The Startup Name Game

November 28, 2005

One of the issues that I find many startups struggling with (including my own) is coming up with a suitable name for the company.


Entrepreneurs often spend either too little or too much time on this area.  Too little is not giving it hardly any thought under the assumption that “it really doesn’t matter” (trust me, it does).  But, it doesn’t matter so much that you should go and spend thousands of dollars on a naming consultant.


In my past experience, I’ve come up with my own “rules of thumb” when it comes to naming startup companies.  Here they are in no particular order:


  1. The name should be clear enough to have unambiguous spelling.  No play on words or tricks with spelling.  If someone hears the name spoken, they should be able to know how the company name is spelled, without doubt.  Example, don’t use something like “SightSoft” (as this could be easily confused with “SiteSoft”.


  1. The name should be relatively short (so “Really Fast Computer Software, Inc.” is not a good idea).  Generally, the shorter the better.


  1. The “.com” and “.net” domain names should be available – without word games, hyphens, dashes or other “decorations” needed.  So, if your name is going to be LucidLeap, then you need to make sure is available (which its not, because I own it).


  1. The trademark should be available (check on  


  1. The name can be somewhat descriptive of what the company does (though many will argue that you want an “empty vessel” name that can be used for a variety of things as the company grows).


  1. The name should be easy to remember and convey some kind of clear “mental image” to those that hear it.


Generally, its really hard to come up with a name completely on your own.  I’ve often found it helpful to collaborate with a couple of other people (friends and family) as they will often come up with possible flaws in a name.  If you ever have a name you want to get some feedback on, feel free to email me.  I’ll give you an honest opinion.




Written by Dharmesh Shah

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