Most startups begin with a good idea and a solid but novel business model. The beginning stages of your company’s development are no doubt full of arduous tasks, but coming up with catchy business names for your new startup stands out as one of the most challenging.
While you can’t force creativity, you do have control over how you approach the task at hand. Taking a logical approach can help keep your nerves in check and get the creative juices flowing.
1. Fortified Brainstorming
Arm yourself with a thesaurus, a whiteboard, and a drinking buddy/co-founder. This is totally beer-friendly work territory, and the less pressure you put on it the better. First, take an inventory of the words that describe what you are aiming to do, and then start looking for synonyms and word associations. Think of what your company is aiming to do and also how you want to make customers feel.
Try to get a good list of ideas going before you involve online resources like Thesaurus.com or UrbanDictionary.com. Another support line, and fellow startup, is Wordnik.com. The site has been gaining notoriety, and was founded to help bring words and people together. Once you have a decent list, try playing around with the words…
3 popular trends in startup nomenclature
- Playful misspellings – like adding an “r” instead of “er” (think Flickr)
- Word combinations or portmanteau (shout out to all you closet linguists out there) – combine words that evoke specific feelings or describe a particular function (Netflix or Pricechopper)
- Non-words – disclaimer this is advanced level naming. If you are really stuck, and company or service is really unique then you can start thinking of non-words like Google, Hulu, or Vimeo. The challenge is coming up with a non-word that somehow sounds like what your company does or wants customers to feel
3. Check Availability
Obviously you want to make sure you can get the URL for your company’s name, but you need to keep social media in mind too. After you make sure you’re not breaking any copyright laws, (by checking out the TESS system on USPTO.gov) you should also run a check on a website like CheckUsernames.com. This way you can see if the name you picked is available on the social networking sites that will soon be part of your marketing and outreach strategies.
Once you’ve gone through those steps, make sure that the name still has a good ring to it and stands the chance to stay in customers’ heads (remember word of mouth marketing only works if people know what to Google after the conversation). Run the name by people you trust (i.e. won’t steal your name or idea) and elicit honest feedback. Asking people that don’t really like you is great for getting brutally honest input.
The final stage of this process involves getting legal support in order to make it official. Shop around for a good lawyer who has experience with small businesses. This last task is a great way of gaging whether you and your bargain legal team are a good match. Once that’s squared away you can start thinking of which font you want to use for your new business cards.