Startup’ – A.M.S Pandian, Digitial and social media strategist, speaker, and author.
“Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
Picking too narrow of a name may cause you problems down the road. Imagine if Jeff Bezos had picked the name ‘OnlineBooks’ instead of ‘Amazon.’ So avoid names like ‘Wedding Dresses of San Francisco’ or ‘LugNuts Unlimited.’ You don’t want to limit your business to a particular product or a specific city.”
– ’12 Tips for Naming Your Startup Business’ – Richard Harroch, Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint
7.The holy grail of a name is when it becomes a noun/verb in everyday vernacular. Click To Tweet
“Choosing a name for your business is not a decision to take lightly. Most agree: You should be able to spell it, say it and remember it.
That third part is key. If people can recall your business name, you’ve won a big part of the battle. The holy grail of a memorable business name (and testament to a superior product or service) is when it becomes a noun or verb in everyday vernacular. Each time someone says “I’ll just Google that” or “It’s like the Airbnb of [fill in the business category here]” you know the founders of Google and Airbnb are smiling — all the way to bank.”
– ‘How to Name Your Startup: 6 Trends for 2016’ – Erica Bray, Name.Kitchen
“One of the biggest debates in startup naming is over the .com suffix. Some say you need it so desperately you shouldn’t even bother going on if you don’t have it. Some say you don’t need it. A .com domain may have benefits, but the latter is closer to the truth—it’s never mattered less than it does now, and it matters less and less every day.
For years, people have urged startups away from other suffixes and insisted they concentrate on finding a .com address that works for their business. But other suffixes are here to stay. Today, there are scores of very successful companies out there with .io, .co, .net, and other suffixes. That’s in large part due to the fact that it doesn’t matter, functionally, what suffix your web address has anymore.”
– ‘How to Name Your Startup the Smart Way’ – Andrew Tate, Adespresso
“Every few years, there’s a new trend in startup names. Sometimes, it’s dropping vowels (Flickr). Sometimes it’s using “.ly” domains and other popular country domains that happen to help complete words (like .us).
Why do startups do this? Often, because they feel like they have to.
Why do I think it’s a bad idea to do this? First, because when something is “trendy”, chances are there are a hundred other startups all following that trend. This makes it harder for you to stand out — and hence harder for anyone to remember you. Also, hopefully, your goal for the startup is to grow into a successful business. This usually takes several years. Do you really want to wake up five years from now and have a startup name that you’re kind of embarrassed of and likely going to want to change? That’s an expensive proposition. Easier to just kind of get it right-ish in the beginning. Pick a name that will stand the test of time.”
– ‘How to Name a Startup: The S.M.A.R.T Checklist’ – Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO at Hubspot
10.A lot of people hated the name Amazon for a bookstore, and Apple for a desktop computer… Click To Tweet
“Don’t overreact if people don’t swoon. While you should weigh outside opinions of experts, overreacting to naming feedback can be an exercise in futility. Outside of your team, most people don’t know your long-term vision or aspirational brand values and need to see the name in context. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise if friends don’t instantly go gaga when first hearing the name you’ve chosen in conversation. A lot of people hated the name Virgin for an airline, Amazon for a bookstore, and Apple for a desktop computer company.”
– ‘How Not to Name Your Startup, and What You Can Learn from My Mistake’ – Tom Leung, Co-founder and CEO at Anthology
“If you can, stick to 2 syllables.
Often constraints are good when undertaking a creative process like naming your startup. One of the best constraints I’ve found with startup naming is to try to stick to 2 syllables. It’s something I remember talking about a lot with my previous co-founder and good friend Oo. Generally following this rule results in a great name. Just look at some examples of 2 syllable names: Google, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare…”
– ‘How to Name Your Startup’ – Joel Gascoigne, Founder and CEO at Buffer
“Use foreign words. Foreign words that are commonly used in English or have a strong semblance to their English counterpart can be a great way to generate a concept. For English-speakers, words from romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese) as well as some German, Japanese and Hawaiian words may be helpful.
Example: The word ‘tree’ translates to arbol (Spanish), albero (Italian), arbre (French) and arvore (Portuguese). The startup Casahop uses the word ‘casa’ (Spanish/Italian/Portuguese for house) in a clever way.”
– ’16 Tips for Picking the Perfect Startup Name’ – Cezary Pietrzak, Founder, Marketer and Mobile consultant
“How to invent names that don’t suck:
First, you must invent a lot of names that do suck. Most will be useless, but a few will inspire and eventually lead to something good.
Start by writing down a target sentence containing your name that you want to be able to say aloud. Something like:
‘_______ brings sandwiches to your home — by drone!’
In the end, you’ll judge the success of your names by this statement.”
– ‘How to Name Your Startup’ – Jowita Emberton, CEO at Brandpa
“Once you understand what you want your company name to convey, you should set aside some time to brainstorm. Think about words that describe your industry or the products/services you offer. Think about words that describe your competitors and words that describe the differences between your products and services and those of your competitors. Also, consider words that describe the benefits of using your products or services. Finally, think about words (and phrases) that evoke the feelings you want your customers to feel when they see your company name.
While brainstorming, look up Greek and Latin translations of your words – you might find new ideas from doing that exercise. Look at foreign words too (we spent some time with a Swahili dictionary looking for strong names).
Expect this process to take some time (it took us about 40+ hours to brainstorm and then another 10 to finalize names – we went through MANY possible names). Don’t forget to leverage resources, including a dictionary, thesaurus, and any other resources that you think may help.”
– ’10 Tips for Naming Your Startup or Small Business’ – Ross Kimbarovsky, Co-founder and CEO at Crowdspring
“Confirm The Name is Available:
Whether it is a .io, .com, or one of the slew of emerging domains you can choose from, make sure the domain is available for you to purchase. Additionally, do a deep dive for at least a few hours to make sure you do not run into any conflicts with companies that may already be using the name. No matter how tempting it is to move forward with a name even though someone else is actively using the .com, think long and hard whether you want to deal with the confusion that comes up in search results and also the restrictions you may encounter from a usage perspective. Visiting https://www.uspto.gov/ can help you determine whether you can get a trademark or service mark for your startup name.”
– ‘5 Tips for Naming Your Startup’ – Hai Truong, Tech Day H.Q
16.For people to talk about your startup, you need an awesome product AND a sticky name. Click To Tweet
“You see, many startup founders throw around this advice, “If you want people to talk about your startup, you need an awesome product”
And here’s what I say, “If you want people to talk about your startup, you need an awesome product and a sticky name…
Gather up a group of people and tell them your startup’s name. Then don’t mention it again until three days have passed and don’t even tell them that you’re going to follow up after those three days. Once those three days are over, ask them individually to write down your startup’s name.
If they remember it and spell it correctly. Congratulations! Your name is good to go.
If they remember it, but some spell it wrong… you need to acquire some domain names with those spellings.
If they remember it, but all of them spell it wrong… you may need to consider revising the spelling of your name.
If they don’t remember it at all… you’ve got a huge problem.
Change the name and change it fast. Then run the test again until everything is okay.”
– ‘3 Tests You Need To Do On Your Startup Name’ – Zak Mustapha, Blogger and CEO at MailGhost
“Stay Away from Wit:
“Although you’ll see lots of stores and brands with cheeky, pun-ny names, it is important to stay away from that. This is like getting a tattoo that seems good at the time, but you’ll later regret. Think about some of the leading brands; some of these are simply names or just one bold word. Keep it simple by boiling it down to its essence. Brevity is appealing, profound and confident.”
– ‘Top Dos and Don’ts for Naming Your New Startup’ – Business Collective
18.Good names connect on an emotional level + emotions don’t play by the rules. Click To Tweet
“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.”
– ‘How to Name a Startup’ – A Hundred Monkeys
“First, don’t be afraid to get the feedback of your potential users. More specifically, don’t be afraid of them bashing you, even before your idea has been physically developed. After all, if it’s not working for your potential audience now, that is a tell tale sign begging for you to recognise it.
Second, you’ll be surprised at the number of people willing to help if you reach out to them. People like to have their opinion valued, and your audience or contacts are likely no different.”
– ‘How to End the Nightmare of Naming Your Startup’ – Brady Worthington, Co-founder and CEO at BizB
“In an increasingly competitive sphere online, it is wise not to force consumers to think too much about what you’re selling.
‘It’s one thing for Procter & Gamble or Coca-Cola to develop something out of a meaningless name because they can spend a lot of money on it,’ says Frank Rimalovski, executive director at New York University’s Entrepreneurial Institute. ‘But for a real startup, that’s quite a challenge.’
– ‘When It Comes to Naming Your Startup, Simple Is Better’ – Christopher Heine, Technology Editor at AdWeek