The Best Name For Your Tech Startup
"Nomen est omen" is a Roman expression meaning "Name is destiny." The idea has some truth to it, particularly when it comes to business. What you name your company matters.
A company name has meaning beyond branding — it communicates your values and purpose.
I recently wrote that economic downturns are a good time to start a company. Many of you agree. If you are an ambitious entrepreneur you do not need me or anyone else to tell you this. The time that matters most is your "must time" — when you cannot imagine doing anything else.
Deciding to leap is just the beginning. It takes real grit to define the problem you want to solve, find the right people to help you, and build an MLP. And of course you need to choose a company name. This is either exciting or intimidating, maybe a bit of both.
In reality, coming up with the "right" name can be deceptively tricky. A well-chosen one communicates your brand's personality, helps you stand out in a crowded market, and secures a good first impression. But distilling how you see your brand and product into a single word (or couple of words) also means contending with trademarks, domain name availability, and search engine optimization (SEO).
For Chris and me, choosing the name Aha! always felt just right. It was the result of a few-week process of exploration. Ultimately, it stuck because it perfectly reflected what people feel when they solve a difficult problem or come up with a bright idea. And without much thought after seeing or hearing it, it explained what we were hoping to do for product managers everywhere. We were aiming to help them gain deep insights, build lovable products, and enjoy their own journey.
All strategic business decisions require deep thought. Naming your company is one of them.
So, it is worth taking time and care with this decision. Think beyond today's trends. Focus on the core idea for your business. Ask trusted advisors or friends. Talk to other founders. At the very least, you will gain a better understanding of how others think about the problem you are trying to solve.
As you ponder your options, use this checklist to narrow in on the right choice:
Start with the core concept
This is the most important work of all and should come first. Think about what you stand for and the value you want to deliver. Lasting companies become household names. It is unlikely that you will be globally known, but imagine you will be. Work by yourself or with a few members of your founding team to:
Write down key themes that people should think of when they see the name.
Organize around a central idea and consider what people associate with that topic.
Look outside your industry for inspiration — lateral thinking can spark creativity.
Now you are ready to list ideas. Sound, sight, spelling — these are the qualities that catch people's attention. But it is more important to be true to who you are rather than catchy.
Gather words that reflect the core concepts and start separating out words you think are best.
Play with word combinations and short phrases.
Say the words out loud. Say them again and again.
Confirm that others can generally pronounce the word(s).
Test that people can spell them.
Vet that the words are not slang, questionable, or offensive in other languages.
Check to see if any existing companies in the general marketplace use similar names.
Write the names in multiple fonts or even mock up a logo design to see if they convey the feeling you are after.
Here is the moment you have been waiting for. Time to close in on your top options, make sure they are available, and select your name.
Check that your chosen name is available and not already registered as a trademark.
Do a domain search and register your domain name.
Consider if you want to use a different name for your business' legal name.
If you are unsure whether the name is available or legally protectable, speak with a small business or intellectual property lawyer.
Ultimately, you need to pick a name you like. If your company is successful, you will be living with it for a while.
Choosing a name, while important, does not need to be a six-month saga. Often, you will have a gut feeling about what is right or not. Founding a company is chock full of challenging, exciting, and formative decisions — this is one of many. Congratulations.
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