10 Must Know Tips on How to Name Your Company

“Cadabra” could have been the company name of the tech giant, Amazon. And no we’re not pulling your leg. Initially named after the word “abracadabra” Jeff Bezos changed the name after he misheard his lawyers call it “cadaver.”

Find your next investor with Crunchbase Pro – try it free.

Instead, Bezos decided to name Amazon after the famous river. So whether you name your company after a giant river or a mathematical term, picking a great company name is inherently challenging. We break down some steps to make selecting a company name as easy as possible.

A name is the first introduction to your brand and to emoting a feeling about your company. Don’t mess it up, because first impressions do matter.

10 Tips on How to Name Your Company

1. Start Brainstorming

The beginning stages of brainstorming are about quantity over quality. Build a big list with many ideas that can build off each other. Here are some steps to get you to that master list.

2. Think Through Your Purpose

When staring at a blinking line in a Google Doc seems too daunting, start with what you do know — your purpose. As Failory breaks down:

“We help our (a) customer do (b) problem doing (c) solution.

Your company’s mission will hone in on the brand and image you want to portray with your name. You can see how a financial mobile app like Acorns would fit into this equation:

“We help (a) Millennials (b) invest their money by (c) using spare change from transactions.”

Once you have your list of names going, you can substitute, “we” for your proposed company name to see which fits best. For instance:

Acorns helps (a) Millennials (b) invest their money by (c) using spare change from transactions.”

Stamps helps (a) Millennials (b) invest their money by (c) using spare change from transactions.”

Coins helps (a) Millennials (b) invest their money by (c) using spare change from transactions.”

The company name Acorns is a playful way to get to the core of the company’s mission: putting aside small amounts for later can add up.

Company Name: Acorns Founder Jeff Cruttenden

Photo Credit: Money Under 30 (www.moneyunder30.com)

We can see the blending of purpose and company name in larger companies as well.

For instance, Tesla was named so after Nikola Tesla an innovator of electricity, radio, and robotics. Elon Musk’s nod to the past directly ties to his company’s mission and vision to change the future.

3. Think About Your Customer

What are they doing on a daily basis? What are their hobbies, their background, and demographic? Looking into the key themes you find here.

With these keywords in mind, you can ensure a customer-focused view.

4. Get Inspired

Skim through dictionaries, the thesaurus, books, movie titles, google images and more to build a visual and comprehensive list.

5. Play with Words

Don’t be afraid to mash up names. Instagram is a great example of this. By pushing the concepts of “instant” and “telegram” together, users are easily able to visualize the purpose of the company: instant photo and message sharing.

Similarly, Buzzfeed capitalizes on its snappy content by mixing the concept of buzzy news posts with a dynamic and its live news feed.

Also, think about placing the old with the new. For instance, Airbnb combines “Airbed” the scrappy solution to host guests on an air mattress, with the traditional and homey bed and breakfast we all know and love.

Glossier brought the familiarity of their already established blog “Into The Gloss” with the dossier of information they with which they were establishing their beauty brand. Hence, the birth of the name, Glossier.

Company Name: Glossier

Photo Credit: Into the Gloss (www.intothegloss.com)

6. Add Suffixes or Prefixes

Create new words by playing with suffixes and prefixes. It worked for LinkedIn! Here is a list of both prefixes and suffixes if you’re stuck:

Prefixes: a –, be –, co –, de –, ex –, in –, un –, se –, re –, co –
Suffixes: — y, — ar, — o, — or, — sy, — out, — ed, — us, — oo, — ty, — ery, — er, — is, — a, — d, — ly, — ory

7. Consider a Global Company Name

Names that outgrew themselves? LA Fitness and Burlington Coat Factory to name a few.

Think globally, not locally. Particularly as a startup, don’t peg your service to a specific location. Rather than naming yourself Pete’s Super Submarines make yourself sound big with a name like Subway.

Think big not only geographically, but also in respect to the services you offer. Can you imagine if Amazon was initially just named buybooks.com? Since search engines use domain names to determine a website’s relevance to a certain topic it may have been initially great for SEO. However, not only would it narrow the services associated with the tech conglomerate, but it also would be a snoozefest.

Manage to find a name that is both clever and SEO optimized? Now we’re talking!

Lastly, your company should ideally be able to be easily pronounced in different languages (think Whatsapp rather than Perfumania).

8. Swap Letters or Take Them Out Altogether

Mix up letters to make your company name and domain easier to obtain. Famously, Sara Blakely was looking for a “k” sound but changed Spanks to Spanx since constructed names are generally more successful and easier to trademark.

Consider also just taking out vowels altogether à la Seedrs or Flickr.

9. When Naming Your Company Consider Humanizing Yourself

Bloomberg reports how more and more, startups in various sectors are naming themselves after people and building on the likeability of a first-name brand in an effort to make a connection with consumers.

Companies don’t want to feel like a commodity, rather as an interactive human brand. We’re now seeing a big influx of companies introducing themselves on a first-name basis. Enter Marcus, the practical personal lending startup, Ayden, the guy-next-door payment company, or Casper, the friendly mattress company.

Company Name: Casper Founders

Photo Credit: Fortune’s A Tale of Two Mattress Companies (www.fortune.com)

Research shows that “more simple and human-sounding the name, the greater the company’s success” while, brands with easy short names are more likely to be viewed positively by investors according to the Journal of Financial Economics.

10. Remember Simplicity is King When Naming Your Company

A 2006 analysis found that “stocks with names and tickers easy to pronounce will outperform counterparts with more complicated names. The simplicity of naming tends to make it more likely people will invest in a company, they said.”

Dot-com names are easier to remember, two syllables are ideal, and nine letters or less is the goal.

Test out your Company Name

Shortlist your Names

We love this idea by Failory. For all the spreadsheet nerds, break out your names by the score. Give each name a rank from 1-5 for intuitive, visual, sound, emotional value.

Coming Up With a Company Name: Shortlist Ideas

Photo Credit: Failory

Test Your Names With a Sample Group

This is a great time to leverage not only your friends and family but also those connections you’ve been building on social media for years. Reach out and see which name they prefer over a quick survey.

Do Your Due Diligence

Finally, research to make sure no one has your name. Check social networks, and check for the domain availability on GoDaddy, BigRock, or network solutions.

Again, not only are .com’s easier to remember they’re still the best bet for site-discoverability. Register with a .net or .ai and another lesser-known .com with the same domain name may cannibalize your traffic.

Finally, domain names aside, make sure to complete a registered trademark search as well.


What’s in a Startup Name?

Above all, you want a name that is remembered. So now that you know the rules, know it’s okay to break them. Best of luck!

  • Originally published July 8, 2019, updated March 8, 2024