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How to choose a startup name that doesn’t suck

How to choose a startup name that doesn’t suck

Posted by PanamericanWorld on April 20, 2016

For a group with a reputation for being creative, different and yes, disruptive, entrepreneurs are often decidedly less so when choosing a startup name.

It’s as though founders were given a handbook that outlined a few different startup naming strategies to choose from, like:
•Take a name. Add an -ly.
•Take a name. Remove a vowel or two.
•Put two words together. Capitalize the second word.

Here’s a hot tip: don’t use any of those equations to decide on your startup name. And don’t even think about relying on an online name generator.

Instead, consider these six tips when brainstorming a name for your company.

Keep brainstorms small

Coming up with a name is often an arduous, brain-frying process. To lessen the pain, you may feel tempted to host brainstorming sessions with various members of your team. Think twice before you do. The more people in a room, the longer and messier the idea list gets. You’ll exhaust Thesaurus.com (and everyone in the meeting) and the result will be quantity, not quality.

Instead, invite only a few key team members who can bring a balance of creativity and practicality to the exercise. Have a time limit for the free-for-all brainstorm and then focus on creating a short list of names, if possible.

Don’t limit yourself to the literal

If you can come up with a simply, catchy startup name that explicitly communicates what your company does, that’s great. If not, stop trying to make “fetch” happen and start expanding your naming horizons.

It’s not mandatory that your name have a literal meaning. Instead, focus on memorability and simplicity. If you’re having trouble thinking beyond the obvious, grab a whiteboard and look for inspiration by listing words like the following:
•Adjectives that describe the nature of your business
•Synonyms for the type of product or service you offer
•Words you like because of how they sound or look, regardless of their definition

Think about discoverability

When someone searches for your startup name online, what are the odds they’ll find you? Good SEO can improve where you turn up in search results but having a unique business name also plays a huge role. If you opt for something too generic, you’ll get lost. If you choose something complicated, you’ll risk having your name misspelled and your website never found.

When you have your shortlist of names, search for them online and make a note of what and who turns up in the search results.

Is it taken?

The world is a big place. Your name might already be registered by a different company. Don’t risk finding out the hard way, with a cease-and-desist letter from whomever picked up the moniker first.

When you’ve got a short list of potential names, start searching them on Google. Be thorough — test out different domains and try following your search with the term “company.” You can use databases as well; the Canada Business Network has a list of tools available for searching and choosing a name. For trademarks, search using both the Canadian and American trademark databases.

Ask yourself these questions

Before you buy your domain and start printing business cards, ask yourself the following questions about your proposed startup name:
•Is it trendy?
Trends come and go. If your name is piggy-backing on what seems to be popular at the moment, think twice.

•Is it simple?
You won’t impress anyone with names that are too long or complicated. But don’t confuse simple with generic. Simple names can still stand out in a crowd.

•Is it memorable?
If your name is unique and rolls off the tongue, it’s more likely to stick. “MailDepot” isn’t memorable but “MailChimp” sure is.

•Is it easy enough to spell?
If you’ve replaced letters with numbers, injected weird punctuation or drastically misspelled a word, Googling your company will become difficult, journalists will get it wrong in their stories and you’ll probably hate it within six months.

•Will I have to explain it?
From its launch in April 2010 up until its fifth anniversary 2015, the DMZ was called the “Digital Media Zone.” Then we rebranded, to the DMZ (here’s why). It’s simple, it sounds better and it more accurately reflects our brand. But it’s been a year and we still are asked to explain what it means or stands for (the answer is nothing; we are simply the DMZ).

Is that a bad thing? Not really. It gives us a chance to talk about ourselves. But perhaps you want your startup name to be self-explanatory. Consider it.

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