Naming your startup is not a process to be taken lightly. Sure, you can come up with a name during a run in the park or while singing in the shower, but in order to really nail your startup’s name and not make a rash decision you will later regret, there is a list of things to consider.
In the process of choosing a name, you as the founder need to have attention to detail and self-awareness. Choosing the name, you may be caught up with self-enthusiasm. Leave the ego at the door and consult with others to make sure the name fits the company. This can be as simple as running the name by your friends to asking your potential clients.
Before going over the checklist below and making sure the name you chose is a good one, write down all the names you like, or if you don’t have a name in mind, write down relevant keywords.
Also, always keep in mind the positioning and branding of your company and what it represents. If you are selling a high-end product, you wouldn’t want to name the company something that sounds cheap. If you are not sure, write down 5-10 words that describe your company or product and brainstorm the name from there.
If you only have keywords, you can use online name generators such as naminum, Wordoid, Coolnameideas. In many of these sites, there’s an automatic check of an available domain.
But, you can also play around with the domain name to find the right name for your company. Optimize.ly (who’s now optimizely.com), for example, added the very fun and popular “ly” top level domain to the word that describes their product best.
We’re no longer in the must-have .com era and companies shift to using the numerous available TLDs. In the past, it was advised - for SEO reasons as well - to use .com domains. But today, even Google declared there are no TLDs that it finds preferential to others; they are all treated equally in rankings by them. Other companies that use their domain in the name are bit.ly, DesignM.ag and even Instagram started off as instagr.am. If you’re up for some domain hacking, you can use Domainhack for finding such a name.
Have some names? Great. Now let’s make sure they work:
Google the Name
First thing may be an obvious one but many overlook it - do a quick Google search. This will show you whether there’s an existing company under this (or a very similar) name. If there is one and you see several mentionings, move to the next name on the list. You don’t want to struggle with competing with an established brand.
Does the Name Fit?
The second thing to check is whether the name fits your target audience, your future clients. If you haven’t already, this would be a good point to advise with people. If your startup is a B2B company that aims to sell to Fortune 500 enterprises, you wouldn’t want to name it after a Star Wars character. Your sense of humor may be great but also (and most probably), unique.
Third on the checklist is choosing a name that’s easy to remember. You want to choose a name that when you say you’re the founder of X, people won’t reply “sorry, come again?”.
The name should also not be too long or too clever - you want to have a memorable name that
A name like Lawdingo, SenseGiz, VSCO or Cuil are hard to remember and even pronounce.
In the “Branding and Graphics” section of our $0 budget page, we mentioned XOBNI – the great company that thought it would be immediately understood that its name is Inbox spelled backwards. Also, do you know how to pronounce the name? Neither do we :-/.
Passed the memorable name test? Great. Now let’s think globally. Unless your company is targeting only local audience, check if the suggested name doesn’t mean something bad or weird in other languages (again – quick Google search can reassure this). Website builder Wix found out that a very similar word with the exact pronunciation means masturbation in Germany. Oops (they were though good sports about it and made fun of their choice later). Microsoft made the same mistake with Lumia, Spanish slang to prostitute.
Google your proposed name and check it doesn’t have an “interesting” connotation in other languages. After all, a company aiming at Russian audience wouldn’t call itself Balvan.
BONUS: Cool idea if you still can’t decide
If after all these tests you still can’t seem to narrow down a list of names, you can run a contest by your potential clients - provide them with the final list of names and ask them what they think works best. This can be the first step in engaging them and help you get some great leads.