Naming your Start-up

When we were naming our first child, I remember waking up in the night with a start. "We can't name her that!" I said to my wife. We were about to name our child Penelope Nicole and at that moment I realized she would be "Penny Nickle". Take that first-born child!

Naming your business is like naming a child. You are playing for keeps. You get all your branding, business cards and signage together only to find out it's the catch-phrase of a serial killer or Leo's new movie. It's easy to get caught in analysis paralysis, but at the same time there are oh, so many pitfalls.

Start with a general idea

When I was naming Avalon, I started out thinking there was some perfect name somewhere. Something really clever. Oh so clever. Layers upon layers of cleverness. But I am not clever. I am mundane until you get to know me. I am an acquired taste. So I changed tack. 

I wanted generic. Like Wile E Coyote Acme Catalog generic. A good friend of mine threw some generic names around, but it never felt right. "Too generic!" "Not generic enough!" I would know it when I heard it. We were on the right track.

Go Deeper

The idea of a generic name is obviously not new. Look at Tomato, for example. What's a tomato have to do with anything? Nothing, that's the point. Tomato means little to most people, but it's visually appealing and it may or may not have some meaning to the people who created the brand; it doesn't matter. The point is that there should be some deeper understanding of why you are choosing your name. Design, back-story or whatever - be clear in the deeper meaning of your name.

Do Your Homework (repeat)

When you have a name picked out, do some research. Google's a great place to start. Is there a similar business with a similar name? If so, where is it? Are there immediate search results that would put you off the name? Do some research, but don't look too hard on them Interwebs. If you look hard enough you will find something that will turn you off the name. However, has anyone actually gotten to page 2 on a Google search result? No me.

Bonus tip: don't put your name into Urban Dictionary search. Every word in the language has some sort of connotation. Just don't do it.

Trust Your Gut

From my experience, there's no 'aha' moment. There are always reservations about the name you choose. At a certain point you have to move on. The name will take on a life of it's own. Little "Penny Nickle" has grown into her name quite nicely. (Seriously, could you believe an accountant calling their child Penny Nickle?)