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How to come up with a company name?

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?

14 Replies

Stephen Huson
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Stephen Huson Entrepreneur
Leader in Internet lead generation, SEM / PPC / SEO and analytics
Hey Alan - I recommend checking out The Name Inspector (www.thenameinspector.com). Iworked 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.
Corey Blaser
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Corey Blaser Entrepreneur
Founder at Origami
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
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Tim Scott Entrepreneur • Advisor
President, Lunaverse Software
This is worth a watch:
http://thisweekinstartups.com/name-startup-wsgr-startup-basics/
Steven Schkolne
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Steven Schkolne Entrepreneur
Computer Scientist on a Mission
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

Brent Laminack
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Brent Laminack Entrepreneur
Principal at OpenFace Systems, Inc.
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
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Will Dukes Entrepreneur
Business Development Strategist and Professional Speaker
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
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Alan Levine Entrepreneur • Advisor
Graduate Student at Hebrew University
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
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Alan Matthews Advisor
Entrepreneur
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.


Charlene Li
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Charlene Li Advisor
Helping leaders thrive with disruption as a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company
I used a naming agency, Eat My Words, to come up with our company name and they were wonderful. Even better, the Founder, Alexandra Watkins, has distilled her wisdom into a fantastic book. "Hello My Name is Awesome"http://awesomebook.eatmywords.com/

My overall advice: As with anything you do with branding and marketing, be clear on the story you want to tell first. When I started my firm, I knew that we wanted to do high level strategy, but also provide pragmatic, actionable advice. Fly high, but also safely near the ground. Hence the name Altimeter.

Good luck -- and by all means, have some fun with it!

Jacob Duane Johnson
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Jacob Duane Johnson Entrepreneur
Artist and Creative Product Designer
Hey Alan, I'm in the same process as you currently. I don't have much advice for you, but you may find that these links below will help your inspiration. Just maybe you can find something to get you into the next phase, where you can then take the time to create a custom name.


Best of luck!
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