Joel Gascoigne

Startups, life, learning and happiness

I'm co-founder and CEO at Buffer. This is where I share lessons I'm learning.

How to name your startup

Written on 11th August, 2012
Comments

Choosing a name is one of the parts of a startup I find the most difficult. It’s also something you can easily get hung up on. We all know that the key thing is to move on to actually building something we can put in front of users.

Here are 3 steps I would take if I was naming a new startup:

1. If you can, stick to 2 syllables

Often constraints are good when undertaking a creative process like naming your startup. One of the best constraints I’ve found with startup naming is to try to stick to 2 syllables. It’s something I remember talking about a lot with my previous co-founder and good friend Oo. Generally following this rule results in a great name. Just look at some examples of 2 syllable names:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • DropBox
  • Pocket
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • HipChat
  • Sparrow
  • Tweetbot
  • Reeder

All great startups. There are always exceptions to any rule, but I find it much harder to think of many successful startups which have names of more than 2 syllables than those with names with 2 syllables. There are some great single syllable names too, but that’s even harder:

  • Square
  • Path
  • Box

2. Make it easy for yourself

I used to try to be very clever about naming my startup. I’d try to combine words in a smart way and come up with something really catchy that sounded great.

Unfortunately, I’m not the most creative person. I have a good idea from time to time, but they happen much less frequently for me than some other people I know. For example, my co-founder Tom is really great at thinking of short, clear names like Skinnyo, SlideReach or Quotespire.

Therefore, since I don’t have that creativity, I take a slightly different approach. I simply think about a real word that describes the service or a key feature of the service the startup will provide. This is how I arrived at the name Buffer.

I also like the “real word” approach for a couple of other reasons:

  • You’re more likely to end up with a name that can be “spoken” without confusion. I can assure you it’s not fun to spend the years on your startup having to always clarify the name.
  • It’s much easier to stick to the 2 syllables rule if you’re using a real word rather than combining words to create a new one.

3. The domain name doesn’t matter

I see many, many founders limiting themselves with the domain name. One thing I’ve learned and embraced with naming my own startups is that the domain name doesn’t matter at all. The name itself matters much more than having the same domain name. Pick a great name, go with a tweaked domain name.

My current startup is named Buffer, but the domain name is bufferapp.com.

My previous startup was named OnePage, but the domain name was myonepage.com.

The most interesting part is that having a matching domain name seems to have no bearing at all on whether you will succeed with your startup. Chris Dixon said this recently:


Just take a look at all these successful startups which either had a temporary domain name, or which still have a different domain name to their name:

  • Square was squareup.com
  • DropBox was getdropbox.com
  • Facebook was thefacebook.com
  • Instagram was instagr.am
  • Twitter was twttr.com
  • Foursquare was playfoursquare.com
  • Basecamp is basecamphq.com
  • Pocket is getpocket.com
  • Bitly was/is bit.ly
  • Delicious was del.icio.us
  • Freckle is letsfreckle.com

Pick a great name, then add something to get a domain name. It really doesn’t matter all that much - whether you get the domain later or don’t. Then get building!

How did you think about naming your startup? Did you have a different approach? Or, are you going through this process now? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

blog comments powered by Disqus