Entrepreneur

Hey, founders — before you name your startup something stupid, read this

Encapsulating a business in a single word or phrase can be a daunting task. For startups, the name of the business becomes the first word of every investor pitch and the first message that’s spread to potential users. Although it’s often dramatized, a solid name can be a startup’s first step toward gaining legitimacy and recognition.

Having led countless startups to successful names, we at Survata were interested in compiling some insight to this all-important process. To do so, we reached out to founders who have braved the naming struggle firsthand.

Founders’ stories quickly illustrated how there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing a company name, as no two anecdotes were quite alike. Jared Kopf, founder of AdRoll and HomeRun, outlined some major properties of a winning name. Kopf, who had a hand in naming both Yelp and Slide, looks for consistency between the URL, company name, and product name, and told us he aims for short, catchy names that work well as both nouns and verbs.

For Vastrm, a startup custom clothing maker, inspiration struck during a moment of clarity. The name (derived from a Sanskrit term meaning “cloth”) came to the founder “during a meditation after we had exhausted week over week of names and mashed-up phrases,” Vastrm founder Jonathan Tang recalled. “Sometimes the best solutions come once you are able to let the mind go.”

Other names didn’t come about so organically. Guidebox founder Jeremy Riney built a program to generate names for the television and movie streaming service. “I created a database table and filled it with every single one syllable word that had anything to do with television,” Riney said. “I sat with the combined list for a weekend, and Guidebox was the clear winner.”

The availability of the domain name is often a roadblock in choosing a name, and factored heavily into many founders’ naming processes. For ad-retargeting service PerfectAudience, domain availability was the primary jumping off point. “We basically just guessed a ton of different combinations around ‘audience’ until we found an unpurchased domain,” founder Brad Flora said.

Of course, a name is only good if you can use it (legally). For app-integration service Zapier, a trademark conflict sent them back to the drawing board, after founder Wade Foster found out their original name (“Snapier”) was already taken.

Through talking to different founders, we did come out a little wiser. Here are some resources to keep in mind when considering a company name.

Survata allows you to put a company name or logo in front of online respondents and collect timely feedback. Whether your company name is meant to evoke a certain feeling or spur a more concrete association, testing it can make sure your name is having the desired effect. By targeting respondents of different geography, gender, or age, a business can make sure their image doesn’t bring up any unwitting cultural associations (e.g. orange underwear).

And, while there are plenty of resources to check for domain availability, Domize and Domainr present available and due-to-expire domain names clearly and comprehensively, and allow for purchase straight from the results page.

For domain databases that provide more in the way of idea generation, Dot-o-mator displays available names, and has a handy compound name generator that allows you to filter by naming category and criteria. Impossibility! allows you to enter broader criteria, such as adding a noun or adjective to a keyword of your choice, and quickly generates a list of unregistered domain names that fit the bill.

Sometimes a human touch is helpful when developing a shortlist of possible names, and there are a number of services that allow companies to get name suggestions from creatives around the globe. Just as 99Designs does for logos, services like SquadHelp and Naming Force allow you to describe your project and receive a bevy of crowdsourced options created by their users.

So, whether a company’s naming journey is more mystical or data-backed, there are a number of factors to keep in mind and resources available at any step. Just give it some time, don’t be afraid to seek outside help, and come up with something that wouldn’t be humiliating to wear on a T-shirt.

Troy Mathew is a survey analyst at consumer research firm Survata.


VentureBeat is studying mobile marketing automation. Chime in, and we’ll share the data.
25 comments
Troy Fix
Troy Fix

Another good tool that you can use after you pick your name/domain is namechk.com or knowem.com. It helps find usernames on most of the social sites. Obviously it shouldn't stop you from creating your own business if your brand name isn't available on pinterest! But they are helpful. I believe you can pay knowem to set up/reserve your account names as well.

Heather Meeker Haas
Heather Meeker Haas

An article with advice from founders that have the worst startup names ever.

Mike Melanson
Mike Melanson

I skipped the article and came straight to the comments when I read someone working for "Survata" was the "author". Something about glass houses, yeah?

Rich Kneece
Rich Kneece

Can I please have the three minutes back that I wasted reading that article?

Joel Reyna
Joel Reyna

I'll name my startup whatever I damn well please!!!

Devin DeLane
Devin DeLane

I was tired of hearing the made up names. So we branded under the name: ActiveLocation - since we are a Location based platform using iBeacons it fit well and was simple.

Jin-Woo Lee
Jin-Woo Lee

Sinwook Kim Chann Woo 이름이 중요하다~

Julien Fruchier
Julien Fruchier

What a terrible article. Double like for Bryan Lamb.

Dave Meeker
Dave Meeker

I mean, as long as you have a name, who needs customers or a business model?

Ron Berkes
Ron Berkes

I own txtmsg.me if anyone wants it

Bryan Lamb
Bryan Lamb

I don't think I'll be taking any name advice from people who named their company "Survata".

Nosha Monteiro da Cunha
Nosha Monteiro da Cunha

First group of people who are to blame for stupid/dumb startup names are "domain squatters". Then it's only poor choice of words! Only human. A good tip: Name your startup as if you were naming your newborn kid, call it out loud. If it sounds good, nothing to be ashamed of! ;)

Mario Chaves
Mario Chaves

Is it just me or are VentureBeat posts getting lamer and lamer, devoid of any significant information or insights? And what is it with the stupid images and 'clever' headlines?

Lyonel Scapino
Lyonel Scapino

I dare anyone to throw at me the most stupid start-up name he has heard of. I think i can take anyone at this game, I have the most stupid ever..:)

Jakob Steen Madsen
Jakob Steen Madsen

Would be nice to get out of the dr. Seuss on acid trend in brand names.