Notes on naming a tech-startup
In such a fast-moving and ever-growing sector, finding a great company name for a tech startup is becoming more difficult every day. And we think there are two big mistakes that many tech firms make...
Mistake 1: Following trends
Because it’s so competitive and noisy, it’s a sector that is most prone to initiate, and then follow, naming trends. This is no surprise – most tech startups are by definition focused on innovation and offering ‘the new’, so in a way it makes sense for their naming strategies to reflect contemporary thinking and fashions.
But this creates a problem: if everyone is fighting for attention using quite similar methods and naming constructions, companies start to blend into to a sludge. And this has been happening for a while now.
One of the most ubiquitous examples of these company naming crazes has been the use of the ‘.ly' domain prefix, like: bit.ly (now bitly – possibly the company that started it all, so not their fault); guard.ly; optimize.ly; quib.ly; apps.ly; sent.ly; find.ly; found.ly; strangelyfamiliar.ly
…OK we made that last one up, but you get the idea. Individually there’s nothing wrong with names like this, and the companies that use them might well be first rate operations with great ideas. The problem is that there are thousands more who look and sound just like them. It appears that the 'ly' fashion is now running out of steam, but there are lots of similar me-too trends, so the general problem of copycat brand naming shows no sign of going away.
Tempting though it may be to follow such default naming fads, sadly (or perhaps sad.ly) they topple the central pillar of branding - that of establishing differentiation.
If everyone in any given sector uses a group of similar brand name formats and ideas, guess what happens …none of them stand out, and they blur into one. Or maybe the one with the richest VC backer and marketing spend will get noticed, and the rest will struggle to get noticed and be remembered.
Following a popular trend is a great away to make your business invisible.
Mistake 2: The tendency to describe
The other tech business naming problem comes from the very nature of the people who start them. As the old cliché goes, people in this trade tend to be ‘left-brained’; they thrive on logic, and they approach and solve problems rationally. This is natural - after all, they work with code. It’s therefore also natural that they like their business names to describe, or at least hint at, what the company does. (This branding bear trap isn't unique to the technology sector, by the way - it's everywhere, and is covered in a previous Novanym post.)
This tendency-to-describe creates the same issue as following popular naming trends: everyone starts looking and sounding the same.
Although the technology sector might be vast, the lexicon of words used to name businesses in the sector is not.
Cloud / Data / Social / Hack / Meta / App / Bit / Ninja / Net / Feed ...we've all seen derivatives of these sorts of words and their synonyms utilised for naming countless tech startups. Again, individually there's nothing wrong with any of these words, and there are many great names out there that use them to good effect. But the problem becomes clearer when you look at the bigger picture of a sector that's shares a rather shallow gene pool of thinking when it comes to naming their companies.
A name that makes perfect sense, probably won't make a strong brand.
What's the solution?
If these are two typical traps that tech startups fall into when naming their businesses, what’s the solution? We’d suggest the answer lies in going back to some branding basics…
Although it can be useful to go through the normal naming process of building a comprehensive list of relevant keywords, and then try to create a name by combining combinations of words that resonates or seems appropriate, what everyone who’s done this discovers very quickly is that someone’s done that already. This is why the brilliant .com domain you really want isn’t available.
Finding business name ideas
So why not try loosening up a bit? How about being a bit ‘random'? What if you chose a name that wasn’t anything like your peers’ companies? What if you relaxed about trying to find a logical name that alludes to or describes what the business does?
And most importantly, be willing to stick your head above the parapet and get noticed - with a company name that displays a bit of confidence.
Here are a few example names that we think could suit tech startup businesses of various types. All of them have.com domains available, and none of them necessarily ‘make sense’:
These happen to be names that are available here at Novanym, but if you Google "brandable domains" you’ll find other brandable domain companies, each with their own approach to creating business names. (Just remember to avoid the 'trendy' domain names or the ones that sound too descriptive.)
There’s no guarantee you’ll find a new company name that you feel comfortable with for your own startup, but it might at least take your thinking in a new direction. After all, new thinking is synonymous with the technology sector.