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When you’re creating a startup, there are far more important things to get right before the company name. But once you’re comfortable with the big stuff, spend time with the name. Don’t do this for the emotional side — even though it’s a name you’ll live with, sleep with, and be associated with (hopefully) for a very long time. Do it for the professional benefits: A good company name can contribute more than you think. For a startup, it can impact consumers, corporate customers, partners, analysts, the press, and even would-be employees in terms of how they think of you, how much they remember you, even what they think about you.
As your startup gets bigger and more successful, the name matters less. Also, a company name means more if you’re doing consumer services, not enterprise software. But it’s important for enterprise software too – in part because there’s more opportunity to stand out.
But irrespective of all these caveats, your company’s name is important, very important. I have a little experience with naming startups — some more successful than others, and I’ve learend a few things.
*My 3 rules for what a startup name must have:*
*1) Relevance* – how intuitively does it communicate what you provide?
*2) Catchiness* – how catchy, easy to remember and spell, fun to say out loud?
*3) Personality* – how well do the words and prosody communicate the company’s personality? Are you hip? Solid? Safe? Hi-tech? Warm? Simple?
What makes a better or worse name depends a lot on your company’s objectives. Below I offer *3 Mini Case Studies* of my rules at work, taken from *my turns at naming companies I have co-founded* — and like I said, some worked out better than others. But I hope these will be helpful:
*1) “Dial Directions”:http://www.dialdirections.com/default.aspx* – free voice-activated phone service: you call, say your start and end locations, receive directions by text msg. In this case, the name is *relevant.* To call the service, you literally “dial” the phone number “DIRECTIONS” on your cellphone keypad (spells 347-328-4667). *Catchy,* fun, simple words, easy to remember. In this case alliteration helps too.
*2) Voxify* – voice-activated software, handles customer calls for call centers. More *indirectly relevant*: “vox” is understood by most folks as having to do with voice (Latin), and “-ify” imparts a sense of action; *Catchy,* it rolls off the tongue easily, people remember it, it’s easy to spell. Sounds cutting-edge, which was helpful as the company introduced a new generation of speech automation. If this were a consumer service, however, probably too techie a name.
*3) Anubis* – enterprise software for data mining. *Poor name.* *Not relevant* – Egyptian deities aren’t known for any data mining; *not catchy*; hard to spell over a phone call. Only one thing worked: having an “A” name floats your company to the top of any alphabetically sorted list (e.g. in a press article). The name was chosen over a quick phone call by a pair of young co-founders. Not recommended!
To find a great name for your startup, you’ll need *a combination of creativity, a good feel for words, and marketing analysis.* Thanks to the shrinking world of domain names, you’ll need more creativity than ever. Take some time and do it carefully. It’s worth it!