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How to name a start-up

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 12 February 2019, 8:39 am

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but will it be as successful? And, so we turn to the vexed question of what's in a name and why coming up with one can be the hardest first task for a start-up.

TechCrunch has this week highlighted the naming dilemma in a post that suggests Silicon Valley start-ups are becoming less "weirder". At least when it comes to adopting names derived from the English language. In part this is because '.com' is becoming less coveted, so people aren't finding the same pressing need to invent new words in order to claim the coveted domain suffix.

There is also the feeling that maybe the whole tech sector is inching past adolescence and while we now think of Google and Facebook as perfectly acceptable, it could be time for more grown up monikers. Or not.

TechCrunch groups the naming conventions for start-ups into four categories - 'Creativv misPelling5' (self-explanatory, mostly they ditch the vowels), puns (play on words), made up words that sound real (describe the service by making up a word), and normal-sounding names (use an actual word, even it means foregoing the .com domain).

Are New Zealand start-ups following this trend? While TechCrunch's source was start-ups raising seed funding in the past two years, I've turned to the 100 Spark Early Stage Companies listed in the 2018 TIN Report.

A survey of URLs shows that with 65 addresses, the '.com' still holds supreme. This is followed in popularity by 14 '.co.nz' addresses, a smattering of '.nz' and '.co' and a few that have adopted URLs denoting their sector, as in 'healthcare', or their tech cred as in '.software', '.io' and 'ai'. 

As for names, there are a few that fit TechCrunch's category definitions. Stand-outs are LawVu (Creativv misPelling5), Timely (pun), Dexibit (made up word that sounds real), and Halter (normal-sounding name). Personal favourite is the company called Danz Zappz, which is described as providing 'technology to keep people safe from an electric fence shock' and whose CEO is Daniel Hall. Disappointingly the name is not reflected in the URL, which is fencedetective.com (interesting product BTW - looks like Gallagher might have missed a trick).

Can you judge a start-up by its moniker? The list of 100 start-up names did strike me as veering on the side of prosaic, but this may demonstrate prescience on the part of our early stage companies, as TechCrunch points out. "They say history repeats itself. If so, perhaps someday business naming will harken back to the industrial age, when corporate titans had exceedingly boring and obvious names like Standard Oil, U.S. Steel and General Electric."


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