Your company name will be it’s first impression to the world, so it’s important. But it’s also hard because there’s no single right answer, there are many ways to mess up, and someone will always dislike whatever name you choose. Aim to find a name that’s memorable, unique, relevant to your industry, but doesn’t get in the way of future growth. While I cannot tell you exactly what to name your company, I can offer these precautionary guidelines to give your search some parameters:
Keep it short. Shorter is easier to tweet, makes for cleaner logos, and can be more vague, and thus flexible in how you apply it.
Separate the brand from the products. I made the mistake of naming my company after my first product. Power 20, the app, is a 20-minute workout you can do anywhere. At the time I didn’t have the vision to see that I was building an entire diet and weight loss company, and not just an app. I should have named it something more general. Rovio, for example, is the company, while Angry Birds is the product.
Avoid numbers in the name. I’ve learned this the hard way. My company, Power 20, is now burdened with the number 20 and I’m feeling the pain.
- Numbers are loaded with meaning, so people either make assumptions or just guess. Does it mean losing 20 pounds? Is it a 20 minute workout? Is it for 20-year olds?
- Numbers can constrict you. What if I want to do a 5-minute workout? “Power 20 5 Minute Workout” is just awkward.
- People will continually asked if it’s the number or spelled out “20″ or “twenty.”
Get a great domain name ending with .com. Even if you have a great name, you can lose out by compromising on the domain name. Awesome.com is far better that Awesome.biz, or even Awesome.ly, and you’ll see that companies that start with alternative domain names eventually buy the .com as well. Habits are hard to break, and most people still have the habit of typing .com. It’s muscle memory.
To find names, I use LeanDomainSearch. I also use GoDaddy‘s auction service, where many gems are available or soon to become available.
Don’t write LLC or Inc. on everything. It’s tempting to put your full legal name all over your website and products, but it’s better to leave off the “LLC” or “Corp” designations everywhere except contracts.
Only have one name. As a startup, you can barely afford to get people to remember your one name, so don’t try to launch with multiple products with multiple names. Don’t, for example, have one name for the consulting side of your business and another name for the product side. And if you are tempted to have multiple names, please re-examine your business plan, because you should be focusing on one plan at a time.
I recently launched Power 20, the fitness app, and simultaneously launched One Month Madness, the 30-day weight loss program. I’ve now gotten rid of the two websites, and instead just use one, called Power 20 Method.
Be aware of trademarks. Once you have a name in mind, check the US Trademarks and Patents Office to see if anyone else is using it. Under Trademarks, click “Basic Word Mark Search.” See which name is available. You’ll also want to check with the state you’re registering in to make sure the name isn’t taken there either.
Even if you get it wrong, you can always use a DBA. “Doing Business As” name can be filed with your home state at any time. It doesn’t cost much and can help you cover past mistakes. On contracts you’ll have to write “FullCompanyName LLC DBA GreatName,” but that’s no big deal. You can tell your bank about the DBA and then start collecting checks in the DBA name.