June 05, 2020 / by Andrew Fisher
Way back in the mid-nineties, when the aw-shucks drawl of a charismatic Arkansan named William Jefferson Clinton was the reliable soundtrack of the nightly network news (which people actually used to watch!), one little known entrepreneur was casting about for a name for his new online retail business.
He first landed on “Cadabra”, presumably an uninspired play on the magical mainstay abracadabra, and went so far as to incorporate his new company with that name.
But when someone misheard “Cadabra” as “cadaver”, he renamed the venture “Relentless” and bought relentless.com, prepared to forge ahead under the new brand. But once again, an external data point had him reconsidering.
His friends told him the new name sounded a little sinister, so Jeff Bezos did maybe the least innovative thing you’ve ever heard of - he opened a dictionary and picked a name because it sounded ”big” and “different”.
That big, different name? “Amazon”, of course.
There are two important lessons to learn from Mr. Bezos’s journey to Amazon. First, you’re never stuck with your first name. Second, your company’s name has almost nothing to do with your success - or failure.
Lesson One: Names come and go
All kinds of companies change their names, for all kinds of reasons.
Have you ever heard of Burbn? We’d guess not — but we sure bet you’ve heard of Instagram, Burbn’s current name. Nike used to be "Blue Ribbon Sports". Google used to be “BackRub” (and check out what their logo used to be!) And Yahoo? They started their corporate life as "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web". Seriously.
True, changing a company’s name doesn't happen overnight, and depending on how long you’ve been in business, there may be real costs to acquire or register a new domain, print new marketing collateral, and update your signage. But if you’ve been in business long enough to have lots of stuff to change, and you’re thinking about changing your company’s name, then you’ve probably achieved enough success that you’re working on moving up to the next level. That means the costs of rebranding are low relative to revenues.
Does that mean you should put zero thought into your company’s name? Of course not! Brainstorm, bounce your best ideas off of your spouse and friends, then brainstorm some more. But don’t waste weeks or more agonizing over a name when you could be researching your ideal customer and fleshing out your business plan.
When we designed Startomatic’s company branding tool, we wanted it to give you lots of name options, quickly, and also provide real-time, critical information about those names - like which ones have matching .com domain names available, and whether there are any registered trademarks that might conflict with your name. You can check it out - free - at startomatic.com.
Lesson Two: Names become their companies - not the other way ‘round
What matters is what you do, not what you’re called.
Amazon is a prime (!) example of this - what does a gigantic piranha-infested South American river have to do with selling books online? But they’re certainly not the only example. Etsy. Ford. Wayfair. The French Laundry. Hulu. A thousand others. On their own, they’re meaningless, and debatably, they bring no inherent value to their companies. It was the products sold under their names, the service provided by employees, the creative thinking of management and marketing and finance teams that made those names recognizable and valuable.
And having a name that is inherently recognizable and a perfect fit with your product is certainly no guarantee of success (ahem.. Pets.com…)
So pick a name you like, and move forward confident in the knowledge that so many other elements of your business - like product-market fit, customer service, and innovative thinking - are infinitely more critical to your company’s success than its name.
Pick the name, then get started on the important stuff
Maybe you know exactly what you are going to name your company. Great. Startomatic can help you lock down that name - checking and registering the domain, searching trademarks, filing the legal documents, and developing a logo for you. If you change your mind mid-process? No problem - it’s quick to go back and check variations on that name, or entirely new names. Our AI-powered name generator uses your business’s description, industry, and location - along with any custom keywords you like - to brainstorm names with you.
And if you have absolutely no idea what to name your company? Totally fine - we’ll give you lots of options, allowing you to refine and re-search as much as you like. You can even create a favorites list and share your progress with your collaborators (check out the "Share" button at the top of the page).
So… why are you still here?? Get going on your new company, and don’t let a little thing like a name hold you back!
- The Startomatic Team
P.S.: Want to see something mildly interesting? Open up a new browser tab (don’t close this one!) and go to www.relentless.com. Now you have your next cocktail party convo starter.