The tech industry has a rich history of startups that started with a pretty awkward name, and rebranded over time to the big brands we have come to know. Some of those changes are plain fun to remember.
A few days ago, I tweeted this, and it led to a cool thread with plenty of examples and suggestions (Twitter at its best), so I thought I’d compile the results here for easy reference.
This post is mostly frivolity, and *not scientific research*. In particular, there are nuances to a lot of those stories (e.g., Backrub was the name of the original Google algorithm, as opposed to the actual company name – still one of my favorite examples!).
Having said that, a few semi-serious (althouh perhaps obvious) thoughts on the topic of startup names:
- Just like design, company names do matter – inspirational and/or cool names create a raw emotion, and make it that much easier to attract customers and talent to the company. I also have a theory (completely unprovable and possibly entirely wrong) that a bad name, or a very bland, literal one, negatively impacts a company’s ability to raise capital (everything else being equal).
- Brands can also be a deliberately gutsy statement – see CockroachDB, for example
- If there’s one thing this post illustrates, it’s that the intial company name doesn’t matter that much… it can be changed over time (although that’s not a trivial exercise to go through – can be time consuming and divisive)
- In this day and age, having the exact “.com” (or “.io” etc) doesn’t matter that much either, at least initially – adding “get” or “go” before the company name does the trick nicely
- However, a very common or generic name will be a real pain from an SEO perspective
- In this era of global brands, it’s worth paying attention to whether a brand is easily pronouncable in other languages and culturally appropriate — I’ve heard over the years that “MongoDB” was a tricky brand in some countries (where the term Mongo refers to a mental disability).
- A small hack: everything else being equal, it helps a little bit initially to have a company name that starts with an A, B, C, etc. Many company lists are organized alphabetically, and those names naturally surface towards the top. Obviously, that’s marginal stuff, and none of this stopped Stripe, Uber or Zenefits from becoming very successful companies.
Now here’s the compiled list of examples from the tweet, loosely organized (a few non-tech examples made it to the list).
|Original Name||New Name||Category|
|Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web||Yahoo!||Consumer/B2C|
|Cadabra / Relentless.com||Amazon||Consumer/B2C|
|Quantum Computer Services||AOL||Consumer/B2C|
|Palo Alto Delivery||DoorDash||Consumer/B2C|
|AirBed & Breakfast||Airbnb||Consumer/B2C|
|Savage Beast Technologies||Pandora||Consumer/B2C|
|Blue Ribbon Sports||Nike||Consumer/B2C|
|Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing||3M||Consumer/B2C|
|Research In Motion||Blackberry||Consumer/B2C|
|Goodfellow’s Dry Goods Company||Target||Consumer/B2C|
|Amazin’ Software||EA Sports||Consumer/B2C|
|Master Charge: The Interbank Card||Mastercard||Enterprise/B2B|
|National Biscuit Company||Nabisco||Consumer/B2C|
|Software Development Laboratories||Oracle||Enterprise/B2B|
|North Tahoe Power Tools||Workday||Enterprise/B2B|
|Computing Tabulating Recording Company||IBM||Enterprise/B2B|
|Cymitar Technology Group||Rackspace||Enterprise/B2B|
Feel free to add any other example in the comments!