… just don’t call me late for dinner

Naming a company always sounds like a fun idea until you’ve tried it once. Today’s post by Dustin Dolginow reminded me how much I hate the exercise of naming a venture.

Hello, my name is dumbassI’ve lived with some spectacularly ill-monikered ventures, and with the pain of trying to get their names right. At one of my earliest ventures, we held an in-house contest to rename the company. The guy who suggested that and picked his own entry as the winner still has a contract out on his life. At another place, a co-founder was smitten with a name that was almost literally a synonym for invective. At a third, the name sounded like Elmer Fudd trying to describe how mad he gets when Bugs Bunny outsmarts him for the umpteenth time – “I was Wivid!”.

Those were other people’s mistakes. Surely I could do better left to my own devices. No. At my only solo company-naming try, I came up with a bad synonym – Diabola – that was also a lame attempt at cute/clever/inside-joke. Don’t do it.

The name of my last venture, ROAM Data, was our CEO’s idea long before we even started the company. While it’s boring and remotely suggests horrid telco billing it remains at or near the top of the list for best company names I’ve been associated with. Boring works, mostly because it takes the issue off the table.

Remember, you’re going to have to say this 100 times a day for the next five years. Imagine saying “ROAM Data” to 100 people. Do you feel like an idiot? Nope. Did people have trouble with it? Nope, except for the 15% or so who need to know whether it’s ROAM or Rome. 15% spelling errors you can live with. Now imagine saying Wivid, or Diabola to the same 100 people. Do you feel like an idiot? Kinda – you probably apologized and made a joke out of it maybe half the time. The other half of the time you rolled your eyes. Did people have trouble with it? Umm, yes, at least all those who weren’t so distracted by the eye-rolling that they didn’t even try to remember it.

The other thing to remember about the name game (and this is where I disagree a bit with Dustin) is that you’re usually naming two things – the company and the product. The company name you’ll probably keep for a long time, but the product will get renamed, rev’d and replaced by follow-on products each of which gives you the opportunity to do something that isn’t boring. So if you have a boring company name you can live with it forever while your product can get the professional branding treatment it deserves as you can afford it.

Maybe you’ll think on it a bit, have lightning strike and come up with a name that’s short, easy to remember and evocative of the product function like Sonos. And maybe the Pope will stop shitting in the woods. If you’re name-challenged like I am, the choice is between boring and awful, so go with boring and take it off the table. But if you’re determined to get it right the first time, follow Dustin’s roadmap.

What’s the God-awfulest name you’ve had to work for?

About JR
Software guy, startup guy, non-fiction glutton, south shore inhabitant

5 Responses to … just don’t call me late for dinner

  1. Ann Brady says:

    “Take Us With You” pronounced “tew-ey” was the product when Netcontext changed to Lumapath.

  2. Pingback: It’s the little things … | Pointy-Haired Startup

  3. Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would
    love to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my audience would appreciate your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  4. Pingback: One Glasshole’s Timeline | Pointy-Haired Startup

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