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How to Name Your Startup in 10 Steps

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Updated: 
January 9, 2022
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The name of a startup transmits a determined image and culture. That's why its election is crucial for the business.

But choosing a name can be difficult for many.

That's why we have written this short 10-step process to come up with a great startup name.

10 Steps to Name a Startup

Step 1: Understand The Psychology Behind A Name

The name of your startup speaks for you when you are not even there. What people think when they first hear your startup name matters. That first feeling they get, what they fist initially think of your startup when hearing or seeing the company name, and the things they associate with it matter immensely.

With any company or startup, you must understand that no matter what the name, there are going to be people who may think negatively about your startup no matter what. Having a minority of people not liking your company based off your name is nothing to be afraid of.

Don't be afraid of having somewhat of an edgy name if you are a rugged type of company that wants that to be easily identified. Though be sure not cross the line between a little edgy and controversial.


Step 2: Knowing What Not to Do

Before understanding what to do, you must understand what not to do. Here are the 3 main not-to-do:


1) Names that are Difficult to Say

The most vital rule when coming up with a name for your business is that your name must be simple to pronounce, spell, and remember.

If people have a tough time saying your name, then it’s most likely that they will evade saying it altogether. You should avoid using a confusing intentional misspelling in your name as part of an effort to be creative or unique. It’s very common for names with complex intentional misspellings to create more confusion than intrigue.

If you have a name you like, but you’re not sure if it’s the one, try applying the “crowded bar theory” to your name. If you were telling a friend the name of your startup at a crowded bar, is it easily understandable?

An example of a name that does not pass the crowded bar theory would be a hypothetical restaurant called Sam and Ella’s. This name could sound like salmonella when it’s overheard in a crowded bar, and it is equally undesirable and unappealing. Therefore, it’s essential that you double check that your brand name only has to be heard one time to be correctly understood.  

The best business names that are simple to pronounce and easy to spell are the names that potential customers are more likely to remember. When your happy customers share your business name with their family and friends, they will act as agents of your brand. Choosing a smooth, clean name makes the sharing process much easier for your customers.

2) Names that Aren’t Unique

While it is always essential to have a descriptive name that informs your audience about what your business offers, names that are too vivid end up being boring.

For example, Certified Office Stationery Items LLC is a very descriptive name. From the name alone, the audience has a complete understanding of the products the business sells. However, the name is not unique. It’s too descriptive, and that makes the name feel bland and ordinary. Titles like this one are outdated and can’t compete in today’s modern market because it will not interest or intrigue customers.

3) Long Names

Long names are problematic for many reasons. The cumbersomeness of a long name will turn-off many potential customers and clients because long names come with long URLs.

You should also think about possible social media handles you may want in the future for your brand. Twitter handles stop at just 15 characters, so make sure your name is short enough to fit or be abbreviated.

Step 3: Which is your Purpose?

If you haven’t already defined the purpose of your startup, you should start by spending a few minutes describing the ambition of your company and the promise to your consumer. It's a great practice to choose a name that's associated with your purpose and values.

If you haven't defined your purpose, maybe these two templates will prove useful to you:

  • We help A (Customer) do B (Problem) doing C (Solution). For example: We help email marketers create their newsletter emails by giving them a fully responsive and easy email design tool.
  • [Famous Company] for/of [New Domain]. For example: Airbnb for supercars, or, Tinder for dogs.

 

Step 4: Who is your Buyer Persona?

Defining your buying persona helps you understand your customers, which is something you must do before naming your startup.

To do this, try writing down on a sheet the following characteristics of your ideal customer:

  • Background and demographics: History, sex, age, role, company & income.
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Short, medium and long term goals.
  • Daily challenges.
  • Common objections and biggest fears.
  • Marketing messaging.
  • Elevator pitch.

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Step 5: Brainstorming Keywords

Write down a few keywords that can be associated with your startup. Then, start playing with them. Make variations, transform them and unify two of them.

It's recommended sticking to 2 syllables, as short startup names are more easily remembered. We only need to see some of the biggest company names worldwide to understand this:

  • Google
  • Apple
  • Sony
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

The union of two keywords can lead to an explicit or implicit name.

Explicit refers to a clearly expressed purpose of the company in its name. The perfect example is Facebook, which is confirmed by the union of keyword Face + Book. Implicit refers to a name that, only by reading it, people can’t imagine what the company is about. A great example is Tesla.


Step 6: Shortlisting your Names

Once you have a list of names that you like, it’s time to choose your favorite one. To do this, you can score your names on 4 different criteria. This is easily explained with a picture:

Startup Name Generator
  • Intuitive refers to the question: Is the name related to our business?
  • Visual refers to the question: How nice does the name look?
  • Sound refers to the question: Does the name sound good?
  • Emotional Value refers to the question: What do people think when they hear the name?

Furthermore, when selecting your favorite one, be sure to look at linguistics. Some people build a startup, choose a name and when their startup becomes an international company they discover the name means something offensive or prohibited in another country. To check if your startup name doesn’t have any issues we recommend a tool called wordsafety.

Step 7: Name Generators

For those people that are just indecisive and running into too many obstacles when coming up with a name, a simple name generator. These tools will suggest the best name possible based on the parameters you put in.

Luckily for you, we have picked our favorites to help you come up with a name faster.

  • Namelix: Generates branded, short names that are relevant to your startup idea or your business idea. Each time you save a name, their AI algorithm learns about your preferences and gives you better recommendations over time.
  • NameSnack: They make use of machine learning and the best naming techniques to provide you with memorable startuo names.
  • BrandBucket: This generator offers more than 50,000 names that are already made and ready to be used.


Step 8: Legal Validation

You will most likely want to structure your startup under an LLC or corporation; you will need to search at the secretary of state records to be sure your name will not be similar to other companies that are already registered. If the name is too similar to another business, the secretary of state may not allow you to register the name.  

If you are worried because you think the name of your company may be used in another industry, you can do a trademark search by checking out all the patents.

We wholeheartedly recommend you to hire a professional to guide you through the legal validation process.

Step 9: Ask your Audience, Family, and Friends

Name validation coming from your audience is essential as they won’t have any problems giving you critical feedback. An excellent way to collect feedback from your customers is with an online survey.

Testing the name with your friends and family is risky. But if you still prefer to do it this way, make sure they don’t have any problem telling you what their true feelings are about the name, and being honest if they don’t like it.

Step 10: Purchase the Domain and Register the Trademark

You have reached the last phase. Your startup is on the right track.

It’s time to buy the domain. Visit your favorite domain name registrar and, if available, purchase the .com, .net, .org, and any other domain you like. But if the .com is possible to use it as consumers are more familiar with them.

After this, register your company in all social media. If possible, register using the same name that you have chosen for your company.

And last but certainly not least, register the trademark for the company name. In some countries and states you can do this by filing an online application in only a few minutes and without the help of a lawyer. That can cost you between $250 and $350, and you will need to fill in the information required. But in other cases, you will need the help of a professional.

Startup Naming Case Studies

The Boring Company

The name comes from the idea Elon Musk obtained from living in California where the traffic is notoriously bad. He believed traveling underground through tunnels would be safer and faster than cramming people on a bunch of highways that are limited with the amount of people that can be on the road and the numerous safety hazards that occur every day because of that.

With the Boring Company, there is humorous and witty. When you hear you laugh a little inside and you cannot help but want to know instinctively what the startup does.


Brandless

Brandless is an e-commerce company that sells food, beauty supplies, and household supplies. In today's age, people are so used to brand names like Nike, Gucci, Apple, etc. But having a startup that's called Brandless without a doubt make you memorable.


Bodega

Bodega, or what it is now known as Stockwell, is a vending machine company. The name came from paying respects to corner stores that a lot of people grew up with. But their name as quickly seen as offensive ironically to the same people who found out about the company online.

When you have backlash, you must be quick to acknowledge what they had done wrong and not be like Bodega and wait ten months to address and eventually change the startup name. Founders Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan did not intentionally want to offend anyone but when you come up with a name you have to take in consideration if it may be seen as offensive to others in any way. Furthermore, you must understand what your name means in other countries as well. All countries have different sets of beliefs and customs, and you must take that into consideration.  


Wrapping Up

Finding the perfect name for your business can be a daunting task. There are many challenges and obstacles to overcome to see your business name.

Once you do find your business name, everything will feel more natural because you now have a name that you can be proud of and stand behind. One that’ll be memorable, easy to pronounce, and will hopefully cause shock waves in your respected market.

With the help of this guide, the exhausting and time-consuming task of naming your startup is now just a few simple steps away from being completed.

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