Finding a Company Name

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Finding a good name is hard. Finding a good name for a company is even harder. The brilliance of names like Yahoo and Google suggests that it may be good luck and ingenious people. I have no patent-pending technology for solving a problem like this, but I have struggled with it for a while. So here are my insights: Primarily procedures, constraints, and checks.

I think there are a few basic constraints that apply to most names, certainly for high-tech companies that want to be a global player one day. Under such circumstances, the big one is to use an artificial word that isn't taken and that has no bad meaning in any language. It should to be an artificial word because it can be trademarked and spread internationally more easily. I simply use google and friends to figure out, whether there are languages in which a word has some funny meaning. I also use www.uspto.gov to check whether someone already got the name. I use a registrar to check whether the domains are available.

Coming up with an artificial name isn't too difficult. (Coming up with a good one is somewhat more difficult.) The constraints here, in my opinion, are that the name should sound well and somehow speak to the topic, and shouldn't be too long, that is, at max three spoken syllables. A simple algorithm is to pick vowels and consonants at random and alternate them. For example, e-k-e-l-o, o-l-a-h-u, a-p-e-r-o. Add a consonant to your liking or not.

Beyond this basic algorithm, there appear to be some psychological (or even physiological) constraints, which make you want to avoid some hard sounding vowels or consonants in the wrong places, but I'm not sure I really understand these constraints. It seems starting with an 'a' is good, and so is being careful with 'r', 'z', etc. But that may depend on your market. A name for a cosmetics product may well have requirements different from those for the most recent fibreoptics hardware.

I'm sure there are plenty of other procedures. One day I simply collected all the good sounding street names when we were driving to the beach. But in general, I believe, the constraints given above still apply.

Finally, check for similar sounding names and make sure nobody already holds those domain names. (On this note, if anybody knows the whole story behind "etoys vs. etoy", I'd be incredibly happy to hear it or receive a pointer to it.)

As always, there are exceptions to the rule, and for everything I've said, there are counterexamples. Such is the beauty of messy real life.

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: http://www.riehle.org