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Choosing a Name for Your Startup

Choosing the name for your corporation is a really big issue not to be taken lightly. If it’s successful you may be stuck with it for a long time.

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

Choosing the name for your corporation is a really big issue not to be taken lightly. If it’s successful you may be stuck with it for a long time. I’ve come across real crazy names in my career that do little for the business except create confusion. You don’t want your choice of a business name to dominate news of your company over the next few months.

A business name can be location specific, branded to the owners, trendy, unique, nonsensical, specific to the industry or product or none of the above. Considering how difficult it is to create a successful startup why make the process more difficult with a lame name?

One of my favorites is the ride share company – UBER! About ten years ago the name trended to mean something bigger or better, i.e. an uber yacht, an uber event; you get the point. In fact, the German word Über, (spelled with an umlaut), means “better, larger, or greater than.” How the ride share startup branded it is ingenious. The definition has been forgotten and replaced with the UBER Technologies brand.

Location specific names are great if that is your sole sales market requiring office visits but ‘Vancouver Management Consulting Services’ is a bit limiting to a world wide audience. My foot orthotics guys, Burnaby Orthotics & Mastectomy Services are perfectly named for my needs.

I’ve been running my management consulting business for a long time and have developed a reputation in both strategic planning and social media so it makes sense to use my name in my newco called, Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. While not overly creative, my partners are glad to ride my coattails if it gives us an advantage on the competition. Using a recognizable name is a good start to any company.

Keep it Familiar

Many founders like to name their business with something familiar to them. My Asian clients are particularly fond of this practise. How many ‘Golden’ restaurants or Win Win or Double Win Enterprises are there out there? Golden Bell restaurant may sound good for a Chinese food restaurant but doesn’t have the same impact for a petrochemical consultant. My engineer client wanted to be considered the North American educated consultant she is and in a very serious business like oil and gas, she knew first impressions are important.

We came up with Stonebridge Petrochemical Consulting giving an image of strength (a bridge of stone), longevity and Anglo Saxon for sure. Headquartered in Vancouver her business sounds like it has been around for years. WE figure the name itself was a major aspect of her business success over the first couple of years.

I see nonsensical names all the time. The owners see the name as wildly unique but most consumers see it as idiotic and confusing at the least. If you must explain the spelling and meaning of a business name every time you announce it you have lost people’s interest.

I’ve seen this trend as far back as 2008 with names like Kre8tv Technologies (of course, it’s out of business) but in 2013 things went full tilt crazy. Qustodian, a mobile ad platform in the U.K., saw themselves as the “custodians of people’s data. Qustodian was the closest available domain name!” This kind of choice is seriously flawed. How does one find them in any search?

Some companies tend to find that dropping vowels makes the company sound edgy.”Unbxd came about as a way to describe a school of thought that wasn’t confined to boundaries,” the founder said. “In a way, we wanted a name that had more to do with our vision than our product.” What? They must spend a fortune on sales people because otherwise how do you find them in the marketplace. Their investors, Eight Roads (formerly Fidelity Growth Partners) must have been into the same Kool-Aid.

Vancouver-based Riipen, according to their website is a recruiting platform for students “Connecting students, companies & educators through meaningful project-based learning.” Like most startups they assume everyone will remember their name and be able to understand what they do by reading through their convoluted website. Ahghg! They’ve gone through a few CEO’s who can’t generate traction past the name.

Stay away from Odd or Confusing Names

Ok, maybe there is a logical reason why these startups use odd names. Typically they are one-sku brands and maybe the thinking is that if they ‘create’ the brand that is so unique and memorable people will recall and differentiate the name from others. It is often just wishful thinking.

Techcrunch noted last year that names continue to be confusing, “you’ll find your mortgage through a company named Morty, refill your contact lenses with Waldo and get your cannabis news from Herb. (not to be confused with Bud, the startup that handles your banking.)”

A well-known Canadian bank, Scotiabank, started a subsidiary offering no frill online banking called Tangerine–what? Yes, you got it, named after a fruit or color depending on your viewpoint. Sure I’ll bank there – not! Does the name illicit people asking tell me more? I think not.

For a time, startups named their company after foods, first names, baby and animal names. I’m sure they will be memorable in ten years. Sure Apple made it but had a lot more going for it than Tangerine.

Startup names specific to an industry is a good choice. ACME Robotics gives a clear idea of the product or service the company delivers. Quite often names like this just won’t work in combination with each other. While ACME sounds so 1960’s Ziztel Robotics fails to hit any positive notes.

I get a laugh when I see how some businesses are hosted on the Internet. No one wants to use hyphens so they run the words together in the domain. This can be a problem too. A local Vancouver cab company MacLure’s Cab has Maclurescab.ca as its’ domain. I always read it as ‘…scab’ on the back of their cabs, Just look at celebrity agent search service Who Represents, which is hosted at whorepresents.com or Therapist Finder, which is at www.therapistfinder.com; yikes!

There have been some monumental name blunders in marketing history. British shoe maker Umbro developed a great running shoe in 2002 with the name Zyklon branded all over it. Zyklon is the German word for “cyclone,” so it is a sensible choice for a vacuum and a shoe. However, Zyklon Bis the lethal gas used in the concentration camps in the Second World War. Umbro apologized and renamed it. German company Bosch Siemens withdrew a trademark application for the name Zyklon for a range of home products, including gas ovens soon after.

As Zyklon illustrates, a bad company name will hurt you. My name, Bizzo, sounds like a made-up business name to some people- it’s really my name. Apparently, in Brazil, it refers to hookers. Oh well, I do little business in Brazil.

One needs to consider spelling, how it sounds, cultural differences and meanings and how others will perceive your startup by its name. Put a lot of thought into it because you may have it for a while. Don’t settle for less!

Gary is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc. in Vancouver. He has mentored over 1000 business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. His book, “Social Media Rockstar – Social Media Marketing for Entrepreneurs & Business”, is on Amazon.