Naming a startup
When starting a company, one of the first things that have to be done is coming up with a name. For Moesif, we waited just a tad before finalizing the name, but we didn’t want to wait too long as too many things depend on having a real name. It’s hard to incorporate without forming a legal name. Without incorporation, there is no legal entity to a open bank account, receive investments, and issue stock and compensation. That’s only a legal name, you can always file a “Doing Business As” for some other name, but nice to start with the proper legal name at the beginning to stay as boilerplate as possible. In addition, once a name is decided, you can register the domain, set up emails for employees, and open accounts. You probably don’t want your Mailchimp and MixPanel accounts under personal emails and want to start using standard naming conventions such as Moesif’s Java packages starting with com.moesif.
First, you’ll want to write down your top 5 or 10 names that you may be things, then use some of the below tactics to narrow down.
Before we talk about the other factors, the name has to be available first. I wouldn’t name my company Square as there would be legal ramifications of violating registered trademarks and also the domain name, github name, etc wouldn’t be available. Luckily, there is a tool https://namechk.com that can check many common services at the same time to see if that name is available such as Twitter handle, Github name, domain name, etc. You still have to check to ensure your name doesn’t violate existing trademarks.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Results Page (SERP) are one of the hard arts required in starting a startup but also a very important growth channel. Some industries rely on SEO more than others such as e-commerce, but SEO is usually important for most startups. If I google for Moesif, there are only 2,440 results. I don’t have to try hard in SEO optimization to ensure Moesif is on the first page of search results if someone searches for Moesif. If instead I choose something like Errorless, that already returns 500,000 results. There will always be startups that go against this trend like mint.com, but you just have to map out your SEO strategy. Even if your primary platform is a mobile app and not a website, App Store Optimization (ASO) is just as important.
Remembering and Spelling
This one is tricky since unique names benefiting SEO may go against a different factor: easy to remember and easy to spell.
Hard to mess up spelling
Does your name spell the way it sounds verbally? If you’re building a social network, you are relying on virality for growth. If one of your users of your iOS app is showing the app off to his/her friend at a bar, you want to ensure the friend can remember the app’s name the next morning. If it’s hard to spell, then he/she may give up trying to find it via Google or the app store. If the app’s name was “Happi”, the friend may not remember how it’s spelled and just search for “happy” instead. Tumblr may have got lucky, but that may not always be the case.
Hard to reverse ordering
Let’s say you have a SaaS company called Cloudfire by combining two words. It’s easy to spell, so no issue there; however, there is a second issue. The reverse order, Firecloud also sounds like a really good name. This can cause some early confusion since Firecloud and Cloudfire both sounds like legit names. That doesn’t mean you can’t combine two words to create a name, the incorrect ordering should sound awkward enough to cause the ordering to be mostly one-directional. Facebook sounds a lot better than Bookface. Mixpanel is also pretty good since Mixpanel sounds a lot better than Panelmix
Jeff Bezos famously expressed he choose a name that starts with the letter ‘A’ as many directories are in alphabetical order. Think about how many times you find a product on a price aggregator which then lists the available merchants in alphabetical order. There could be other hints in the first letter of a name as shown by Tom Tunguz at Redpoint http://tomtunguz.com/startup-names/ which tries to correlates investment amount to the first character of the startup’s name. Although remember, as with any data mining, correlation doesn’t always mean causation.
Don’t be self-limiting
Loggly is a cute name, sounds funny and part of the noun + “-ly” trend that happened a few years ago; however, one issue is it may be too self-limiting. Loggly is descriptive, yet what if Loggly expanded beyond logging. Splunk, for example, focuses on much more than just server logging. This doesn’t mean it’s a be-all, end-all, since Loggly is still moving forward.
Be careful of trends.
Ralph Lauren clothing can hold the test of time even though may not be as fashionable as Prada or other brands. Be careful when it comes to trends in naming. For a while, many startups added “Labs” to the name to affiliate themselves with the laboratories of prestige like Bell Labs. A game studio could imply having many separate experiments, where some games will fail but one will hopefully be a hit. Over time, “Labs” became overused and people believed adding labs diluted the core mission of the company, and thus it came non-trendy to add “Labs” to a company’s name. Similarly, “-ly” names were popular for awhile but now sound dated.
If there is a personal affiliation (outside of the founder’s name), that makes it more of a store, then that could be a benefit. Our next post will explain why Moesif is related to the founder’s background.
We’re thankful to our select beta customers who have been trying out Moesif providing us invaluable feedback to make debugging easier.
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