How To Name Your New Software Startup

October 6, 2014By
Startup Name

What’s in a name? Here are a few tips for naming your startup.

It’s fun to think about clever startup names that will be the talk of the startup world. But then you get into thinking about something clever and find that it can be pretty tricky to come up with something witty and fun.

I’ve had to come up with the names of a few businesses. I always thought back in time to businesses I’ve admired and also to things that business owners have told me about the names they came up with.

A few things I remember were to name it something that sounds good and that looks good. I remember when I was a kid I thought it would be cool to have a sunglasses company called GJ sunglasses. Those letters mean nothing to me. I just thought they sounded good together.

I’ve often thought about names that kind of explain what the business does. But this can be tricky. You have to keep it vague if possible. I named a social networking site for hunters, HunterShare. I thought it was descriptive, but vague enough so the business could grow. That’s tricky. I don’t think I’ve always done a good job with this one.

I also heard from a business owner once that you might as well put your name on the company. His reasoning was that you have to be proud of your company so put your name on it. I always kind of liked that reasoning.

But there are a lot of different things you could do. I think the more important thing is to follow a few simple rules. These still leave it open to what your name can become.

Here are some tips to follow when it comes to naming your startup.

1. Don’t Offend Anybody

We see it now with that football team in Washington DC. They picked a name that at the time wasn’t offensive to the general population. Now they’re in hot water and for a good reason.

It’s worth a quick look to see if the name you’ve picked could be offensive in anyway to any person. You could say that someone is always going to be offended by something, but try to pick something as unoffensive as possible.

2. Boring Is Okay

Building on the previous point, boring is okay. Flashy is something people tend to gravitate toward, but you don’t really need something flashy. Ultimately, people are going to pay attention to what you offer and not your name. The name might be a fleeting thought in their mind and then they’ll move on.

Boring can be good. It won’t offend anybody. And if it’s vague it means you can really do whatever you want if you have to pivot in the future.

3. Make Sure It’s Available

If the domain isn’t available or if you would have issues getting other things like social profiles and countless other items then it’s probably worth looking for something else. There are a million and one different ways you can put together letters. Figure out one that is available and you’ll be better off for it. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to use a name that could be confused with another brand or to fight over something like a Twitter handle.

4. Nonsense Is Okay

I think it’s okay if the name is nonsense. Look at the Fortune 500 list. There are tons of brand names on that list that don’t really mean anything. Some names are complete nonsense or words that don’t really exist. It’s a name. You can make it up. If it sounds good and doesn’t offend anybody then you can build the brand into whatever you want. Nonsense can be a blank slate, which is exactly what you are as a startup.

5. A Cool Backstory Could Add Depth

With all that’s been said I do think a cool backstory could be fun and it could add depth. Think about that favorite song you have that was appealing when you first heard it, but that got even cooler the 10th time you heard it. Some songwriters are really good at adding little details that give you something more when you go back and pay more attention. It happens with movies and books too.

Country singer Deana Carter released her most recent album on her own. She named her company Little Nugget Records. That’s a pretty neat name, but doesn’t really mean much on the surface. But Deana was asked what the name meant and she said that her dad once had a little record label called Big Nugget Records. So in tribute to him she named hers Little Nugget.

That’s pretty cool.

Final Thought

It’s okay if your name doesn’t really mean anything or if people don’t get it when you first start. One of the things that’s stuck with me through my business life is something a business consultant once said to a group that I was in. He said that it won’t really matter what we name the company because name will take on the meaning of the brand we build.

I like that. You can almost name your company anything. Over time, it won’t matter why you named it what you did. When people see your logo or hear your name 20 years from now they’ll instantly think of the brand image you’ve built over that time. It’s about what you do and what you provide. It’s about how you treat people and how you treat other companies.

That is what your brand really is.