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Trying to name your startup? Here’s what one founder learned…182 bad names later

lessons-learned-startup-names

Tyler O’Briant, the co-founder of Kowalla wrote a great article about lessons learned from generating 182 bad startup names. The reality is, for any startup, coming up with a name is hard, and given that just about every name you can come up with is likely already taken, it’s probably harder than it has ever been.

While I don’t completely agree with Tyler’s entire article (sorry Tyler, you’re awesome and I like 98% of what you said!) there were some really solid words of wisdom that I think many founders can relate to.

Alec started working a demo he called “Actualizeur” earlier in the year. The name worked on a conceptual level. We wanted to build a place for people to actualize the projects in a community of like-minded builders. But it had it’s faults too. Mainly, I haven’t found anyone but Alec who could spell it correctly.

Actualiezer… Actualizr… Actualizer… Actualizur?

We launched into the process of finding a new name. We hoped to find another name-product match like we had with Actualizeur, but with a lower vowel-to-consonant ratio. (Source – ProductHunt)
The issue Tyler highlights here is a big one, and one that I think many people learn the hard way. When your name is a word that people might be able to guess how to spell…but you’ve spelled it in some weird way that only makes sense to you…that’s not a winning name.

The first startup I worked for (back when I was 15…yeah I’ve been in the startup world for a LONG time) was called Xaos Tools. Everyone I told our name to assumed it was spelled Chaos Tools…so literally, every single time I said our name, I would have to say, “Chaos Tools” but with an “X” to which I’d usually get a lot of confused looks and then I’d have to spell it out.

[ INSERT FACEPALM HERE ]

Another issue that Tyler highlights a really good idea that I think can help founders as they’re trying to land on a name:

Look to the fallen. CBInsights has been compiling postmortems of various failed startups since 2014. These post mortems are interesting reads, and while naming your startup they’ll help give you some insight into naming trends over the years. Kowalla’s name was actually inspired by Gowalla, a former Austin-based startup mentioned in this list. (Source – ProductHunt)
I highly recommend startups that are trying to figure out a good name read this article, it’s a good one. That being said, I did mention earlier above that I don’t agree with everything in the article. It’s really the end. Tyler ends by saying, “Then, buy the domain and build something great.”

This last sentence could be turned into an entire book. “Buying the domain,” is often a lot easier said than done. I wrote about this topic on Medium in a post titled, What Every Startup Founder Should Know About Buying Domain Names. Domain brokers like Media Options have also covered this topic in great detail. In short – it really isn’t as simple as coming up with a name and then just buying the domain.

Coming up with the name is freaking hard, so is buying the domain, it’s all hard, but as a startup founder hard is just par for the course. Thanks to Tyler for putting this article together, I really like it and it hit a lot of really good points that I think founders will enjoy now and for years to come.

What did you think of the article? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

I have decided to broker one, and only one domain name this year

As many of you know, I’m not a domain broker. In the past I have brokered a domain name here and there but for the most part I just buy and sell my own domains. Still, every once and a while I get connected up with someone that has a domain that is just so darn awesome that I can’t help myself. I don’t have a lot of additional bandwidth so when I do broker a domain, it’s just one domain, usually for the entire year.

This week a domain name crossed my path that is too good not to take on, so I’ve decided that in 2019 I will broker one, and only one domain name. At this point you’re probably wondering, okay, get to the point Morgan, what’s the name!?!?

chill

While the owner is in no rush to sell I am starting to field offers, this is a monster name and I am really looking forward to finding a company with a big enough idea and market to do it justice. There are many examples of companies that have acquired a one-word .COM and seen it as a massive game-changer for their business. Zoom recently acquired Zoom.com, and the story of the Candy.com sale at $3M is a great one, this turned out to be a small investment for the return it provided for the new owners.

If you are interested in this domain name or know someone who is please feel free to contact me directly. If you’ve been interested in me brokering a domain name, you’ll have to wait until 2020, 2019 is going to be a Chill year for me.

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