How to choose a name for your startup
Kitty Harris
Friday, March 18, 2016
6 min read

How to choose a name for your startup

I bet you thought naming your startup would be the fun bit. In reality, it can be a serious headache. From the moment you realise every name you ever wanted is taken as a domain already, the process can wear you down. The aim is to find something memorable and unique without sounding too pretentious, but this is pretty difficult (and gets harder when there is more than one founder that needs to agree). There are a few rules that you might want to follow when choosing a name, but essentially you have the go ahead to let your imagination run free.
 
If it feels as though it might be getting overwhelming and the same terrible ideas are cropping up again and again, then there are a few steps that can help the process feel less stressful and churn out a few word combinations that sound like success.
 
1. Stay away from lengthy and complicated names 
Keep it short, keep it succinct. There’s a reason why hugely successful startups have names that are 2, maybe 3 syllables max. Take the social media giants as an example – SnapchatFacebookTwitter (even Instagram is often shortened to ‘Insta’). You don’t want your name to get lost on the tip of a tongue as someone goes to the search bar, so making it short and snappy will keep it in the forefront of their mind.
 
Lesson learnt: make it easy to remember and quick to say so that your customer won’t forget it by the time they get home.


 
2. Get to the crux of your business
What is your business trying to do? Figure out some keywords that explain what you are all about and have a play around with them. Try working out the words that you would consider your umbrella words and then look for associations with those. For example, if you were a flower delivery company you might start with flower, petal, bouquet, florist, bloom and then veer off into romantic, botanical, elegant, beauty etc.
 
You can then steer towards either putting two words together that roll off the tongue well (SkyScannerBirchboxHeadspace) or go one step further and create a new word altogether (PinterestWowcherQuiqup).
 
Find alternative words using a thesaurus and work out what sounds good together. Say everything out loud and play with alliteration and rhymes. Be mindful of making it easy to spell as well as say.

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3. Avoid limiting your company
You might be inspired to name your business after the city it was born in. The danger with this is that your customers may not know your backstory and simply assume you only serve that area. As you (hopefully) grow you may want to expand out of your origin city and you really don’t want your name to hold you back.
 
Similarly remember that a few places in the world that share names, which can cause confusion and diverted traffic – your customers might be searching for your Scottish business PerthPainters in an effort to hire your services, and keep getting results from Australia.
 
4. Make sure it has meaning, but not too deep a meaning
Plucking a made up word out of thin air is a risky business for startups, as it requires a lot of targeted marketing to ensure your consumers link it to your industry. At the other end of the spectrum don’t try to be overly clever, to the point that you find yourself at every cocktail party explaining the reason behind your obscure Latin reference.


 
On that note, be sure to check the meanings of your name in other languages. Just like those tattoos of Chinese characters that actually say ‘loser’ rather than ‘love’, you don’t want your name to be mocked by internet users from other countries that land on your homepage.
 
6. Experiment with domain names 
As noted at the beginning of this post one of the trickiest obstacles to a great startup name is having your domain name already taken. This can be incredibly frustrating if you have gone through a long process of elimination already and found something that feels perfect. Nobody wants to choose their name purely based on what’s available.
 
If, after copious trial and error, you find a variation of your name which is available (for example containing a hyphen or with ‘UK’ in the domain) don’t just settle for it. Remember that if people are searching for your brand name you don’t want to be on page two behind toptraders.com, top-traders.com, toptradersuk.com etc.
 
For SEO purposes a .com domain is still the best option. This is mainly because .com is thought of as the ultimate authoritative domain extension and most people will simply type it in assuming your company has one. Lately though, other TLDs are becoming more popular and widely used (for example vsco.co) and can sometimes even serve a level of creativity. For startups, .tech and .biz are explanatory enough to work, but if you want to go really out there you could use something that matches your industry, for example .photo or .fashion or even complete your company name with the TLD (musical.ly).
 
7. Test it out

Pass on friends and family (who have probably heard a lot about your business idea already) and go for potential customers and investors. Find out whether they like the sound, like the look and get the right impression when they hear it. Go in with a few choices and let them pick their favourite.


 
If they don’t love it, don’t fret. Keep mixing up words and try again, and be prepared for small tweaks along the way. Remember Facebook was originally TheFacebook, and they have done alright.
 
8. When in doubt, just add ‘ly’, ‘ify’ or drop a letter
Why not? Worked for SpotifyGrindr and Contently.

BrighterBox connects smart graduates with great startups in London. Check out our employers page to hear more about hiring through us.

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