Starting a tech company is exciting, but there are dozens of factors you’ll need to consider if you want your startup to succeed. Much of your time brainstorming will be spent considering things like how to reduce costs, how to expand efficiently, and how to build the right team—but you’ll also need to consider the nature of your brand, including your business’s name.
What’s in a Name?
A business name may not seem like that big of a deal, but it can affect the future of your business in several ways:
- Identification. This is the name people will see when encountering your business for the first time. Is it clear how your business operates? Is it clear what industry you’re in?
- First impressions. What kind of feeling do people have when they see this name for the first time? If you aren’t careful, you could give people the wrong idea—and turn them off from your business indefinitely.
- Memorability. If your business name is long, complicated, or too unusual, people won’t remember it—and they won’t share your name with other people. Good names are “sticky” and easy to remember.
- Marketing opportunities. Your name will play a major role in your business’s marketing as well; it often dictates your choice of web domain, your search engine optimization (SEO), and almost all of your other marketing and advertising campaigns.
Accordingly, your choice in business name can have a massive impact on your odds of success.
Many new entrepreneurs simply don’t know where to begin. They may have thought up a few business name ideas on their own, based on instinct or loose inspiration from other businesses in the past, but they aren’t sure how to generate more ideas or how to narrow down the candidates for selection.
There are a few important ways to get started, if this is the case. First, start doing research on other businesses like yours. If there are any businesses currently in this space, what names do they offer? What features do these names have in common? What features seem to be missing? Write these down so you can reference them in the future.
You’ll also want to generate a list of business names you like, regardless of what industry they’re in. What is it that you like about these names? What kind of feelings do they evoke in you? Are there any ways you could change them for the better, or ways they could better fit your industry?
Next, make use of a tool like TRUiC’s business name generator. There, you’ll have the opportunity to enter a handful of words, choose an industry, and generate a plethora of available business names. Any of these could eventually serve as the name of your business, but for now, you should think of them as brainstorming opportunities.
Key Factors of Successful Business Names
There’s no surefire formula to define business names that are likely to be successful or unsuccessful. However, strong business names have a few things in common:
- Unique. Arguably the most important quality, your startup’s name should be unique. If it sounds too similar to another business, regardless of whether it’s a direct competitor or a business in another industry, it’s going to create confusion. This is why many startups have attempted to invent new words entirely, or modify existing words to make them seem more original.
- Short. In general, shorter names are superior. They’re simpler, they’re easier to spell, they take less time to write, and they take up less space in advertisements. They’re also harder to misremember or get wrong. That said, it’s also harder to come up with an idea for a short name, and they can be more expensive.
- Simple to spell. Lots of modern startups try to capitalize on a unique spelling or intentional misspelling of a word to make themselves seem more hip (or to get a brand name that would otherwise be very common). There are some advantages to this, but you’ll also want to make sure your business name is easy to spell. If people hear it for the first time, without seeing the word printed, they should be able to search for (and find) your business easily.
- Available as a domain. Speaking of searchability, an ideal business name should also be available as a domain. Domain names that match business names tend to be much more powerful, capable of attracting more traffic and reducing confusion among customers.
- Easy to write and say. Short, intuitive spellings will naturally be easy to write. But your business name should also be easy to say. If someone sees your business name in print for the first time and struggles to pronounce it correctly, you have a problem; you’ll also have a problem if the word is clunky or difficult to get out.
- Relevant to your industry. Ideally, your business name should at least partially convey what your business does. A name like “Lyft” is a unique spin on “lift,” a term that can be applied to giving someone a ride in a car. This isn’t a strict rule, but it can help you establish your industry with new customers early on.
- Workable into a logo. Most business names end up directly integrated into a logo, and other branding collateral. This is a step that often comes later, but you’ll want to keep it in mind when developing a business name. Does this name seem like it “plays well” in these contexts?
- Capable of evoking feeling. A good business name should immediately convey some kind of feeling or attitude. For example, can you tell from the outset whether this startup is more serious or more playful?
- Free from negative associations. You’ll also want to do some research to make sure this name isn’t associated with anything negative. For example, you won’t want to choose a company name that could be translated as a taboo word in another language, or one even marginally associated with a historical tragedy.
After utilizing research and brainstorming tools, and evaluating your work for the aforementioned qualities, you should have at least a short list of potential business names available. How can you narrow the list down?
You can work on this yourself, but it’s often more beneficial to seek feedback from external sources. For example, one option is to talk to a mentor, advisor, investor, or even another business owner you respect. Do these experts think your name is sufficiently distinguished? What was their first impression when they initially heard it? Can they think of any way this name could be misheard, misinterpreted, or associated with something negative? In many cases, you’ll find another person’s perspective illuminating.
If you have a few names that get the approval of your peers and mentors, the next step is gathering feedback from people who may one day be your customers. Ideally, you’ll work with a pool of a few dozen to a few hundred people within your target demographics, asking them how they feel about your name in context. Ask them what they like and/or don’t like about each name, and get them to be as specific as possible.
If people don’t seem to take well to your name, you may have to go back to the drawing board.
Finalizing Your Name Choice
Eventually, you’ll find a name that works well in every category; it’s simple functional, unique, and fits your brand perfectly. At this point, you’ll be ready to assign it to your business. Trademarking the name shouldn’t be difficult if it’s unique, and when that’s done, you can formally register your business in your chosen state of operations. From there, you’ll be able to experiment with the name by trying out different types of logos, different marketing angles, and more.