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What's the story behind the name of your startup/company ?
25 points by Stasyan on May 5, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments
It would be interesting to know what influenced the choice of name of your company ? What other names were amongst the candidates and why they weren't chosen ? Is there a story behind your company's name ?

I was finishing up my last project and looking for something new to work on. I wanted a good name for it so I hit up ajaxwhois.com, where I spent a good ten hours over the course of two or three weeks looking for a good domain name for one of the projects I was considering (How crazy is that: I was letting the domain name availability decide which project I would pursue).

Frustrated, I wrote some software to scan for available domain names. Surprise suprise: some of them were not half bad. "Hey, I thought, some people might find this useful." I dropped the other ideas and started working on a new project:


The name -- Domain Pigeon -- was discovered using the software I originally wrote to find available domain names. That same software found the 90,000+ domain and Twitter names that are currently listed on the site.

On an unrelated note, a decent percentage of people that search for Domain Pigeon on Google misspell it: 'Domain Pidgeon' (like fridge or ridge)--stupid French etymology. I also own and redirect people from domainpidgeon.com because of that hiccup. I admit its a little ironic that its a somewhat difficult domain name... :)

+1 for domainpigeon, its awesome.

+1 for pclark for his neverending kind words

(domainpigeon appears to be down?)

Ours is a tale of the sunk cost fallacy. Back in 2006, we started working on a social network aggregator called BlueSwarm that was very similar to FriendFeed or SocialThing. We originally called it BlueSwarm.org, because the .com was taken, but just before we launched in Summer 2007, we bought the .com, paying way way more than we should have. Stupid. Anyway, the launch went OK, but after awhile, we realized that the space was crowding fast and it was a difficult idea to monetize, so we put it on the back-burner.

Meanwhile, we launched a little side blog called MightyBrand that covered personal branding through social media. We posted there occasionally, but not much. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment ideas you do on a weekend that gradually lose steam over the next few months.

In early 2008, we decided to take the codebase from BlueSwarm and re-purpose it to be a social media monitoring platform for brands. This is where the sunk cost fallacy comes in: because we paid so much for the BlueSwarm.com domain, we really wanted to use it, so our social media monitoring platform for brands and companies was also called BlueSwarm. We went through these mental marketing gymnastics trying to relate it to what we were doing: "Who's swarming around your brand?" We launched an alpha prototype under BlueSwarm and applied to YC as BlueSwarm.

Finally, about six months later, we realized that it probably wasn't the best fit, and it suddenly dawned on us that MightyBrand was actually a pretty good name for what we were attempting to do, and would grow with us as we expand because just monitoring. So when we launched our public beta in Jan 2009, we had completely re-branded as MightyBrand.

PS - If anyone wants to buy BlueSwarm.com, .net, and .org, email me. :)

You should try to sell BlueSwarm.com to the Columbus Blue Jackets :)

Some angel investor who wanted to cut a check couldn't spell the name of the company right, so we had to change the name of the company to the misspelled version and live with it forever. It was a disaster! Watch out for bad company names!

That's a real bummer. Maybe your company should save up cash to buy googol.com and fix the situation.

names are mostly irrelevant. domains however, are not.

Make sure you get the .com, make sure you get all the typos (if you haven't bought ~10 domains you're doing it wrong).

Avoid stuff like "getx" (getdropbox) no one remembers the get and that'll piss users off, you'll also have to deal with dropbox.com being a competitor/spammer/something bad down the line.

If you can get a name that vaguely tells what you do, awesome. If its clever, awesome. Be wary of long names - we love Broadersheet, but it is rather long. We'll see.

Don't do the d.o.t thing, its lame, annoying, hinders your audience, maybe even hurts your SEO. Yahoo bought delicious.com, and note the techy audience initially.

I have this belief, you know you've found a great name (eg "how about z?") when you then type z into a domain checker and the .com is available -- I take that as a sign of yes!

All agreed... I still have no clue why 37signals settled for basecamphq and campfirenow. Terrible domains. And agreed with dropbox. If I ever want to check out dropbox, I now need to google for it, or try to decide which sub-optimum domain they're using.

Surprise, basecamp.com has adsense at the top, which includes an ad for basecamphq.com. Same with dropbox.com. That's silly expense.

There's tons of great domains not taken out there. Don't believe any of the domain whores who tell you "Premium 4 letter domains like srxq.com usually go for 4 figures". There's a large range of even 4 letter .com names available for the reg. fee.

Just sit down for a day with a domain checker, and find something easy to say and spell, which isn't taken.

I did that a year and a half ago and decided on mibbit. I still like it enough :)

I agree about the importance of having a .com domain, but it's still rather unfortunate, since I can only presume it's the primary cause of all the obnoxious nonsense-words we see as Web 2.0 company names.

Flickr, digg, reddit, pownce, frappr, tumblr spring to mind as a few high-profile example.

Isn't DropBox's success evidence that domains don't matter that much?

I suppose they are mainly download software, and not a destination site. Also, the site can be reached from the desktop with a direct link.

how many users were put off by the domain (eg, couldnt find it / signed up to wrong service)? Answer: you don't know, but you can guarantee at least 1 was.

I'm sure you're right, that users like it less. But you can't say a good domain is requires for success, given theirs.

certainly not, but a bad name can restrict success.

From my post here: http://www.greaterscope.com/blog/2008/11/11/intentional-soft...

Back in 2002 I thought of "Intentional Software" as a company name. It was supposed to imply that we wouldn’t be creating haphazardly designed products. But then again, I'd only been coding for a year or two at the time, which doesn't seem like enough time to be doing anything other than haphazard development.

All of that is beside the point, because Charles Simonyi came along a few years later and started a company of the same name. He was born well before me so he had a killer head-start. Plus, as the originator of "hungarian notation", he knew how to not program all willy-nilly.

My ideas for a company name progressed, especially once I stopped using the space bar. Out came "Greaterscope" as a possibility. The encapsulation of optimistic, forward-looking, expansive ... a chord was struck. Or rather, a saw was wobbled to make a sound. But don’t worry, the saw’s teeth are clean. (Yeah, that was a stretch, but I had to reference Scope mouthwash somewhere, since you probably thought of it upon seeing our company name)

My criteria:

1. Acceptable

2. Trivial to spell and pronounce for target audience (and from lacker's comment, I suppose investors too)

3. Unique enough to be the top result when searched by name

4. No existing trademarks

5. An intelligent answer for how the name is associated with the product

6. Unregistered .com

I try not to spend more than a few hours brainstorming names because it's an endless process. The product should define the name, not the other way around.

Use a name that doesn't mean anything.

It will violate the branding law that a name should impart some sense of what the product/service does, but I think it's worth sacrificing that dogma in favor of having a name that: 1. Will derive a decent Google search without having to fool with any SEO stuff. 2. Work internationally. 3. Will be distinctive. 4. Will provide the flexibility you'll need as your product/service evolves over time.

After wasting a ton of time trying to come up with a name, we took the first letter of four key words that were relevant to our software, stuck them in to scrabble dot com, got some suggested words, one of which was pithy and sounded OK, and then stuck a 'x' on the end to make it unique.

The dot com is easy if it's made up.

Our (Leah and Dylan Higginbotham) company is called HugaMonkey. We make and sell baby slings! When we decided to start the company we knew that it would start out online and have a strong ninternet presence. We brought my buddy (Clint Eagar) along because he had created and sold an internet business before. Clint and I spent several days coming up with different names that might convey a baby sling in use. As we came up with the names, we'd check to see if the domain was available. One after another, our clever names (wraparoo, cuddlebug, etc...) were shot down. We got on a "huga" kick with hugakid, hugabug until we came to hugamonkey. It was funny and memorable. Luckily the domain was available, so we snagged it. It's a great name because people laugh when they hear it and rarely forget it!

Ours is "Tjetter" (http://www.tjetter.com), which is "Chatter" spelled phonetically in Dutch.

We really wondered whether this would be a good idea, because I'm guessing it's practically impossible to pronounce 'tjetter' in English (is it not?).

Now that you've explained it I can see how its pronounced. But honestly I would have thought it was "tee jetter".

I like the local flavor though.

Thanks for informing me about how americans (you are, right?) interpret the name.

We'll see whether this will hinder growth in any way. I hope not ofcourse :)

Yes, I am American. I suppose by assuming you'd know I highlighted that quite well :)

Heh, nice idea, the eavesdropping is funny: http://www.tjetter.com/#3jsK

If you were to pronouce this name to me (an american) and ask me to type it in, I would probably do this - cheddar.com

I recently went through the process of choosing a name for my current project (http://www.webalon.com/gamemanager/). The site is aimed at the casual gaming market. This is a pretty crowded area, and most of the good names - game.com, player.com... - have long since been taken and even average names like - playfire, casualgames, gameking, playhub etc, etc - have been snuffled up. Choosing a name was always therefore going to have to be a big compromise, determined to a large part by what was available.

In cases like this, when most of the best names have already been taken, I find that a thesaurus is invaluable in coming up with a half decent name. My project is a rich interent style app for creating and managing a library of online games. Think iTunes for online games. So I was looking for a name that would capture the ideas of both collecting and playing. Scouring the thesaurus, I came up with a few different words for collections, and eventually drew up a list of potentual urls. This was then whittled down significantly to remove names that had already been taken.

This left me with the following:

playheap.com playhoard.com plather.com (play and gather) plhub.com

To be honest, none of these got me particularly excited. I could live with one of them, if I had to. But ideally I would like something a bit more interesting. So back to the thesaurus, this time looking at alternative words for playing or gaming. This eventually led me to the word: gambol, which means 'to leap about playfully'. That's quite a nice word. It has a pretty cool meaning, and even better it starts with the first three letters of 'game'. On the downside, most people probably won't know what the word means and it also sounds a bit like gamble.

But as I said at the start, choosing a name was always going to be a big compromise. I was never going to get my ideal name. Unfortunately, gambol.com was taken. Back to the thesaurus, then. Wait a sec. Why not stick an "io" on the end. It worked for "tr", after all!

So there you have it, my chosen name for my new project: gambolio.com

Our company is named Illuminati Karate, which arose from an MF Doom (as King Ghedorah) song, "No Snakes Alive."

We wanted something memorable, rhyming, and catchy that we could own in Google and get the dotcom. We also liked the themes of higher knowledge and discipline the name implies.

We've been in business for a few years, and if I had it to do over I would probably choose a different name. That said, I started my business with one of my best friends, and a big part of the spark that got it off the ground was our desire to do something different. So in that sense, a ridiculous name like Illuminati Karate captures the spirit that started the enterprise.

Regarding domains, Google my company's name. There's a pretty good story that will come up.

He 'wrote the book on Rhymes, a Note from the Author.'

Good choice!

Thanks, I appreciate it. Madvillainy is a classic.

Some of our customers at FreshBooks remember use from the days the product was named after the company name: 2ndSite. That name has all sorts of problems, not least the website (http://www.secondsite.biz/) so at the top of 2006 they decided to rebrand.

Well, that's putting it lightly. They actually murdered the brand:


For those of you curious about how we chose FreshBooks as the new brand, Mike wrote all about it in ThinkVitamin:


P.S. Pro tip: .biz is not .hip. ;)

-- Sunir, Chief Handshaker, FreshBooks

My company's name is a play on words and also deliberately begins with A to be near the front of alphabetical listings, but this has also backfired in that I had to go first on two recent pitching sessions.

My product's name, I'm not sure about. It seems to stick in people's heads, and is a combination of a term that describes what the product does and a number, so we could get the .com. (The number's relevant to the product as well, but I don't really like the complicated name that results.)


Bought workpost.com in 2003, intending to turn it into some kind of work / labor-related site (a place to find and post work etc.). Years later, we're finally doing something with it.

Even back then, it was not particularly easy to find a good domain name..

My new company is called Monkey Wrench Games.

We liked the idea of "mixing up the games industry", and my co-founder had a cool idea for a logo. Oh, and we'd tried 100 other names, and they were either all taken or not-quite-right.


Cool logo!

HAHAH Thanks!

LeraoSoft. Lerao is an alternate name for Yggdrasil or the Norse World Tree. We chose this based off of philosophy and it sounds not too bad. Also gave us some excelent project names, including Mimir. Too bad that Mimir is a Database... wish i knew that before o-well.

patternWare - 1990s company, Smalltalk Application Frameworks. The name is in "camel-case" as any cool Smalltalk company should be. Later we rewrote the frameworks for Java and the name continued to fit.

eunum - 1999 dot-com start-up. Name came from the latin "e" and "unum". I got the words off a dollar bill sitting next to my PC after a late nite of searching for a domain name that wasn't taken. eunum was about convergence between client/sevrer and web-centric interaction. This would later be called "rich internet applications".

ShellShadow - current company. I like the alliteration and thus far I've never had to spell the name for anyone. I'm still quite amazed that my first choice was available.

[perhaps nsfw link (adult novelties, etc)]

We wanted to sound racy and to be non-graphic and originally had racytoys.com before we obtained http://racy.com last year.

Talldude Networks, LLC. - I'm 6' 10", and really am a "tall dude". After hearing this for years from other people - "man your a tall dude", I thought it was appropriate ;)

I normally pick the names of my projects randomly. But the names in some sense describe the essence of the project. If its an outstanding name it will definitely stick.

when creating a brand i'm always inventing a new word, a new name.

it's the best part of the whole venture, it takes time, lot of dreaming and skipping to the real word but the final feeling is fantastic: cathaia, smuff, kobi, mushka ...

all names have the story of the business behind them + made to be remembered immediately in their context:

cathaia was an ai r&d company, smuff is a gadget & gizmo webshop, kobi is personal finances and mushka is a private fashion store

After watching the movie Sunshine, I got the name for my company IcarusONE

It's a palindrome and I'm going to use it as a document mirroring service, not finished yet so not posting the name.

One Black Bear We drank lots and somehow a name came from the session. I Highly recommend it, it seems to be well liked.

Wiggio.com - we strive to provide the simplest platform for people to Work In Groups (hence the W.I.G.)... the G.I.O. was added to make it sticky

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