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How to Go About Naming a Startup and Ensure its Success

Updated on June 30, 2020

5 Min Read
naming a startup

A great startup name sets you up for success. Think about the most successful startups — Uber, Robinhood, Outdoor Voices. All of these companies have strong, fortified business names that stick in your head. This is what you must strive for when naming a startup. To grab the attention that your startup requires, you must come up with a strong and unique name. A strong name is a great way to capture attention and stick in people’s heads.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for coming up with the perfect startup name.

Setting the Stage for a Naming a Startup

Before you begin to brainstorm startup names, consider these important aspects.

Outline your brand

Before you start developing a long list of startup names, make sure you have all your ideas in one place. Start with a document that will be a point of reference throughout your startup naming process. This document will contain the key components of your brand that make you unique.

Do ensure to include information such as what your business does, your values, and what benefits you provide to your customers. Inspire passion in your audience. It also helps to consider what kind of names you like. Jot down existing startup brand names or existing brand name ideas that catch your attention. Note what you like about these names and keep it in mind when coming up with your own ideas.

Consider your audience

While it is great if you end up liking a name, it only matters if your targeted audience likes the name, too. If your brand name does not resonate with your audience, it will not push your startup to success. Think about it–a clothing business that caters to young professionals will have a completely different name than one that offers cutting-edge styles to teens.

Your business’ name provokes an initial reaction from your audience. Ensure that this reaction is the one you are looking for. A great way to do this is to consider what kind of tone you need. The five styles of effective business names are Modern, Classic, Pragmatic, Emotional, and Clever and they are a great jumping off point for considering how your startup name will influence your audience.

Look ahead

When you’re first venturing into your startup, you may have a few ideas of what you will become down the line. However, like most early-state businesses, you probably have to start with a smaller focus. Your brand name, however, should not start with this narrower focus. For example, if you are launching an ecommerce platform that focuses on clothes but may expand into beauty and cosmetics, don’t pick a name like “Fantastic Fabric Clothes.” This name does not allow growth for your future scope.

Avoid pigeonholing yourself. If your startup name is too specific, it will not grow with you. Being proactive and thinking ahead about any directions your business may take, will help you avoid costly rebranding processes down the line.

Look ahead

Brainstorming Startup Name Ideas

Once you have set the stage for naming your startup, it is time to come up with ideas. While it may seem like a frustrating process at first, it can actually be a funny one. Check out some of the following tips and exercises for naming a startup.

Find unique startup name ideas

Your name must stand out in the competitive world of startups. Make sure you’re putting effort into gathering a wide range of brand names, whether this is through crowd sourcing, asking around, or coming up with as many ideas as you can on your own.

No matter what’s your process, you must ensure to choose the one that nobody has claimed as yet. This exercise can take you a good effort and time. You will run into trademark conflict if your ideas are not original, and if you are only looking at short English words, the domains are either taken or costly.

Generate startup name ideas

Gather a variety of ideas, even ones that you may not like at the moment. It’s good to start with anything because you’ll be crossing names off of your list as you get closer to finding the right startup name. A business name generator can be a good launching pad for your brainstorming process.

Write down a possible example for every business name type you can think of. This can help you see what you’re looking for. The more names you have to work with, the better the scope you’ll have.

Narrow your list

Once you have a long list of possible startup names, cut it down to a shortlist. Ideally, you want between five and 12 names to work with, and definitely not more than 20. Having a shortlist will make your final decision less overwhelming because you will have to focus on a narrowed list.

If you have a few similar options on your list, pick the one that you like, and put that on your shortlist. If you have similar names on your shortlist, it can be difficult to gather accurate feedback.

Narrow your list

Validate your Startup Name

Test with your target audience

Because your business’ name must speak to the people who will be using your startup’s services, it is a good idea to test your ideas with an unbiased audience. You can do this via an audience testing service, reaching out to forums, and more.

This feedback may not align with your personal views regarding the names, and that is OK. You don’t have to follow the feedback, but it is a good idea to take note of any names that perform poorly. You may be missing some hidden meaning.

Assess trademark risk

To avoid running into legal battles around trademark availability, it pays to be proactive about your trademark. Many startups end up having to change their names because the one they tried to use was already in use. You can check trademarks with a licensed attorney or search through the USTPO.

Secure your domain

Finally, it’s time to secure a domain related to your startup. Setting aside a premium domain budget can be especially helpful if you have the funds. Otherwise, be open to domains and domains that contain add-ons.

Startup Funding: 10 Best Sources and How to Get it!

Market your Startup Name

The process of marketing your startup name starts with having a strong foundation. Once you have a strong name, it will drive referrals and perform better.

Support your brand name with a great logo. A cohesive brand aligns with a unified theme, so make sure you stick to the personality and tone set out by your business name. A great way to start marketing your startup name is through social media and your website. Get people talking about what you do.

Summing it all up

Naming a startup takes time. Coming up with a strong name is a daunting task. So much rests upon a brand name. It is the sum of your brand’s identity, and it is the first point of connection for your audience. You may feel like all the best names are already taken, or that you have no good ideas, but the perfect startup name for your business is out there. It just takes a bit of brainstorming to find it.

Note: This article is a guest blog post by Grant Polachek on Cloudways Blog

Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.

** Editor’s Note: This article is edited for clarity.

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Arsalan Sajid

Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!


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