Aug 09 2012

What's in a Startup Name?

Google, Twitter and Apple are worth millions today, but they all started out as scrappy startups with quirky names.

When people set out to build a business, one of the hardest tasks they encounter is settling on the company name.

One common tendency is to create a company name out of two words. Take Microsoft, for example, which is a portmanteau of the words “microcomputer” and “software.”

But be careful what you decide to put together. The story of Analtech is a lesson for all companies, as the origin of the company’s eyebrow-raising name has been the result of endless queries for the chromatography company, as they stated in a blog post in 2009. Here’s how it happened:

The company was founded in 1961 as Custom Service Chemicals. In 1964, the company paid a marketing firm (that shall remain nameless) to come up with a different name. They said, "Well, you guys do Analytical Technology - why don't you put the two words together and call it 'Analtech'!"

And, here we are, nearly 50 years later — with the same name.


The company ended up with a bit of a compromise. Since they’d been in business for 50 years, the brand had built a following that they didn’t want to lose. But they did decide to change their domain name to ichromatography.com.

The Young Entrepreneur Council asked its members how they went about deciding on their company names. The advice was pretty mixed. Some thought quirk was great, while others didn’t.

Laura Roeder, founder of social media agency LKR, advises startups to go for phonetic, so people can quickly search for it after hearing it.

"Crazy startup names and quirky misspellings have become quite a trend, but it's frustrating for consumers. No one wants to have to spell out the name of a business every time they talk about it. Make your business name phonetic so that people will be able to Google it from hearing it out loud."

Steven Le Vine, CEO of grapevine pr, is not a fan of witty company names.

"Although you'll see lots of stores and brands with cheeky, pun-ny names, it is important to stay away from that. This is like getting a tattoo that seems good at the time, but you'll later regret. Think about some of the leading brands; some of these are simply names or just one bold word. Keep it simple by boiling it down to its essence. Brevity is appealing, profound and confident."

Logan Lenz, founder of music marketing agency Endagon, offers a useful tip: Start with a good dot-com domain first.

"In the case that you are struggling to come up with a memorable branding identifier, work backwards and start researching domains that may or may not be available. Use a domain suggestion tool like Nameboy to come up with ideas. From there, pick a strong .com that makes the most sense. Then, brand accordingly."

What was the naming process like for your company? Painful or pleasant? Let us know in the Comments section.