Naming a Startup Company in 5 Easy Steps
By Phil Davis
President of Tungsten Branding
With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.
Startup Company Names: 5 Quick Steps to Naming Your New Business
At some point, every new entrepreneur faces the same daunting question. “What do I name my new startup company?” For some, the business name is an afterthought, like putting the wrapping on a present. It’s the final touch on the actual package of goods and services. For others, it’s a life and death decision that determines the success or failure of the endeavor. The truth typically falls in the middle. Startup company names are pivotal to the success of new ventures, but the best company name in the world won’t make a bad business model work. So take a well deserved & relaxing breath, and let’s look at what it takes to successfully name a new business.
1. Make a list of the products and services you plan to offer as well as a description of how you plan to deliver them
(in other words your “secret sauce,” the attributes that make you special or different.) The list might include words such as IT, tech, consulting, web-based, storage, data, cloud, security, trust, innovative, leading, etc. Put down as much as you can about what you do and how you do it. These are the ingredients of your new enterprise, the what and how.
2. Divide the list into two columns – a “what” column and a “how” column.
Write down all the things you plan to offer in column one and how you plan to offer them in column two. Be sure to list them in order of importance. This will help clarify what you are really on point to do. Fill in the blanks on this sentence, “Our main goal is to do/provide/offer/specialize in ______________ (the “what”) by doing/serving/providing ______________________ (the “how”). For Tungsten Branding, we could say “We strive to create clear, compelling company brand identities by offering insight and clarity into the naming process.”
3. From the entire list of ingredients, choose the top three to five items that you most want to communicate in the company name.
Keep in mind that context will usually supply the information about what business you are in. Restaurants are usually on a restaurant row and don’t need to have that word in the name. And literal/descriptive words can always be added under the name. Save the valuable “real estate” of your name to communicate the “ish-ness” of how you do business. Do you use innovation, insight, precision, unmatched quality, customer service extraordinaire, dedication, commitment, expertise, reliability, etc? Take this list of three to five items and again prioritize them. Ask yourself if the what’s are really necessary for the name and if your business will ever expand beyond your current “what’s.” If so, build your company name on your “how’s” the way you do business.
4. Create an inventory list of startup company names based on this core group of services and attributes.
If your central theme, or pivot point, is based on speed and delivery, make a list of words associated with these qualities. These could be synonyms or metaphors. For example, speed could be communicated through words such as quick, instant, dash, fast, flash, pronto, presto, jiffy, zoom, zap, snap, etc. as well as metaphors such as jet, rocket, comet, lightning, bolt, rabbit, gazelle, cheetah, falcon, eagle, etc. Mix and match these words with what we call “tofu” words, such as point, mark, line, square, block, ever, works, etc. These tofu words take on the flavor of the word next to them and open up new possibilities by creating unique combinations. Famous “tofu” brand names include Priceline, VisionWorks, Safeway, and Cinemark. Descriptive hybrid mashups are brand names such as JetBlue, CarMax, Famous Footwear, Snapchat, and Instagram. Add some positive connotation words and you have names such as OnStar, BrightHouse, TruGreen, and DreamWorks. Other naming strategies include creating invented or coined names (Travelocity) or strategic positioning (Burger King.)
5. Distill down your startup company names list down to your top choices and run an availability check on them.
This includes checking both domain availability as well as trademark availability. A good place to search is DomainTools.com to see both the current and past status of a domain name. Check USPTO.gov for trademarks. Keep in mind that a company name is not necessarily available just because there is no exact match on USPTO.gov. For added assurance, obtain a comprehensive trademark report from a reputable trademark research firm, or better, have your attorney review and file for the mark. You can also do a Google search just to see what other companies may have the same or similar names, with the goal of being as unique as possible. By having ample “white space” around your company name, you create greater memorability and recall, two hallmarks of a good company brand name.
Naming a startup company can be a challenge but by following these five key steps, you can create all types of new company naming possibilities to communicate your core message. Don’t settle for boring & literal startup company names. Jumpstart your new business with a name that attracts attention and captures interest. With the right name, you focus on building both your brand and your business. And that’s a step in the bright direction!
About the author: With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.