For anyone that has been involved in naming a startup, blog or product, you are well aware of the complexities.
The good news is that you have 26 letters to produce something magical. The bad news: According to WhoAPI, all four letter .coms are registered — that’s 456,976 different letter combinations. Then you have to worry about things like spelling, pronunciation, translation, trademarking, phonetics, and memorability.
Before commencing your naming journey, build a creative brief to educate those involved on the must-haves and the-nice-to-haves in the brand name, set a deadline to create a short-list, and as the list becomes more focused, encourage people to rank the remaining names.
Commonly, as days go by, the volume of potential names starts to diminish and thinking outside the box is nearly impossible.
We’ve compiled the stories behind the names of 13 Seattle startups to re-energize your thinking. For each brand, you’ll learn what they do, what their main naming requirements were and how they went about the process.
Peter Hamilton, CEO
In one sentence, what is TUNE? “TUNE is a software-as-a-service company that provides attribution, analytics, automation, and advertising management technologies for mobile marketers.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “We actually rebranded from our first name, HasOffers. Though it was an awesome first startup name, it was also the name of our flagship product. As we expanded products and offerings we needed something that could be large enough to house many products. Beyond that, we wanted something short and powerful, that could loosely tie to our industry (we help marketers tune their campaigns), and most importantly that was fun and had some other connotation or imagery. Tune is filled with lots of musicians, artists, and creatives along with engineers that are making the leaps in technology to build the most innovative, efficient systems. It is a fun badge to wear, and it’s not a bad domain either.”
How did you come up with your name? “We tried just about everything over two years to come up with the right name. We worked with outside agencies, talked to customers, and had all kinds of brainstorming sessions. At one point I decided to just start looking for amazing domains that I could possibly get my hands on. I have an incredible broker, and I started getting lists and lists of interesting domains. Tune was actually on one of the first lists and though it didn’t immediately stick it was one that stayed in the maybe category. The more we looked, the more it kept coming back as the strongest most impactful name, and the one that resonated with our people. Finally, we decide to explore what it would look like to become Tune and the response across the company was unanimously for it.”
Tom Leung, Co-founder and former CEO
In one sentence, what is Anthology? “Anthology is a confidential job matchmaking service for employed tech professionals in Seattle, NYC, and SFO.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “That it had gravitas and had headroom to allow us to expand beyond confidential job matchmaking to do other career optimization services in the long-term.”
How did you come up with your name? “We were originally called Poachable but hit trademark disputes and decided it wasn’t worth it to fight it out. We also got feedback from employers that Poachable sounded illicit or underhanded. So we started a renaming process and came up with a few candidates that were differentiated, captured our requirements, and were trademarkable.”
Kevin Merritt, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Socrata? “Socrata offers cloud-based data democratization for government.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “The main requirements for our name were that it had to be memorable, pronounceable, original, and resonate with public servants. ”
How did you come up with your name? “Our leadership team came up with the name Socrata as we were discussing the start of democracy and data. The brand is a play off of the name Socrates and the concept of data democratization.”
Jake Cooney, Creative Director and Co-founder at Porch.
In one sentence, what is Porch? “Seattle-based Porch.com is a home services platform that helps homeowners maintain their home and get projects done by connecting them with quality home improvement professionals.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “There were actually a few requirements that we had from the start:
- Domain name was obtainable
- Spelled properly. We wanted to avoid tacking -ly or -ify onto the end, dropping vowels, swapping letters, or making up a word. The litmus test was whether we could say the name on the phone without having to give instructions on how to spell it.
- To convey a sense of simplicity, we wanted the name to be as short as possible — ideally one word.
- It ideally would reference the home but not be too literal or limit our future product offering.
And we wanted it to feel approachable and conjure warm memories.”
How did you come up with your name? “We involved the entire company in the process (then about 10 people). We compiled a spreadsheet that had 200 or so options which also tracked the availability of the domain names. People flagged their favorites. We met weekly, narrowing the list down and debating the favorites. Porch was on the list for most of the process but wasn’t a favorite until the final stage when we narrowed it down to four options. When considering Porch, one co-worker noted that the porch is the public area of a private home. And it’s where neighbors meet. That sold the company on the name, with it implying a safe space and community. From there, we did some informal focus groups with friends and family on our top four names which turned out to be all over the place and not useful. Instead, we decided that Porch was the perfect name and we could make it work. From there, the name stuck and we just hoped we could secure the domain name which luckily worked out.”
Aseem Badshah, Co-founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Socedo? “Socedo helps B2B marketers grow their lead database by helping to discover, engage and qualify prospects through social media at scale.”
What was the one requirement for your brand name? “It had to be an available domain, less than 8 characters, scalable in case we pivot and look good/be brandable from a typography perspective.”
How did you come up with your name? “A long exercise of brainstorming hundreds of names and whittling down. We landed on Socedo as it’s a combination of ‘social’ and ‘succeed.'”
Seaton Gras, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Surf Incubator? “SURF is an inspiring space where creative ideas are fostered and innovative companies grow.”
What was the one requirement for your brand name? “Easy to remember, easy to spell, can be reduced to a single syllable and makes you smile.”
How did you come up with your name? “We knew we were onto a great opportunity (due to the very rapid adoption) and yet we had no name — we were just a bunch of programmers who were working side by side. But if we were to continue our growth, we would need to have a name. It was a sunny day when Candace and I walked around Lake Union with the primary focus of creating a name. Halfway ’round the lake, we came up with “SURF” (for Start Up Really Fast) and “Incubator” as a place where startups can build momentum in a supportive environment combined with easy access to mission-critical resources. The name fit our spirit for a dynamic and adventurous company. We hurried home to secure the domain.”
David Leeds, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Tango Card? “Tango Card is a reward delivery platform for the global enterprise.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “I wanted our name to clearly convey a spirit of partnership.”
How did you come up with your name? “I have always liked the name Tango. I like its simplicity, I think it is friendly and approachable, and I think it immediately conveys fluidity that any young company has to have and that two or more partners need to have to be successful.”
Jeff Turley, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is GoNetYourself? “GoNetYourself is a revolutionary ‘shared’ video production company.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name?
- Uniquely memorable
- .com domain
“We tell everyone at GoNetYourself, the name isn’t a joke it’s exactly what it says: We help your team consistently scale your video productions in an affordable, repeatable, and executable strategy.”
How did you come up with your name? “I went for a long drive. Ok, a few long drives. When it comes to naming your company, I always say the name doesn’t define you, you define the name. It’s not what the name means today, it’s how the name will be defined when your vision has been executed. Therefore, don’t get too much input because those you ask don’t have your vision or understanding of what you will become. Don’t overthink it and be prepared for everyone to criticize it.”
Liz Pearce, CEO
In one sentence, what is LiquidPlanner? “LiquidPlanner is dynamic project management technology for technology teams.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “When thinking through the naming and branding we wanted to represent our core belief — that project management is fluid, dynamic, and always in motion. This, coupled with the notion that work projects are full of uncertainty and risk, helped us frame the brand concept quite clearly. It didn’t take long for us to settle on LiquidPlanner as the company name, as the Liquid reference represents the dynamic nature of our product, and the changing nature of work pretty clearly. To this day, it does a great job communicating what makes us unique and helps us stand out in a crowded market.”
How did you come up with your name? “That’s a funny story. The company was originally incorporated under the name Team46. When our initial product was close to complete, we embarked on a formal naming process. All kinds of crazy ideas were thrown around and we considered calling our product Technaplan or SmackDab, but neither of those names spoke to the value of this dynamic product we built. At the time, I was in charge of marketing, so one of my first tasks was to lock in the company and product name. I pulled together a short list of new names and then surveyed a couple of hundred people to get their feedback. The wisdom of the crowd overwhelming liked the name LiquidPlanner. We liked it so much that we named the company and our product.”
Taylor Ward, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Hubtag? “Hubtag is a technology company building livestreaming software for gamers with the ultimate goal of making eSports look and feel like traditional sports.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “The one requirement in a good brand name for us was something that spoke to our vision as a company.”
How did you come up with your name? “We came up with our name by first creating a word cloud of every word we could think of that spoke to our vision (Creating a central place for gamers and gaming content). After eliminating single words that were already in use, we broke up several words and began mixing rearranging them into new ones. Once we got down to a list of 3 or 4, we began checking URL Availability, Trademark availability, and social media accounts. This brought the final count down to two names.
We took the two names and shared them with our friends, tried to use them in the context of a user, and slept on the decision for the week. After that week we emerged with Hubtag.”
Mike Kichline, Founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Yesler? “Yesler is a full-service B2B marketing agency that offers data-driven, buyer-centric solutions for every stage in the customer lifecycle.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “We looked at several factors. We thought a lot about the meaning we wanted to convey and the perception of the name in general, and knew that as long as our name was fairly simple and avoided common word associations, the brand name perception and identity would be up to us to develop. We wanted a name that would be relatively simple and concise, easy for our audience to find and remember, and somewhat unique without creating phonetic respellings of existing common words.”
How did you come up with your name? “We looked at a number of ideas in this process. We explored words associated with our service offerings — including options in other languages like French or Latin — and words that we felt conveyed the association with an emotion or attribute that would resonate with our audience and clients. But our name also needed to resonate with our team and reflect who we are, and thinking about our roots in Seattle got us focused on names that would be distinctly local without limiting our growth into global markets.
After narrowing down to a handful of options, we decided to name the company after Henry Yesler — one of Seattle’s first entrepreneurs and the namesake for Yesler Avenue, where our company is headquartered in the Smith Tower in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. This was a perfect combination for us on a number of levels, in that it’s a name recognized here in Seattle, but carries no real association to anything for anyone outside of the area. It’s simple and concise (a bonus for our short domain name), spelled the way it sounds, and open to define the way we want to define it. It’s who we are, where we began, and reflects a heritage of entrepreneurship and growth that fits with our approach to modern B2B marketing.”
Amber Osborne, Co-founder and CMO
In one sentence, what is Meshfire? “Meshfire is the first artificial intelligence for social media. It helps community managers find the people, conversations, and opportunities they’re missing out on now in the flood of incoming tweets.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “We chose our name to communicate a sense of togetherness (“mesh”) both for the teams of community managers who use our service, and to represent the connection they make with their audience. The element of “fire” signifies enlightenment, communications (like a signal fire), and the ability of great communicators to motivate and entertain tremendous tribes of people.
How did you come up with your name? “Lots of brainstorming and a little luck. We tried out lots of different names before settling on Meshfire. Not only did we decide that it had the right connotations, but we found that we could obtain the relevant trademarks, assets, and company name. We took this to be a good omen.”
Brian Bosche, Co-founder and CEO
In one sentence, what is Slope? “Slope makes it easy for teams to plan, track, and collaborate on content.”
What was the main requirement for your brand name? “Every company in our industry has very stationary names like ‘Box’ or ‘Silo.’ We wanted our name to be dynamic and relate to motion and progress.”
How did you come up with your name? “My Co-founder, Dan Bloom, and I were driving through the mountains near Seattle. We really liked the idea of companies ‘keeping their content moving,’ so we were coming up with names that represented movement and change. Naturally, ‘Slope’ popped into our heads as we were looking at the Cascades, and it stuck.”
Adam Lang is the founder of Rewind & Capture, which helps startups determine the strength of their brand names.