How to Choose the Best Name for Your Startup – The Recursive

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As tech startup parents, a heavy responsibility rests on your shoulders: naming your company. Although creativity is essential, a great business name needs to sound good, on top of being memorable, international, and able to stand the test of time.
Have you heard of the aggregator website Profilactic? What about the HR tech company Dostang or the Fashism fashion app that Ashton Kutcher invested in? No?
The largest and most resilient technology companies in the world – Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Meta, and Intel, to name but a few – weren’t baptized using online business name generators. And I advise you not to go that route, either.
What you should do is convey a strong message. A business name that aligns with your company’s DNA, your project’s core values, and your business targets. Your startup name needs to be unique.
Make sure there are no similar names on your market. Set up your legal entity, websites, and social media accounts. But before you do that, here are some ideas to spark your creativity.
In November 2021, my latest baby startup was born – bonapp.eco. Our company’s mobile app, available on iOS and Android, connects users with local retailers, including grocery stores, restaurants, shops, gas stations, bakeries, coffee shops, and hotels. Through the app, users can purchase products approaching their expiration date, at a 40% to 80% discount.
To convey the global sustainability mission, my business partners and I played with the terms “bon appétit” – French for “good appetite” – “mobile application”, and “ecology”.
Simple and catchy! People from different countries know how to read it. It is straightforward: “bon”/”good” and “app”, for “eco”. It is a good mobile app for anybody on the ecological journey. In addition to this, our startup name is also the URL, which makes it easy for people to find us online.
Of course, we did not stumble upon it by chance. Nor did we write down different business names on scraps of paper and pick one at random. We used surveys and focus groups to understand people’s perceptions of how bonapp.eco sounds to them. Feedback was essential in finding a name that is representative of what the company does.
Naming a company should be a process. It should involve a learning curve. You must write hundreds of names on post-its, then group them by category. Then the essential process begins. Do not think you will have the winning name from the beginning.
Narrow it down to just a few. Get some frank naysayers involved. Only after that, choose one name that will rule them all.
Follow your gut! Use others’ opinions to narrow it down, but choose that one name that ticks all the criteria, and that suits you best as a founder.
Discover how these technology companies came up with their names and learn from their processes.
#Apple
Apple is a technology company founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. The business name seems to have been inspired by Steve Jobs’s fruitarian diet.
It was first called “Apple Computer Company”, based on the idea that the name should describe what it does. However, the key to success lies in the fact that fruit and technology don’t go together, making the mind curious.
When they realized that such a long name wasn’t the best idea, they shortened it to what is now a legendary brand – Apple Computer Inc., known simply as Apple.
Founder’s tip – cut it! Keep your company name as short and catchy as you can.
#Microsoft
Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Its first name was Micro-Soft, conveying that it offered microprocessors and software for creating personal computers. It is short, to the point, and almost five decades later, billions of people know it.
Make it crystal clear – go with a name that is obvious and consistent with what you do, but use creativity to make it stand out.
#Samsung
Samsung is a technology giant founded in 1938 by Lee Byung-Chul. In the beginning, the name, which was Samsung Electric Industries, referred to the market.
The origins of the name depict the target of the founder. In Korean, Samsung means “three stars”. It is a symbol of power and skyrocketing growth.
Be bold! When you can, opt for a name that reveals an ambitious target or mission.
#Meta
Meta is the technology company behind Facebook. The group now owns more companies, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, and is diving deeper into the design of new technologies, so the name had to reflect this.
Facebook was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. It went through many names: Facebook Inc., TheFacebook Inc., and FaceMash. The latter conveyed the message that it was an online service for students that wanted to check the attractiveness of their peers.
Know when to pivot – rebranding was also a way for the leaders to clean up their business image.
#Intel
Intel is a technology company founded in 1968 by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. Before they hit upon this simple and short name, it was known as NM Electronics. Using the founder’s names and the market is a traditional practice, but not one that says “bold” or “creative”.
They soon changed it to Integrated Electronics, which still lacked that legacy spark. Then they shortened it simply to Intel after they bought the rights from a company named Intelco.
Do your research! Ask yourself questions such as: “Does the name make sense for the business? Is it easy to say, spell, and therefore remember? Is it free for you to use?”
Brand names linger in our brains. They even become verbs. How many of you have used “WhatsApp me” or “Google it” in recent years? “Let’s Zoom” is the new “call me”, and some Metaverse lingo will probably soon join this list.
Choose the name of your tech startup wisely. Make it sound melodious, memorable, and pronounceable in other languages. Remember – you only have one chance to make a great first impression. 
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Grégoire Vigroux is a French Serial Entrepreneur and Business Angel, based in Romania since 2006. He co-founded and invested in 21 businesses across Eastern Europe and had 4 exits. The French entrepreneur believes entrepreneurs have an increasing role to play in shaping a meaningful world. He thinks success, in business, must come with responsibility. Profits with purpose. Growth with progress. Prosperity with philanthropy. Connect with Grégoire on Linkedin.
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