Felicity Millman continues her journey within the Amcom Upstart technology accelerator. This week: What not to name your startup
Naming your company and product is a tricky process. There is no simple guide for how to do it. I can, however, provide some advice on what not to do. I’ve learnt that naming your company is like making jokes at a hackathon: we’ve all seen the quintessential coder walk in with an algorithm on their shirt, then the coders in the room start laughing whilst the business people stare blankly wondering what the fuss is all about. If you make a joke and only half the people start laughing, (assuming it isn’t racist, sexist, crass or otherwise insulting), it probably means the joke is only well understood by individuals with a certain level of technical or in-group knowledge. You don’t want a name which only some people understand.
If your target audience is a broad group of people, and everyone in a room filled with your target audience, doesn’t get your name immediately, you shouldn’t use the name. The in-group names are not a good idea for names. I share this wisdom because I actually made that fatal naming mistake myself. I over assumed the interest in, and knowledge of sleep biology by my target customers. My company analyses information on sleep and provides alerts and an organisational dashboard regarding individual and group fatigue.
So thinking from the point of view of someone neck-deep in sleep research, I called my company Circadyn! Get it Circadyn?!?! Nope still not got it? I deliberately misspelled the word Circadian which refers to our biological day/night rhythms which influence our sleep cycles. Circadyn also happens to be a terrible name. I learnt as much recently, so here are the lessons I have learnt on what NOT to name your company.
Do not name your company something that people:
- Can’t spell easily
- Can’t say easily
- Can’t remember
- Doesn’t resonate with your target audience
- Only makes sense to technical experts not your end users
If you find yourself apologising for your name when talking to people, especially potential customers, then it’s a good sign you’ve got the name wrong. I found myself doing that a lot.