Entrepreneurial Blog: What’s in a name?

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Sascha Gysel's picture

It’s been a while since my last blog post and a lot’s happened in the meantime. For those who do not remember or did not read my first post, I started my entrepreneurial adventure last October when I moved from Switzerland to Beijing after the end of my studies.

In this blog post, I want to cover one of the biggest challenges I have faced while founding a company: finding the right name. The process was not as easy as I initially thought. Here are some tips if you are going to name a company...

I started the naming process by writing down the general criteria of the name and came up with the following list:

* The name should be short (max. 8-10 characters) to be easily recognisable and also to have a short internet domain and mail address;

* It should work well in the core languages where I do business in (in my case mainly Mandarin, Cantonese, English and German);

* The Company name needs to be unique:

- at least in my field of business, and

- geographic regions I want the business to operate in (especially in the jurisdiction where the company is registered);

* The name should not narrow down my business too greatly seeing how it might significantly change in its early stages as I try out different concepts.

Next, I defined the characteristics and vision of my future company in simple terms, e.g. creative, innovative, digital, fresh, new and open.

In preparation of the naming exercise, I wrote down the business’s general criteria as well as its characteristics on big sheets of paper and kept them where I could always see them. I used certain tools to support the naming brainstorming process:

* A domain registration service to check whether a certain name is free (like gandi.net);

* Name generators (like naming.net or businessnamegenerator.com) to mix together certain words and get some more ideas;

* The official business name index where you can search for existing companies (in Switzerland it is zefix.ch) to avoid deciding on a name which is already used;

* Translation tools (like Google Translate and dict.leo.org) to find interesting words in other languages like Latin, Esperanto or even Swahili.

I wrote down a bunch of ideas and checked them immediately against the criteria with the help of the tools mentioned above. One of the most annoying things during this process was the number of internet domains that were already reserved by domain grabbers who want to sell it to you for an insane amount. Eventually, I short-listed the most interesting names. In the final phase, I discussed this short-list with some peers and also people who are fluent in different languages to see whether some of the names have a bad meaning or just sounded strange.

It took me many sittings over a few weeks to come up with a good name that felt right to me, but I eventually succeeded. As with every creative task, you cannot force it and on some days creativity is just not working.

I hope some of the hints above will help you to find a good business name for your company. Unfortunately, I can't tell you the final name I came up with right now, as I'm still in the process of founding the legal entity and reserving all domains, but you will find out in one of the future blog posts, so stay tuned ;-).

If there are entrepreneurs thinking of founding a company, please let me know if I’ve missed any ideas. It would be interesting to hear how you approached this task.

Maybe we also get to hear something about how the Project Firefly team found their name :-).