On Brand

A question I am often asked is how does one choose a great name for a startup. I have a few simple heuristics for picking a “good” name:

  1. Be pronounceable
  2. Be able to register a domain which contains the word(s)
  3. Be something I'm comfortable using
  4. Be something my customers are comfortable using

Beyond that, just choose some words and visuals and run with it. All brands start out with no recognition, no meaning, and often very goofy names. Brand power is derived from what has been accomplished under the name, not from how slick the name is. Google? A silly name. Now it is used with reverence in boardrooms across the world. It’s also a verb.

How about Songkick? Again, if you are not familiar with the live music company, it's an awkward name. Ian Hogarth, the founder of Songkick, broke down the criteria he and his cofounders used when they originally chose the name back in 2007. It had to be:

  1. Short (no more than 2 syllables)
  2. Memorable
  3. Available
  4. Have unambiguous spelling (i.e. no homonyms)
  5. Reference music in some fashion

And for the actual process of choosing the name?

“We generated a spreadsheet of a couple thousand word pairings”, Ian recalls, “and used Instant Domain Search to find the available ones and then just went with one.”

Stephen Rapoport, founder of Pact Coffee, followed a surprisingly similar path. In fact, Pact Coffee started life as YourGrind:

“YourGrind was always a disposable brand, which I intended to change if the model worked. I picked it in about an hour, and based the brand on which .com and Twitter handles were available. I found a list through Lean Domain Search.”

So, in summary, don’t worry about it. Choose some words that feel inline with what your company is trying to accomplish and just run with it. In time those simple words will take on a life of their own.