Preferred Nomenclature


Words fail me. Specifically, they fail to arrange themselves in a pleasing combination that would make an excellent company name.
Choosing a name for your company is a weird process because it’s something you have to do very early, yet it’s a decision that you’ll have to live with for
years and years to come (hopefully). You need a company name to make real progress – to incorporate (or set up whatever legal structure you choose), to start getting bank accounts, a lawyer, and accountant, etc. Most importantly, I want to get it figured out so I don’t have to refer to “The Company” in this blog, which sounds terrifyingly Orwellian (or, more specifically, like I’m referring to the CIA)
Most other decisions at this point are pretty non-intimidating, if only because I know we’re not locked in. If we pick the wrong bank, we can move in a few months. Ditto for lawyers, offices, cities, web platforms. Yeah, it’ll be a hassle, but it’s doable. But changing the company name would be a huge legal pain at best and a complete marketing disaster at worst.
There are all kinds of considerations to take into account when picking a name.
First of all, everything great has already been taken. It’s either trademarked, or the domain has been taken by some squatter who is filling it with a whole mess of unrelated links, hoping to get some ad revenue from the gullible and the poor typists.
Even if you find something that’s not taken, you’ve got to consider the following
* Is it the right length? If it’s too long, it’s going to be a hassle to type and say.
* Will people be able to spell it when you say it out loud?
* Will your intended name be clear form the domain name? People don’t always read when you intend.
* Is it too specific? If you pick a name that refers to the type of software you plan to write – what happens in six months when you realize you need to pursue a different opportunity? You’ll feel pretty dumb for picking “SuperBlogware, Inc.” when you realize you want to transition into mapping software.
* Is there a good story? Ideally, we’d like a name that means something. There are a lot of Web 2.0 companies out there with seemingly nonsense names. Sure, it might be unique, but what does it mean? Anything? We’d at the very least be able to explain why it’s a good name in one sentence. It’d be even better if there was a clever anecdote explaining the history behind the name, but I can live without one in a pinch.
* Does the name has some alternative meaning that you won’t want associated with your company? This is the one that scares me. I keep worrying the name we pick will be some obscure British slang for a butt or mean “terrible investment” in French or something.
* And for the love of all that’s holy, let it not include the words “soft”, “web”, “net”, “code”, or “byte.”
Despite all of these hurdles, we’ve come up with a set of names we’re starting to warm up to. And as we ask friends and family to give feedback, the number one question is, “Wait, what does your company do? Shouldn’t the name be related to that?.”
The answer is: we’re not sure yet, and really, it doesn’t matter. I’ll deal with the first part in a future post, but as far as the second part goes, consider the following companies: Dell, Microsoft, Apple, HP, 37signals. None of those names really indicates what type of software is being written. And, for the reasons mentioned above, I’m wary of being too specific.
There will be a whole other round of name games when we try to name our product/service. And at that point, it’ll be very important to find a name that indicates something about the product/service.
But for now, I’ll settle for something thats relatively unoffensive and vaguely cool.
Update: I added more thoughts on explaining your potential names


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