73 Comments

Summary:

What’s in a company name? Plenty. It’s your first opportunity to brand yourself. Get it right and you’ll stand out as clever, useful, and memorable to potential users and investors — even if your product isn’t any good. But get it wrong and you’ll flame out […]

What’s in a company name? Plenty. It’s your first opportunity to brand yourself. Get it right and you’ll stand out as clever, useful, and memorable to potential users and investors — even if your product isn’t any good. But get it wrong and you’ll flame out before your product even gets out of beta.

So, what makes Brightmail, PayPal and IronPort great names, but Lycos, Xobni and Vidoop really lousy? It turns out there’s a formula for effective naming and it’s surprisingly simple.

Look at many of the most successful brands and you’ll notice they’re often compound names, consistently made up of two components:

  • a word that relates to the company product in a direct, literal sense, establishing a clear association between the brand and what the company does.
  • a word not literally related to the product, but rather a metaphorical adjective to evoke a differentiating characteristic or “feeling” about the company’s product.

Our minds are built to make connections, mostly at a subconscious level. When a metaphor is detected, it triggers a process in our brains that associates the metaphor with the next object or reference. This naming system forces the mind to take the cognitive step of associating the metaphor to the product it represents, thus forming a positive association to the brand. And once your brain has woven the connection, it sticks, so there’s a great chance your company name won’t be forgotten.

So when we break down the name Brightmail, we see that “mail” indicates what the product does — they make email — while “bright” is metaphorical, framing their product in a positive light. This same logic applies to PayPal; “pay” is literal, “pal” is metaphorical. Ditto with IronPort, a provider of email and web security products — “iron” is a metaphor for strength and “port” is a literal reference to what the company product protects: network ports.

Search company Lycos tried a made-up word, to ill effect. After all, what’s a lycos? Xobni makes a cool email service, but someone had to tell me that xobni is “inbox” spelled backwards. Vidoop is just yucky. Reminds me of, well, you know.

Of course there are startups that get so far out in front of their competitive fields, or whose products are so exemplary, that names which ought to have been tricky are nevertheless well received.

Consider Twitter. If you had asked me a year-and-a-half ago, I’d have said it was a terrible name — all I could think of was “twit.” But people’s associations with Twitter are good because its communication tool is first-in-class and offers a great experience.

I was recently asked to consult with a startup that is considering re-naming itself. It’s a good thing, because the name they’re using now is totally confusing. It’s one of those Google-wannabe made-up words that sounds vaguely Latin, but isn’t. Worst of all, it doesn’t tell users like me anything about the company’s product (they archive web pages). When the company explained the name to me, I got even more confused.

In my view, while site archiving is useful (and they do it well), this probably isn’t a broad-based enough service to be elevated to the level of a consumer utility, as search or micro-blogging (Twitter) have been. This means their made-up name is unlikely to ever be turned into a verb (like “to google” or “to tweet”).

I suggested some new names, based on the two-part formula:

ArchiText
: Archi sounds like architect, a good association. It also refers to archive. “Arch” as a prefix is “chief,” so metaphorically it evokes priority. Text is literal for content. Combined you might get: “storage for vital web content.”
PermaPage: “Perma” evokes impermeability. “Page” is literal.
ArchWeb: “Arch” for “archive,” and the metaphorical “priority.” Web is web.

Evan Paull is software engineer for Mark Logic and a startup consultant.

  1. Great tips! Coming up with a start-up name can be so tough–but you point in the right direction.
    -Ashley

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  2. Um. Maybe you should stick to engineering. This post is so utterly simplistic and naive, it’s funny. Really not up to GigaOm’s usual standard.

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  3. I remember choosing Padpaw for our company name for similar reasons. Plus, I picked the name from the first letters on a phone key pad (A, D, G, J, M, P, T, W).

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  4. This article doesn’t even make sense. The twitter example contradicts the main point.

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  5. doesn’t lycos mean ‘spider’?

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  6. Than you! now I have a thoughtfull reason to be happy about my product name: Podmailing, which enables to send any size file by email.

    Actually I got challenged by Apple for this brand because of the “pod” in it. But I think “pod” is really metaphorical and gives a sense of modernity. And for an email service it makes sense because P.O.D. = proof of delivery.

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  7. Evan,

    Your assessment is on the money. Too many entrepreneurs make significant branding mistakes which are quite costly. This point you didn’t address, poor branding results in SIGNIFICANTLY increased marketing costs across the board. This issue combines with the “made up word” that has no significance to the product/service, and hence the entrepreneurs are forced to “educate the market”. This is the kiss of death for startups.

    Nice post.

    Curtis

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  8. Jack Kornfield was Radioshack’s marketing guru in the hey day of the 60′s and 70′s when the chain was the go to place for everything hifi.

    He published a book called, “If you want to catch a mouse, make a noise like a cheese”. He took great issue with companies like Toshiba naming their new (quite good) personal copier line names like, ‘BD7210′.

    Most Web 20 names are too cute by far. They think cool, most however are copycats of other more successful trailblazers.

    Tell me what the damn product is and what the company does, dammit. In the enterprise space, we went through a time where one could not intuit what the hell they were talking about in the early days of SOA and ESB – still a cloudy and uncertain branding pool anyway, even after the dust has cleared somewhat.

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  9. Lycos is Greek for wolf. Their symbol is a dog. Nevertheless you are right. They took the name from “Lycosidae” which is Latin for “Wolf spiders”.

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  10. Um, I liked the name ArchiText. In 1993 when it was the original name for Excite. Another rule for naming – do some research.

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  11. By the way, ArchiText was the name of the startup that then became Excite so maybe ArchiText was too boring. And also there may be copyright issues with that one.
    FYI.

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  12. There are no rules. For every “good” name using this system I can point to hundreds of failed startups. I can also point to hundreds of successful companies that are exceptions to this rule. It’s so highly subjective, without real data it’s all how the names make you “feel”. I could argue the “good” names above are very bland and easily forgettable, where’s the proof they are good and what’s the criteria for measuring their ‘goodness’?

    Most names become “good” after their names have been reified with their companies and/or products. The name being reified with success after the fact. Why is ‘google’ a good name? Trying to tease them apart historically is a fallacy. Although I know of no one doing this experiment, I’d love to actually get data on naming and how it affects success. Take the entire pool of startups at a particular stage and have experts chose the good names vs the bad names. Track those companies over their lifespan. I wonder if the ones they choose as good would show any greater success rate than the others. I’d wager that the predictive ability of experts in choosing names as a success factor would be barely better than random (some names are so truly, dreadfully, awful that they might impinge the success of a company).

    For this reason I wince whenever an expert explains why a name is good or bad. Usually it all boils down to trying to look with hindsight at how an infinite number of factors affected the success of particular companies and trying to tease out one general pattern. Honestly I don’t believe the startup/company experience can be synthesized with simple rules like this.

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  13. Parody. Taking this at face value does a disservice to both the author and GigaOm. “When we break down the name Brightmail….”

    The allusion to Excite’s original (and abandoned) monicker as a proposed name is a nice touch.

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  14. this are some good guidelines of course everyone can point the mega brands that buck the trend: nike, google, apple, mercedez benz, but it is true that most cutsy names are actually quite confusing. I thought Xobni was a bit confusing but it certaily has not suck the company, they are doing really well.
    My next venture is an online shop specializing in hoodies, called hoodiepeople.com. what do you guys think of the name?

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  15. ArchiText is an apt name indeed, which may be why it was selected as the name of one of the earliest search engines and dot com wunderkinds:

    The Short History of Architext Software

    Fall 1989 : Joe Kraus, Graham Spencer, Mark Van Haren, Ben Lutch, Martin Reinfried, and Ryan Mc Intyre live in the same freshman dorm at Stanford University. Mark was the dorm’s Resident Assistant.

    Spring 1990 : Kraus, Van Haren, and Mc Intyre form Where’s Julio?, a jazz and funk band reminiscent of Oakland’s Tower of Power.

    February 28,1993 : Spencer suggests, over a low budget Mexican dinner at Rosita’s Taqueria in Redwood City, that the six join forces and build software that helps people more efficiently search through large bodies of data on the Internet.

    June 1993 through February 1994 : The Architext team works for three months compiling research on different approaches to new search-and-retrieval and browsing techniques, and completes initial series of software tools. Team members were all holding other income-producing jobs during this period.

    May 1994 : Company makes presentation of their software to IDG, and wins service contract to complete work on a secret online service project. The $100,000 deal was actually signed in July, just as the company was moving out of a Palo Alto garage, into the Cupertino home of three of the founders.

    August 1994 : Architext creates their own Web page, complete with virtual garage, and MarketText, a program which allows entrepreneurs to create marketing slogans, with as much panache as a high priced ad agency, at a fraction of the cost. Find at http://www.atext.com

    December 1994 : Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Institutional Venture Partners agree to invest $500,000 in seed money. KPCB partner Vinod Khosla, and IVP partner Geoff Yang roll up their sleeves and start helping company write its business plan.

    March 1995 : Architext founders make cover of The Red Herring.

    – The Red Herring, March 1995

    But most folks probably better know Architext after it dropped that name and became Excite, then Excite @Home: http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2160881

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  16. A CSS problem: I believe the headline is being chopped off, at least on Internet Explorer 7, Windows XP SP3. Obviously, the head is meant to read “A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup Just Like Everyone Else’s”, but I can’t see the “Just Like Everyone Else’s” part on my screen (1280×1024).

    @Hasan: I believe, following the rules in the article, you would rename hoodiepeople to CoverHead, or JacketSmart.

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  17. I completely agree with the mentioned guidelines, and that’s why I named my company CloudAppers, although “Appers” proved to be somewhat hard to explain to non-technical people.

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  18. I think this article is breathtakingly naive and unbalanced. It omits any reference to the target segment, brand extension opportunities, brand hierarchy implications, legal exposure, and of course the countless examples of hugely successful companies that contradict the recommendations. There is no one expert to consult and in this void the most respected opinion has to come from your target customers.
    This is what we practice at Vidoop.

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  19. To expand on what Markus said about Lycos: Yes, Lycosidae is the family of wolf spiders. The story is that the name was selected because wolf spiders hunt their prey at night, just as web crawlers (“spiders”) back in the day were configured to go after their prey at night, to even out the load on the servers they hit. (Of course, this was also when “day” vs. “night” was more distinguishable on the Web, since most traffic was to servers in the western hemisphere.)

    So the name Lycos is not made up at all. It’s too cerebral, if anything. One dark joke at Lycos was that some day, more people will know the word “Lycos” for the greek meaning of the word than for the Internet search engine. “Google” has the opposite problem :-)

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  20. @Hasan: none of the names you mention in your comment were invented:

    - Nike is the Greek goddess of victory (originally pronounced neeke, not naike)
    - Google is a misspelling of googol, name of the number ten to the tenth power (that might account for an invention, but when they started such “cutesy” names were a rarity)
    - Apple: well duh
    - Mercedez Benz: Mercedes was name of one founder’s daughter (it’s actually the Spanish version of the name Grace), while Benz is the last name of the other founder

    @Evan: one of the most important considerations when choosing a name for a business, especially a Web-based one, is whether the .com domain is available. If it isn’t, all other considerations loose value.

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  21. BuzzPal

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  22. Patrick Peterson Saturday, June 21, 2008

    I think you are wrong in your analysis. Just think about Google, Coke, Toyota, Nike…. and Apple.

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  23. Evan, I think you’ve made a lot of good points, particularly regarding the power of metaphor in naming and the need to strike an emotional, human chord.

    If I may be gently frank… Where your inexperience in naming shows is understanding that coming up with good names is easy–finding good names that are available to use is the hard part.

    Jack Trout, marketing guru who authored the seminal book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” some 30 years ago, recently said in a Forbes article that we’re running out of brands, and the #1 problem facing marketers today is the availability of names.

    @ the skeptics… When Logitech introduced the Scanner 2000, sales were tepid. Then they renamed it to the ScanMan, and sales doubled in 18 months without any additional advertising. That’s one example of what a strong brand name can do.

    A great brand name will not make a bad business model succeed, nor will a bad brand name cause a good business model to fail. However, when all other things are equal, going to market with a powerful brand name is like sailing with the wind at your back. It makes marketing easier and cheaper, because it takes fewer repetitions for the brand promise to sink in with the target audience.

    Conversely, a weak, meaningless brand name requires more repetitions to deliver the brand promise. If you have the marketing budget of a Nike or a Vonage or a Toyota or a Xerox, go ahead and launch with a name that doesn’t mean anything. People will understand what you’re selling… eventually.

    Most startups I know don’t have that kind of cash, so my company (a naming and branding firm) strongly advises our clients to adopt a name that inherently speaks to their brand’s promise.

    @Berislav: Having the prima facie .com domain name is not the mandatory it used to be. People’s online navigation habits have changed, and most users are not accessing sites by direct input of URL anymore. Instead, they’re using search engines as a waypoint–by entering the brand name as the search term and clicking from the results page. (In 2006 “Yahoo” was the #1 search term on Google.)

    We advise our clients to always think brand name first, URL second. The availability of the .com name should not be the highest priority. Instead, focus on finding a powerful, message-conveying brand name that can be protected by trademark. An appropriate domain can usually be figured out from there.

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  24. This reminds me of what Billy Corgan said about how he came up with Smashing Pumpkins. He said that he wanted two words: one that was a verb, agressive and violent and another word that was not related but gave an emotional feeling of warmth. other examples are Grateful Dead, Screaming Trees, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin.

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  25. Sure, coming up with a good name is relatively easy. How the heck do you then find an open domain to register? I spent 8 full days doing this. The name I settled on is less than great. What irks me is most of these domains are parked or spam with no way to contact the owner and make an offer.

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  26. This is an astoundingly amateur post. Why is this on GigaOm?

    With all due respect, the author should stick to software engineering and leave the branding advice to people who know what they are talking about.

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  27. [...] A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup I honestly don’t even know where to begin here. But it mentions Vidoop, so I’m including it. Beyond that, it has some redeeming value as one of the most brilliant examples of absolute puffery and non-sequitur logic I’ve seen in some time. Of course, there’s always the possibility that it’s simply an ingeniously crafted trap, too. [...]

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  28. I agree with you Paul, names like skype, apple, google work only when/if you achieve iconic success, but for the rest of us, it had better be something that makes immediate sense.

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  29. Cool. This is helpful. I know hindsight is 20/20, but your reasoning totally explains why all these were successful…

    GovWorks
    PrintLife
    Friendster

    and of course…

    WorldComm

    Oh, wait. I just remembered. Those are some of the most epic _failures_ in memory.

    But I think your point still stands, though with examples of failures like…

    Amazon
    Google
    Orkut
    eBay
    Flickr
    Apple, etc.

    Oh, crap. These totally prove you wrong also. Sorry, my bad.

    Well, you’ve got one thing going for you… Like all nobodies, you know how to use important company names in your irrelevant blog to draw attention. Enjoy your 15 minutes on _your_ way to the irrelevant pool.

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  30. This is and excellent article for web 2.0, but web sp2 with build 132 kind of makes it irrelevant. Word+ was replaced with wordenator and no matter how well you designed your word+ name, a 2 year old would wipe you out with wordenator. Even with the lite version. But I guess that’s why you write about business names instead of spending the money you made from one.
    … sorry, insomnia.

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  31. bs

    go to a proper design and branding agency :)

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  32. Mike Giggler Sunday, June 22, 2008

    I don’t know why all these people are giving you such a savaging here, probably they’re all successful multi-millionaires and have earned the right to do so.

    I think we can best sum this up by saying “There are no absolute rules, but here’s one method you might find useful.”

    And we can probably also say that a lot of people on the internet are sore losers.

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  33. frankly, not sure your naming rule makes any sense at all. Take the startups that succeeded on the web – flickr, facebook, yahoo, google, amazon, ebay, paypal – and you’ll notice that AT MOST 50% of them follow the rule. Which, statistically speaking, means that this variable is irrelevant

    By the way, ‘architext’, ‘permapage’ and ‘archweb’ are really really really AWFUL names.

    Here’s my thought on what makes a good company name – based on companies that succeeded, so it’s actually not an idea of mine, but rather an observation:
    a) it can be ‘verbed’
    b) it is A NEW WORD, in the sense that it’s pushed to mean something in a new area
    c) the most important of all – it SOUNDS GOOD…

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  34. Great little article, so now that we’ve established our new business (teledildonics based) our new business name spurred on by this fabulous read is, drum roll please, happyfuck… Genius!

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  35. Insightful article, Paul. Coming up with the right name is almost as difficult as coming up with a great product.

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  36. You might get a real kick out of this blogpost I wrote about names in a Web 2.0 world …

    http://www.afpr.com/2008/01/yelp-i-stumbleupon-my-blogcatalog-can.html

    andy(at)afpr.com

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  37. [...] We are obsessed with expert rules and guidelines for naming a companies. Even when those rules are overly simplistic, contradictory, and mostly about a “subjective feel”. As startup founders we’re desperate to gain any edge we can, and we’re always on the [...]

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  38. I think the name “lycos” had 0.01% to do with its failure. The fact that it was a crummy search engine relative to Google accounted for the other 99.99%.

    By this logic pets.com should be in great shape :-) And Apple is in trouble. Same goes for HP, Dell, Samsung, Sony & Lenovo. :-)

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  39. I see a lot of insightful comments here, but I also need to clarify a few points, as there are some bad assumptions as well:

    First, this isn’t designed to be an end-all be-all ‘magic formula’ to categorizing company names, in fact most names don’t fit anywhere within my rule. This is just ONE of many ways to finding a great name for your company.

    Second, I’m not attempting to make any kind of value judgment about the companies listed here based on the names they’ve chosen: companies like Twitter and Vidoop make great products, regardless of how they’ve chosen to brand themselves. Sometimes a name really is just a name.

    And, I think we can agree that picking a solid name isn’t going to replace a full branding/marketing campaign, nor will it singlehandedly guarantee success or failure. If all you had to do to ensure success was pick a clever name then our lives would all be a lot simpler. This is really just a way to help bootstrapping companies get on their feet.

    -Evan

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  40. I think this is brilliant. Here are some of my product names: ThinkTank, Ready, MORE, Frontier, Aretha, Clay Basket, Manila, Radio, OPML Editor.

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  41. A couple more: FlickrFan, NewsJunk.

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  42. What do you think of the first gen PC software hits: VisiCalc, Wordstar, dBASE, Multimate, Powerpoint, Word, Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, PageMaker, PhotoShop.

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  43. What do you think of “EvolviMatix” ?

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  44. I have a suggestion for Om. Why don’t you start a new website where new startups can ask for a good name, and the names can be crownsourced. Something like pickydomains.com , but as your reputation is good, that thing may work

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  45. @Devon: Please tell us a single major Web site/application which doesn’t have the appropriate .com domain.

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  46. A lot of good insight here – especially in the comments.

    I agree with everyone that says this is a formula – one formula of many. But as pointed out repeatedly, a lot more should go into a name than just two words.

    Instead of re-iterating what’s already been said, I’ll add the following: People tend to make the same mistakes over and over again when coming up with a company name.

    First, they forget that a name really is more than a name. A great name can do a lot – serve as your most compressed marketing message, distinguish you from competitors, etc. – but it is hard for a name to do it all. So, you need to decide what is most important for you and your company. For startups with limited marketing/advertising budgets, a lot of the weight will fall on the name.

    Second, people limit themselves creatively. It’s good to look outside of technology and mythology for name sources. Perhaps worse, people will limit their naming choices to URL availability – a big mistake.

    Third, people choose names that won’t grow over time. This is especially true if you choose a name that says what you do or your product does. What happens if you change directions?

    Fourth, people often don’t give themselves enough time to name. Coming up with a great name takes time. Yes, it can be based on gut feeling, but usually you’ll want to be more systematic and objective. If you have to have a name by next Friday, you’re probably going to miss out on a lot of the creative possibilities.

    Fifth, people forget that once you’re on the Internet, your business is global, so you’d better make sure your name isn’t going to insult someone in Argentina or Guangdong.

    @Varun – Check out http://www.wordlab.com. In their forums, people often present names and have others comment on them. The site isn’t about crowdsourcing names (which, in my experience, gives you the most watered down, uncompelling names) but gives a lot of naming resources.

    Full disclosure: Like @Devon, I too am with a naming and branding firm that helps name companies and products.

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  47. The name Lycos is derived from the Latin word “Lycosidae” (wolf spider), an anarchid famous for being the hunter rather than the hunted. A good fit when Lycos was originally launched as a search engine. Lycos’s very first mascot was a black wolf spider, which appeared on bumper stickers and Tee-shirts. Not surprising, the wolf spider failed to create a warm and fuzzy connection with our users, thus, we transitioned to Lycos the loveable Black Lab, as part of our very successful marketing and PR campaign in 1998. Lycos the Black Lab and the “Go Get It” campaign continues to resonate with users today.

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  48. [...] an article that has a formula for naming your [...]

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  49. [...] that is meaningful and fun and also helps build brand awareness? Evan Paull of GigaOM suggests a two-part rule: Look at many of the most successful brands and you’ll notice they’re often compound names, [...]

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  50. Two parts isn’t enough. For starters, let’s take “ArchWeb” Is that pronouced, “Arch – Web” or “Ark Web?” There’s ambiguity there so unless all the appropriate domains can be had, that’s potentially a bad name for online.

    Here’s some thoughts on naming:

    “What”s a brand? A singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.” – Al Ries

    “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures” – Michael Eisner, CEO Disney

    ‘A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation.’ – Lexicon

    Here’s good features:
    • Have positive associations
    • Easy to pronounce, (plus no homonyms.)
    • Easy to remember
    • Suggest product benefits
    • Be distinctive
    • Not infringe existing names / trademark, (which can be widely interpreted by some, even if you think they’re wrong or outright ridiculous in challenging a trademark application.)

    Brand names can be categorized in tons of ways, but the top four I’ve seen include: Functional, Invented, Experiential and Evocative.

    Considerations need to include it’s appearance, (visually in terms of how it might look in online and off line typography), is it distinctive? Are there any layers of meaning besides the surface denotation? Does it feel alive/human? What about positioning with regards to the product itself? What does it sound like? Is that sound pronounceable in all target market languages? (And the obvious “Is it a curse word or just wrong thought in other languages?)

    Are you prepared to order the domain as soon as you realize it’s available? (Otherwise, poachers may have seen your attempt to check depending on which registrar you check with and snap it up.) How much are you willing to pay for an existing name that – in the case of domain names – may already have some type-in traffic.

    There’s probably more. But in any case, the naming of a thing is any thing but just a two-part exercise.

    Scott

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  51. [...] A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup Use two words: one that’s literal which describes what it does, one that’s metaphorical which evokes a characteristic or feeling. (tags: business name) [...]

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  52. [...] A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup – GigaOM Sounds like a good way to build another Web 2.0 name generator. BurlyDrive! For the unbreakable hard drive! (I want credit on that name if a startup ever uses it btw.) (tags: marketing entrepreneurship naming branding) [...]

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  53. Perma… not sure I’d like to have that in my company name… Anyway, nice article, but the names you came up with aren’t that good. And if the product/service is good enough, it seems the name doesn’t matter (see your own Twitter example and of course Google or even Apple).

    Paypal, Ironport and Brightmail are good examples of the naming rules you give. You could have mentioned Microsoft as well. :)

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  54. when choosing a name for our company, we had lots of great names, but all the domains were taken, untill we found tonepedia.com. so i guess that the most important name for a unique company name on the web sphere is a free domain :D

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  55. [...] A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup – GigaOM I need a business name. (tags: startup business naming marketing) [...]

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  56. [...] a recent post, Evan Paull writes on FoundRead that names of successful startups tend to be a compounds [...]

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  57. More great comments! I love Kathy’s description of the Lycos etymology: it really is a very clever name, but as she explains, that doesn’t always translate into a good user reaction, and that reinforces my theory that there is really a science to naming a company.

    Dave has some good names in there, I think NewsJunk, Manila, and FlickrFan work especially well. Also a good list of names for first gen software hits — lots of good names there.

    Microsoft is actually a great name! In programming terms ‘micro’ refers to code that is fast, simple, elegant, and generally bug-free: the polar opposite of the software Microsoft actually produces (irony anyone?). A great example of the power of naming…

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  58. Evan-

    I like where you article takes us. Of course, regardless of the name the start-up really needs to focus on what it is they are offering & whether or not there is any value for what they are offering. No matter how good the name is, they aren’t going to get far if their product/service doesn’t make any sense.

    One thing that concerns me about your approach is that naming your start-up based on your initial product/service can hinder your growth with new products or services. If PayPal realized after 6 months that no one wanted to use their product & to stay alive they’d need to switch gears & roll with a new product/service wouldn’t they be hindered with a name like PayPal if they wanted to offer some sort of web-based marketing solution?

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  59. [...] thinking more on names and reading a lot of the commentary that seems to have been sparked by that same GigaOm post. I still think we’re overly obsessed with startup names, but I felt like my last post on it [...]

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  60. [...] email analytics & more plugin, just integrated [very sparse] LinkedIn data. No matter if Xobni is a bad startup name or not, it shows a lot of promise. I’ve used Xobni on and off ever since it was profiled on [...]

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  61. [...] the name Twitter doesn’t follow the Two-Part Rule from Evan Paull, it is most definitely a well-recognized and memorable name. And what about Kleenex [...]

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  62. I think PermaPage and ArchWeb are ginormously generic sounding. Xobni is excellent, it is inbox backwards, and that’s basically what they are doing with their product. It’s hard to say if Paypal is a good name, or it’s just that it is so well known that we think it is very good (might be too generic). Brightmail is too generic, never heard of IronPort. Vidoop is indeed terrible. Twitter is simply excellent. And yes, we have taken flak for the Searchles name, but some people do like it a lot. (we are often called search-less)

    First impressions do matter, but they certainly matter less so on the web than in real life, when all you have to do is click on something to see what it’s all about.

    @Dave Winer: you came up with the name Radio? You are older than I thought.

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  63. [...] A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup made up of two components: * a word that relates to the company product in a direct, literal sense * a word not literally related to the product, but rather a metaphorical adjective (tags: startup domains) [...]

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  64. Evan.

    Let’s see:

    Google
    Yahoo
    Oracle
    Intel
    Adobe
    Amazon

    Yep, you’re right the names above would never work. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    Are you a dot.com wannabe?

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  65. [...] Need To Know About Naming a Startup TechRepublic - The dos and don’ts of naming your start-up GigaOM - A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup Seth Godin – Sloppy naming Fort Worth Startup blog – Naming your startup Entrepreneur.com – Naming [...]

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  66. [...] GigaOM - A Two-part Rule for Naming Your Startup [...]

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  67. [...] Paull is a software engineer and a startup consultant. [...]

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  68. [...] an article that has a formula for naming your [...]

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  69. Thanks Evan…I really needed this article. I am naming my Start-up now. Article gave me pretty good direction.

    Thanks,
    Vishu

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  70. Actually Lycos is not made up–refers to spiders–just too techy to be good. Your point about what the name makes you “feel” is right on. No one will get out a dictionary to study meaning and etymology (like knowing lycosidae is a kind of spider that actively goes out to hunt its prey). People will look at a name and make an instant association that most likely will have nothing to do with the word’s dictionary definition. More practical and detailed advice on naming: http://bit.ly/avbmHA

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  71. Textaurant.com is one of my favorite “brilliant names”

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  72. Whew! Good thing I did it right!

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  73. very logical. The deepest association with a brand is when the name evokes its brand benefit with the visual.

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