Ideas and Validation October 26, 2020

Naming your startup/project can be hard! Some tips I've gathered throughout the years

Min Jun Kim @itsmnjn

Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/itsmnjn/status/1320842402014384128?s=20

Adapted below ↓

Naming your startup/project can be hard!

I know I've spent more time than I'd like to admit on it. But doing so has taught me a lot about what makes some of the "best" names work.

This is a quick list of tips on coming up with a solid name for your startup/project.

First thing's first, let's get all the boring stuff that you probably already know out of the way.

Like simplicity. The best names tend to be simple, aka 2–3 syllables.

Google.

Twitter.

Uber.

Facebook.

Amazon.

Lyft.

And oftentimes they're related to the company's focus. Twitter means something bird-related, pretty sure. Facebook used to be something like a book of faces. Lyft, well, gives you a lift to where you want to go.

But not all the time: Uber has nothing to do with cars, the Amazon rainforest has nothing to do with a mass-market superstore, and Google doesn't have anything to do with searching but ...

Good names stretch the imagination ... a little bit.

Google is a misspelling of googol, a really big number, kinda like the number of results that show up when you search for something. Uber is a German word meaning over, above, or across, and Uber the company tries to give you service that is over, above, or across the competition (mainly taxis).

And my favorite: Stripe. Stripe deals with payments over the Internet. What do you pay with on the Internet? A credit card! What's on the back of a credit card? A stripe!

So names don't have to relate directly. Often times, being too direct is too boring. Imagine if Google was named Search, or if Uber was named RideShare. The best names tend to relate "laterally" to the company's main focus aka slightly relate to something slightly related.

Internet payments → credit cards → stripes → Stripe!

Ride sharing → quality service → super service → Uber!

Really good names evoke a "vibe" that's on brand with the company.

My favorite example of this is Supreme.

Two syllables, slightly related to the business (cool af clothes), but also evokes a certain vibe: an air of superiority, exclusivity, and the utmost quality.

Another example is Louis Vuitton. Four syllables, but that's okay since it gives off an air of elegance, brilliance, and luxury. A little flair here is good.

Notice how my last two examples were highly rated fashion labels? It's because they really have an incentive to give off as much "vibe" as they can as that's really the only reason people buy super expensive clothes: to give off a certain image or to feel a certain way.

Last but not least, pronunciation is important, often more important than meaning.

Not only does a good name have to be easy to pronounce, but it should also be fun/interesting/on-brand to pronounce. Different syllables evoke different emotions either due to common word associations or language associations.

For example, Spotify as a word is meaningless. But it's both easy and fun to pronounce, and imo the sub-word "spot" is at least slightly related to "spotting" your favorite artists.

Or Tesla. It has a bit more relevance to its company compared to Spotify, but not by much. Nikola Tesla didn't make cars, but the focus of Tesla isn't really cars, it's energy. What really puts Tesla as a name above many others imo is that "-sla" syllable. It has this sense of speed and luxury, and the preceding syllable, the "Te-", has a sense of power, like a jolt of electricity!

In summary:
Good names are short, "laterally" related to the project, evocative, and have a fun/interesting/on-brand pronunciation.

Hopefully these tips gave you some guidance in picking a name for your startup/project. As you can probably tell, I love dissecting names, coming up with names, anything to do with cool names. If you want me to take care of it all: the name, available domain names and social media, check me out at https://dubbb.co

  1. 3

    I've used https://namelix.com to find a name for my product, but yeah, it takes few days to find something that you really like and of course, available.

    1. 1

      Ooh, that name generator seems a lot better designed than the ones I've found through Google search.

      Name generators trade quality for quantity, imo. They give you a lot of options, but they're all mashups of keywords without any thought into the keywords themselves. Perhaps with GPT-3 this could all change? 👀

      1. 2

        Self plug, but my project naminus.com lets you vote on the words you like / dislike, and tries to learn your preferences and tailor the results to what you're looking for.

      2. 2

        Yeah, GPT-3 seems to have some hidden talents :)
        I guess you've read the story about a GPT-3 reddit bot https://gizmodo.com/gpt-3-bot-spends-a-week-replying-on-reddit-starts-talk-1845305253

        1. 1

          I had not, pretty funny haha!

  2. 2

    Thanks for sharing, interesting. Something every founder should concern in the beginning.

    But that should not block you long.

  3. 2

    Agreed on good names being short usually. One of the reasons we changed our name from Budgithub to Pry(pry into your finances).

    1. 1

      Ooh, one syllable names are just the best!

  4. 2

    Great analysis. I really liked the post.
    I named my app SnapMob. Its crowdsourced paid photograph, anyone with a smartphone can be a paid photographer. I chose Snap for snapping a photo by the proverbial "Mob" (anyone in a crowd)
    https://snapmob.io/

    1. 2

      Love it! Simple, relevant, and cool vibe :D

  5. 2

    I like this guide to brand names:
    https://www.nickkolenda.com/brand-names/

    And I like to use https://relatedwords.org/ to find semantically similar words for the brainstorming process (which I'll sometimes throw into any one of those name generators).

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