Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Your Startup’s Name Matters

Naming can be one of the most difficult challenges in the early stages of a startup. But while many people have written about the topic, few have actually codified the process to help entrepreneurs succeed in the endeavor. This guide breaks down naming into individual steps with detailed, practical suggestions that can be applied to almost any industry. It’s based largely on my personal experience naming several tech products as well as the themes I’ve noticed in great startup names. You’ll find numerous examples to bring each concept to life and inspire your creative side — something you’ll need to get to the finish line.

In this first article, I provide a general overview of naming. Specifically, I examine the challenge of naming companies, the importance of creating a good name and pre-naming preparations.

The Challenge of Naming

Naming on the web is difficult because it’s a multiple-step process that’s a mix of art, science and pure perseverance.

First, you must create a name that is short (ideally, two syllables and <10 letters), memorable and relevant to your idea. It should be easy to find and spell, project positive connotations to your target audience and cannot conflict with existing trademarks. Unless you’re a linguist, this is not an easy task. Large companies often defer to experts at naming agencies who do this for a living, but you must rely solely on your creativity.

Then, you must find a domain that’s available. This is where things get really tricky. Given that most good .com names for $10 are already taken, it’s likely that you’ll spend at least a few hundred dollars on a good name, or risk forgoing some of the best options. You may also be subject to the availability and interest of a third party who may not be interested in selling the real estate.

If that’s not enough, then you’ll probably be naming your company as you juggle dozens of other responsibilities, such as building and testing your product, recruiting new team members or developing your go-to-market strategy. If you constantly put the process on the back burner, you’ll find that it takes time to get back in the groove and that naming can ultimately become a huge roadblock to other parts of the business.

That doesn’t sound like too much fun, does it?