How to come up with good startup names?

Naming a product

A name can’t be expected to say everything, but it can suggest something about your brand, in a way that activates the imagination. A terrific way to use “the power of suggestion” is with a symbolic word or metaphor that implies comparison. SUV names are great examples. Explorer, Expedition, Yukon, Denali, and Wrangler all suggest rugged outdoor adventure.

Cleverly coined (invented) names can be beautifully suggestive, but the trick is, you don’t want your name to sound forced or unnatural. Standout examples are Carbonite, Groupon, Pinterest, and the Baconator.

Getting the domain name

For the first 12 years it was paving the road to the future, Tesla did not own Tesla.com. If had you typed “Tesla.com” into your web browser, you would have landed on a website that was (pardon the pun) “parked” and proclaimed “This site is owned by Gandi.net.” Tesla got around the roadblock with the domain name TeslaMotors.com.

Many successful online brands launched their businesses with a different domain name before they had millions of users:

  1. Facebook (thefacebook.com)
  2. Dropbox (getdropbox.com)
  3. Square (squareup.com)
  4. Basecamp (basecamphq.com)
  5. Box (box.net)

Take Aways

1. Want a name that conveys that your business is well established? Try words that symbolize strength, power, or longevity. For instance, companies named Oaktree, Life Force, and Ironwood sound rock solid. 

2. Compound coined names such as LinkedIn, Face-book or PayPal work well, although those particular company names aren’t especially exciting unless you were an early-stage investor.

3. Don’t start the naming process at a domain registrar such as GoDaddy. That’s backward. Begin by creating your brand name, then find a domain name. 

4. If an exact match domain name isn’t available, you can find a creative workaround instead of dismissing the name entirely. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk took that route. How did it work out for them?

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