7 Tips on Choosing a Company Name
A common question I get from early stage founders is “How do I choose a company name?” The follow-up questions are often “When should I choose a company name?” and “Can I change it later?” Great companies have changed their names multiple times, often for the better (AirBnb started out as “Airbed & Breakfast” and Stitch Fix was originally “Rack Habit”).
My main advice is to pick a name earlier rather than later so you can start envisioning your product, build a brand and have something better to refer to your product to early customers, employees and supporters other than “my company” or “the e-commerce website.” Names can easily be changed, websites rebranded and even legal incorporation documents can be revised to add “doing business as” references so don’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground and pick a placeholder name for your new company!
Here are 7 tips on choosing your first, second or third company name:
- Involve your entire team in brainstorming: Ask everyone to build a list of adjectives, adverbs and nouns that describe your product or service and write them down. Similar to design thinking, it’s helpful to encourage wild ideas while brainstorming by encouraging a large number of divergent ideas and then converging later to narrow and iterate on the best names
- Get inspiration from a dictionary or thesaurus: Open your online dictionary or thesaurus, pick your favorite letter & write down all the words you like. You can always go back later to curate and vote on your favorites. My cofounder preferred a name at the beginning of the alphabet so our startup would be at the top or near the top in every list so we spent a lot of time discussing names starting with the letter 'a'
- Research the word in different languages: Make sure you choose a name that doesn’t have a bad definition in another language. For example, the Chevy Nova means “no go” in Spanish which is a strange name for a car and could have been avoided with a little more research
- Confirm that the domain name is available on Namecheap or GoDaddy: While most common words are no longer available as a “.com” domain name, get creative to find other options such as “getxyz.com”, “xyzlabs.com” or “xyzapp.com.” If those options are still not possible, the expansion of top-level domain names allows you to get other popular urls including “.app” “.co” or “.so”
- Search for other companies in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store: Confirm that your new product or service is not already taken by a popular app in the app store. Clubhouse, an enterprise SaaS company, had to change its name to "Clubhouse Software" after the popular Clubhouse audio streaming social network launched in 2020
- Check for companies incorporated in Delaware or with that trademark: If you plan to raise venture capital or angel funding, many investors will want you to be registered as a C Corp in Delaware. Therefore, it’s important to check the Delaware incorporation website to see if another company has already registered the same name. While you’re doing that, you should also check the US Patent and Trademark Office to see if the name has been trademarked
- Test pronunciation and spelling with friends and family: Share your name options with your friends and family to see if they can pronounce your name and spell it correctly. If they cannot, it’s unlikely your future customers will be able to pronounce it or easily find your website so it’s best to choose another name
Choosing a company name is an exciting time for a startup founder. Naming a product makes it feel more concrete and is a great step toward starting to build your brand and market your business. With your fabulous new company name, you can start creating your company logo or hire a designer to help you build your brand. When you're ready, Alta can help you launch your mobile app with your new name and logo.