One of the earliest tasks of any startup is deciding on a name. Naming your company has some serious considerations: can it be trademarked? is the domain name available? what do people think of when they hear the name? and more importantly, can you live with “Hi, I’m [your name] and I’m the CEO/CTO/COO of [your company]?
After asking various people, and reading the information on the internet, it seems that the conventional wisdom seems to fall into three camps:
1. You should spend a significant amount of time deciding the name (even forming a ‘naming committee’)
2. A name doesn’t matter that much (just look at Yahoo and Google)
3. Give some thought to your name, but don’t get too hung up on it
1 and 2 are the extremes, with 3 being the middle-ground and where most people’s opinion seem to lie. The general consensus seems to fall around the lines of “you don’t have to come up with a great or even good name – but the worst thing is to come up with a bad name”. Bad names are to be avoided at all costs. The internet is full of examples of them. My favorite in that list is S.T.D. Contractors.
So why am I thinking about all of this?
Well, after months of calling my incubating startup “a business specialising in software for multi-touch devices”: I came to the realisation that it didn’t quite trip-off-the-tongue. So I decided to fix on a name. Different people have different ways of doing it. But here’s how I approached it (and please share your advice/comments below):
First, I wrote down words/phrases that I want my brand to represent (e.g. innovation, multi-touch, practicality, business solutions)
Second, I made a short list of names that might fit that criteria (initial shortlist included: Interactive Touch, Practical Touch, Big Bold Designs)
Third, I went to speak to some friends and asked for their opinion (this is really important – one idea was to call it Touch IT – until someone pointed out what the initials spelt!)
Fourth, iterate, iterate, iterate. Generate more names. Check the domain name. Get feedback. Repeat. (More came out at this point – including Agora, Third Place, TouchSpark, SmartTouch)
Fifth, settle on a name. (Interface3 – I settled on this because it had elements of The Third Place – because my initial target market would be at retail spaces, where multi-touch surfaces could be useful – and touch and gestural interfaces as the third paradigm of human-computer interface after command-line, and graphical-UIs.)
Thankfully, it was quirky enough that the domain names were still available and there wasn’t a UK registered company with that name.
What did I learn?
1. Cybersquatters are really annoying (almost anything with the word “touch” was parked, ready to be sold to me at a high price)
3. The name is just the start, the important bit is your delivery!
Lastly, I just want to finish up with the best bit of advice that I’ve heard regarding this topic. A business mentor once suggest that your startup’s name should be something which will attract the business that you want. Hence, it forces you to think about who your customers are, and skims on the brand that your business will build.