How to name a startup: Your one-stop guide to naming a startup company
Figuring out how to name a startup can be one of the most challenging things you’ll do when bringing your new venture to life. To ensure you get the process right, we’re going to explain precisely what you need to do when naming a startup company.
Your name will be the first thing customers and investors use to evaluate your business, long before they hear your pitch. You need your startup name to be meaningful and engaging, so you can capture the attention of the right people.
However, at the same time, you need to ensure you’re not restricting your growth when you’re still not sure where your startup is heading.
Chosen correctly, your name can set the foundations for your venture’s growth and help you to generate positive attention towards your brand for years to come.
Choose the wrong name, on the other hand, and you’ll be wasting time and resources on a rebrand when you should be focusing on developing your business idea.
Let’s look at the strategies you can use to name your startup.
How to name a startup: An introduction
Startup naming is a complex process and not something you should take lightly. Often, more than any other brand asset you create, your name will lay the foundations for the impression you make on your audience.
Your name will help to cement your identity in the minds of journalists, customers, investors, and job candidates alike.
Your startup name can either accelerate your path to success, helping to guide other branding decisions, like your logo and your website design, or it can keep you stuck in “launch” mode.
While there are dozens of ways to name your startup, some of the most common options include:
Descriptive names can be common among startups attempting to immediately highlight what they do and what they stand for. For instance, “Pure Storage”, is a descriptive title which immediately lets customers know what they’re getting involved with.
Though descriptive names are ideal for creating transparency with your audience, they can also be extremely restrictive for startups still in the early stages of growth.
It’s difficult to know where your roadmap might take you as a budding startup, which means sometimes descriptive titles can end up being too limited.
Compound names seem to be particularly popular in the startup world. They’re excellent for sending a message and telling people something important about your company, without giving everything away.
For instance, “Instagram”, comes from the terms “Instant” and “Telegram”.
Pinterest, on the other hand, comes from “Pin” and “Interest”.
A compound name can be a fantastic tool for drawing attention to some of the primary components of your business or identity, without preventing future growth.
Made up words
When you’re choosing a title or domain name for a startup, you’re defining a company still in its earliest stages of growth. When you’re not sure what the future holds, sometimes it’s easier to choose a brand-new word instead.
“Klarna”, for example, is one of the biggest startups in the world right now. The use of a completely made-up word means the company has the freedom to explore new services and products as it goes, while creating its own identity.
Should you name a startup with allusion or description?
When naming a startup company, one of the biggest decisions you’re likely to make, is whether you should describe your business, or simply allude to what you’re going to do. Highly descriptive names might seem more straightforward, but for most startups, they’re too restrictive.
When figuring out how to name a startup, most companies will benefit from staying away from more descriptive and generic names, because they’re more likely to cause issues with trademarking and growth.
If you are going to choose a descriptive name, it’s best to stick to something flexible.
For instance, “PayPal” tells us exactly what the company can offer, but it doesn’t prevent the business from offering a wide range of different kinds of payment services. Alternatively, if “Pure Storage” wanted to break out of the storage industry, they’d struggle to make the transition.
Think about how you can allude to what your company offers, without placing any restrictions on your future growth. Your name can still be descriptive and meaningful without telling your customers everything about what you’re going to do.
If you’re really not sure what the future of your company holds, it might be worth sticking to a creative, made-up name instead. A brand-new title means you can infuse your company’s name with a new meaning, without having to worry about existing connotations or limitations.
Naming your startup: Top tips for success
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how to name a startup. However, there are a few tips you can follow to improve your chances of naming your startup effectively.
If you’re struggling to sort through startup names for your business, here are some of the most valuable tips you can keep in mind.
1. Keep it short
Your business name should naturally roll off the tongue and be easy to remember. Think of some of the biggest startups of all time, like Uber, Google, or Lyft. The shorter your name is, the more it’s going to stick in the minds of your target audience.
Shorter names are also more likely to make their way into the everyday vocabulary of your customers. Look at how “Google” has gradually emerged as a verb as well as a noun. It’d be much harder for this transition to happen if the name was a few words long.
2. Make it easy to spell
Think about your target audience. Most of them are going to want to learn more about your startup by looking for you online. It’s hard for them to do this if they have no idea how to spell your moniker.
With this in mind, try to keep the spelling as simple as possible.
“LinkedIn” is spelled exactly as it sounds, just like “Snapchat” and “Airbnb”. The only time you should consider experimenting with spellings is if it can help your business to stand out.
For instance, “Lyft” would have a hard time trademarking its name if it had been spelled “Lift”. The use of the letter “Y” helps to separate the name from an everyday word.
3. Try not to restrict growth
All companies aim for growth, but startups are often destined to develop a lot faster than their counterparts. Just because you have a specific vision for your company now, doesn’t mean this image won’t change and evolve over time.
When choosing a name for your startup, even if you want to be descriptive, try to think of the bigger picture. For example, successful startups like “WhatsApp” allude to what the company does (helps you communicate, or check “what’s up” with your friends).
However, they don’t describe an exact function, allowing the company space to introduce new concepts and features, like WhatsApp Business, and video communication.
4. Be unique
All company names should be unique. Think of some of the most famous brands and company names in the world, they’re all highly individualized and relevant to the brand identity the organization wants to build.
As a startup, however, it’s particularly important to demonstrate your individuality.
You need to convince customers, investors, and future employees you’re doing something new and interesting in your market, so you can get a significant amount of buy-in. If your name sounds like a million other companies, you’re not going to make the right impression.
If you’re struggling with choosing the ideal name, it might be worth doing some competitor research and checking what kinds of titles other businesses in your landscape are already using.
5. Think globally
Even a name you think you’ve created from scratch can have undesirable connotations depending on where you are in the world. Certain sounds, syllables, and terms are more likely to be associated with negative things which your business might not be aware of.
Name selection for any company or startup should always include a careful evaluation of your international market. Consider speaking to language experts from around the world or asking a professional team to help you do your due diligence.
You’ll need to use the same level of care and attention when choosing product names too. The more cautious you are, the less likely it is you’ll end up having to rebrand or change your identity too soon.
6. Explore the power of psychology
Speaking of the different meanings words can have in various parts of the world, it’s worth remembering certain sounds and syllables can evoke different emotions.
Choosing certain letters or adding concepts like rhyming and alliteration to your name can have a unique impact on your audience. If you’re using pre-existing words in your name, this can also help you to leverage the power of psychology too.
Look at “Apple”, the name makes us think of refreshment, growth, nutrition, and creativity. While “technology” might be more closely associated with complexity.
Names for startups: Refining your options
Most companies don’t realize this when they’re first getting started in building a brand, but there’s a surprising amount of work involved in choosing good startup names.
While you might start with a startup naming brainstorm session, you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time narrowing down your options, and checking your name is suitable.
Before you commit to naming a startup company with a specific idea, remember to:
Check your domain name
Every startup needs a great website. If you think you’ve settled on the perfect name, don’t commit until you know you can also claim the .com domain for the title.
Although it’s possible to purchase domains with other TLDs, like .co.uk, or .org, you’ll still need to own the .com to ensure someone else doesn’t jump in and steal your brand identity.
In most industries, customers have also grown accustomed to associating .com domains with established, credible businesses. This means you may want to consider using the .com ending for your domain if nothing else immediately jumps out as being the better choice.
Don’t be afraid to buy other versions of your domain name too, just in case you decide you might want to branch out in the future.
Look for any similar names
Once you’ve chosen your potential startup name, you’ll need to register your business in your chosen country, and any country you’re planning on doing business in. With this in mind, you’ll need to do some extensive research into the existing companies registered in your market.
You can usually search for names using the Secretary of State records in the US, and there are websites available for other governments around the world to help you do your due diligence too.
Remember, you’re not just looking for an exact match.
If your name is too similar to anything else on the list of trademarked titles, you may want to reconsider and choose something else. You don’t want your customers to end up confusing your brand with something else.
Consider your brand identity
Don’t try naming a startup company in a vacuum. As mentioned above, a startup name is one of the most important parts of your brand identity – but it’s also just one piece of the puzzle.
You need to ensure the title you choose works together with every other brand asset you’re creating to send the right message.
Think about the logo you’ll be able to create based on the title you choose. Do you need to choose something shorter to make a wordmark possible? How will you convert your logo into a smaller scale if you want to create a smartphone app or something similar?
Think about how your name conveys your brand personality too. Is the title you’re choosing going to have the right emotional impact on your audience?
Say it out loud, and ask for feedback
Sometimes, you’ll need to experiment with your name and look at it from multiple different angles to ensure you’re really having the right impact.
Don’t just look at the name written down. Think about how it’s going to look when placed into a domain URL, and how it’s going to sound spoken out loud.
The name should be easy to pronounce, and it should naturally roll off the tongue. If you’re concerned people aren’t going to know how to pronounce your name by just looking at it, this could mean the title just isn’t right for your brand.
It’s also worth taking some time to ask other people for their opinion on how to name a startup. While a name might look great to you, speaking to your existing customers or shareholders could reveal something you hadn’t noticed.
And remember, Amazon ditched the name “Cadabra” after a lawyer said it sounded too similar to “Cadaver”.
Good startup names: How to brainstorm names for startups
Unfortunately, finding a startup name isn’t as simple as typing “name for my startup” into Google and seeing what comes up online. Although there are various resources which might help you to get creative.
Tools like “VisualThesaurus” create visuals around a keyword, great for inspiration.
There’s also the option to experiment with name generators just to see what kind of terms come up when you enter a keyword, though we’d recommend avoiding these tools as the final solution for finding your moniker. Most name generators struggle to produce truly unique names.
If you’re still struggling to figure out how to name a startup following the tips we mentioned above, here’s some quick bonus guidance:
Check out existing names
If you’re struggling with naming a startup company, it’s often helpful to get some inspiration from existing brands. Take a look at some of the biggest startups in your industry and try to imagine how they came up with their name.
There are plenty of good startup names out there, like Aribnb, Square, Stripe, Pinterest, and Instacart.
Try to ensure your startup name evokes a feeling, even if it doesn’t directly tell customers what you do. For instance, the name “Robinhood” naturally makes us think of someone giving wealth to the poor.
Check for auditory appeal
Make sure your startup name sounds good. You want the title to roll off the tongue, so people feel comfortable talking about you. Aim for something under 3 syllables if you can, and check the title is easy to pronounce in regions around the world.
Speak to your audience
Rather than just looking at the name from your company’s perspective, step into the shoes of your target audience. Think about what your clients or customers would be looking for when choosing a company like yours.
Experiment with brand assets
Sometimes it’s a good idea to experiment with what your brand assets might look like for each potential name. Consider creating a mock-up logo or app icon for the name you choose.
This could help you to visualize your title from a new perspective, and determine whether it really has potential.
When all else fails, the best option is usually to get some extra help. A naming company or agency, like Fabrik, can provide some much-needed guidance when you’re struggling to find a title with real impact for your startup brand.
Mastering the art of startup names
Naming a startup company is a complex process which requires significant focus, attention, and creativity. If you ask anyone how to name a startup, they’ll often give you a huge number of different tips, from spending hours on brainstorming, to using word clouds.
However, the reality is, most startups have their own unique process for finding a name.
Don’t be surprised if your ideal name doesn’t simply “come to you” after you’ve chosen an amazing business plan idea for your company. Most names take a lot more work than many entrepreneurs realise.
The flexible nature of startup companies usually means that startup naming is particularly tough.
The most important thing you can do is treat your startup name with the respect it deserves. Don’t rush through the naming process or settle for a placeholder name because you’re keen to get your product or service into the market fast.
Remember, startup names don’t just differentiate your brand, they also help to attract the customers, employees, and investors responsible for helping your startup grow.
Fail to name your startup correctly, and you could be left stuck at the starting line.
Fabrik: A naming agency for our times.
We’ve made our name famous by naming other businesses.
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