Okay, let’s face it, naming your company is hard! But it’s important. Last week, online watchers noted that two startups, both named “Bolt”, from very different industries, each raised about the same amount of money from VC’s ($67 and $68 million respectively). One is an Estonian ridesharing, food delivery, and scooter business, the other is a San Francisco based company aiming to make the perfect online checkout process. Really? You couldn’t come up with something more interesting? There wasn’t anything cooler in Estonian?
Worse, according to Crunchbase, 59 companies in Crunchbase have names that start with Bolt and I will note that very few of them seem to have anything to do with, well, actual bolts. This is but one, particularly egregious, example of the startup naming problem.
There are so many badly named companies out there (and if I may say, tech seems to have such a large percentage of them!) But in our experience it’s not hard to come up with reasonably good names for a business or product, it just takes a bit of effort and creative thinking. I am not a naming or branding expert, but lets face it, entrepreneurs can never afford those experts when they are starting out, so here is the low cost version that has worked for us and perhaps can help reduce the bad name quotient!
Good names for ANY company share, in my view, some key characteristics:
- You can get the domain which is not too long (I believe this still matters) and please don’t make it abc124LLC (i.e. please don’t add LLC or corp or inc at the end of the name – see law firms, accounting partnerships etc for many bad examples of this). Now I know that some industry watchers say that the domain isn’t important or that you can just add a prefix (like “use” or “join” or something) to the name of your business and it’s just fine. Or pick one of the new domains. But let’s face it, why make it harder than necessary? Why make it sound dumb? Why admit (with your domain) that you aren’t the first or only company with this name and that you aren’t creative and innovative enough to come up with a name nobody else has? A cool domain that matches the name of your business signals a cool company!
- The name does NOT include any founder name or names. This is bad branding on SO many levels, do I need to mention Paris Hilton? or the Rival Rothschild branches which face a court battle over the family name (apparently there are actually family rules for using the name…..)? The company name should stand alone as companies and founders often part ways. And if the business has staying power, it may long outlast the founders!
- The name is preferably reasonably catchy that is easy to say/understand and spell! Weird name spelling requires you and your team to spell and spell and spell the name of your business, even to people who know you!
- Please skip names that include “labs”, “tech”, “med”, “gear”, “diagnostics”, “wear” etc – Way too dated and too boring.
- USE IMAGINATION – and focus on core values! Consider what you would like your name to invoke.
- I like to take core words with values that matter and add suffixes – Enclavix was built on the root of “Enclave”, as in “an enclave of talent and solutions”. Our online platform for our curated library of tools to help entrepreneurs is “Venture” + “Wrench”. We own domains for many other good brands as well, using these same simple rules. All of which we paid no more than $10 to secure! Our first company, an integrated “home internet gateway” to protect families and manage web, chat, email and games, was called “DoBox” (a box that does stuff to help families).
- Domain registrars can help you quickly answer #1 if you can generate some ideas of 2–6. Just make sure you’re ready to jump on the domain once you find one or more potential names, some unscrupulous registrars will register the domain out from under you! So make sure you are ready to buy!