One of the biggest challenges for startups has been and still is coming up with a name for the venture. Decades ago, when I began my startup ventures with Real Time Audio, which I thought was a great name for a sound reinforcement company, one didn’t have to worry about urls. In fact I was so naive at the time I didn’t even worry about trademarks!
But today’s founders have a lot to worry about when it comes to naming and I have several posts on Mentorphile on the subject.
Sherwin Greenblatt, the head of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, always enjoys the monthly meeting time slot when he announces the name changes of VMS ventures. It’s a favorite of mine as well. Sometimes the changes are for the better, other times we collectively scratch are heads and wonder if the new name is actually worse! There’s always a few laughs mixed with groans at the oddball names.
The good news is that according to Joanna Glasner‘s article on TechCrunch Startup names may have passed peak weirdness. She quotes Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, a naming consultancy: “As we reach the edge of strangeness… they’re saying: ‘It’s too weird. I’m uncomfortable.”
Crunch News does an annual survey of startup naming trends (news to me!) and the trend is that startups are choosing simple words that describe their business, including companies like Hitch, an app for long-distance car rides; Duffel, a trip-booking startup named after the popular travel bag; and Coder, a software development platform.
Joanna Glassner lists the common ways founders generate unique names:
- Creative misspellings
- Made-up words that sound real
- Normal-sounding names
For some time now my advice to startups is that if they have some capital to invest they should simply buy a name that meets the common naming rules, that will save them much time, effort, and anguish. And domain squatters have plenty of names to sell. If you can’t afford to buy a name, one method that works for many companies is compounding two simple words; the best example being “face” and “book.”
While it’s true that your name is your brand and .com is the most highly valued domain, both are shifting. Companies change their names or create new parent companies like Snap for SnapChat or Alphabet for Google and other ventures. And even Alphabet eschews the .com domain, Alphabet’s url is abc.xyz.
One of my current mentees is in the midst of name change – I’m looking on, hoping they can improve on their current name, which doesn’t seem hard to do, but it is!