How to name a startup company? Sometimes, you wake up in the morning with a name in mind, you check for domain availability, and boom! You’re good to go. But other times, it’s much more complicated.
When we started our new business, we had a clear vision of the product. We wanted to develop a simple and beautiful service for managing and optimizing Facebook ads. We focused on product development and ignored the naming issues for many months, until February 2012. By then, we’d developed a great prototype–but we needed a great name to go with it.
To kick off the brainstorming, we decided on the qualities we wanted our name to convey. We wanted the name to:
- Be as short as possible
- Be easy to remember
- Be easy to spell in every language
- Have an available .com and .it domain
- Start with a letter between A and G, to be on top in alphabetically sorted lists
We arranged a couple of company-wide meetings, writing down every name we could think of. Thirty percent of the time was spent dreaming up funny but corny names. The remaining 70 percent of the time, we came up with potentially good names, only to discover the .com and .it domains weren’t available.
$50,000 to $100,000 and More–Just for a Domain?
Immediately, we ruled out 4-5 character domains. They’re practically all taken, unless you want to call yourself wjyxh.com. Though some short, desirable domains were available for resale, we were facing costs of $50,000 to $100,000, and sometimes more. We were willing to buy previously registered domain names. but we had set the maximum budget at $3,000.
One domain I really liked was Promoto. it’s short, easy to remember and full of ‘o’s, which are usually spelled the same in every language. We contacted the owner of that domain and he was selling for a good price. However, internally, we never managed to agree on the name. Some liked it, others said it sounded like a service related to motorcycles or Motorola.
Thwarted, we decided to take a more analytical approach. We took one keyword and tried to attach something cool at the end. No luck. Every possible combination seemed to be registered. Also, many combinations looked more like an SEO spam domain than a real brand.
Even the Wombat Wasn’t Available
And then we thought: “Hey, wait a second! Animals are cool! Just look at MailChimp!” Still no luck, however. Even domains relating to the ultra-cool wombat had already been snapped up! Eventually, we ended up with a list of some unknown and un-spellable species who only lives in the Galapagos and were last seen 50 years ago.
Time was running out. We had tried being creative and it hadn’t paid off. So we thought about domains that are trendy, like .ly (as in bit.ly) or .fy. And then, an idea: Let’s call our new company Forgely! It’s short, easy to spell, the domains were available, it started with an F. So we bought the Forgely domains. Hooray!
The celebration lasted about, oh, five minutes, because no one was really convinced Forgely was the right name.
In the end, we realized that you have to go with your heart. You have to do your research, of course. But if you can’t imagine yourself saying, “Hey, I work at Forgely!,” you’re on the wrong path.
Another thing that’s important is to share your name with people outside the company and watch their faces. I assure you, it’s very easy to tell if they’re thinking, “Wow, how did they came up with that cool name?” or “My God, how many Aperol spritz cocktails did it take to come up with that crazy name?” With Forgely, I recognized the latter reaction in everyone but we ‘forged’ ahead with it anyway. We updated our website and application design, we printed business card and flyers, we registered every possible Forgely domain name.
Five Days Before Debuting Our Company in Silicon Valley–And Still No Name
By this point, we had only five days before our scheduled trip to Silicon Valley to launch our product. Just one thing was missing: We needed to double check the name with a trusted person. That person, luckily, was Francesco Mantegazzini, head of Investor Relations & Business Development at Il Sole 24 Ore.
Francesco reviewed our pitch deck silently. At the end, he looked at us and asked, “Are you guys crazy? You absolutely can’t go to the U.S. and present a startup called Forgely. What is that supposed to mean? And anyway, ‘forgely’–as in forging–isn’t a word you’d want to be associated with!”
All seemed lost. Then, as we were sitting around drinking our forth espressos, someone quickly performed a ‘Whois’ lookup and said “AdEspresso! What else?” The cool slogan would have probably made us meet Nespresso lawyers very soon so we dropped it, but we all were enthusiastic about the name immediately. It matched most of our criteria, plus it had a clear link to our Italian roots. And so we arrived at the Silicon Valley startup conference with our new identiy: AdEspresso. God bless Francesco Mantegazzini.
Lessons Learned on How to Name Your Startup
Based on our experiences, we’d like to share a few tips about how to name your startup.
- Set up some ground rules for your brand before brainstorming.
- Decide on the maximum budget for buying a domain name.
- Once you have some names, say them out loud. Imagine yourself saying “I work at XXXX.” Does it sound cool?
- Tell the name to as many people as you can and gauge their reactions.
- Find one trusted friend you’re sure will tell you if the name sucks.
- When you have a good candidate, ask yourself if you’d spend your entire budget to buy it. If the answer is ‘no,’ scratch it.
- Last minute changes are hard to handle but worth it. If you find yourself questioning your name late in the game, it’s probably not the right one anyway.
I hope sharing our experience on how to name a startup will be helpful to someone with our same problem. Do you have any other advice on finding the right brand ? Share with us and leave a comment, we’d be glad to hear your experience.