Five tips for choosing the best name for your start-up

What's in a name? Toby Vacher of discusses the key considerations when naming your business.

Your company’s name is one of the most important decisions to make in its early days. After a short time, changing it is more hassle than it’s worth, so you want to get it right before you start finding users/customers and most of all you want to be completely happy with the decision. I have founded 2 companies myself and worked for a few other start-ups which each had their own naming successes or problems. Here are my top five tips for choosing a name for your start-up:

1. Is it relevant?

This is the easiest one, so the first you want to consider, but also one of the most important. You’ll start brainstorming names around the concepts and ideas that the rest of the business plan grew from, but make sure you’re focussing on the values, benefits and ‘high-level’ ideas rather than specific features or ‘what it does’. ‘Twitter’ brings to mind speedy, excited conversation. They didn’t call it ‘ShortText’. If it’s relevant to your company, the name will become tied to the company’s aims and products. If, like Google, it one day becomes a verb, you know you’ve done it right!

2. Is it memorable?

The first point will go a long way towards making it memorable, but you also need to consider the length of the name, and whether it bring to mind something visual or emotional, which will both help make a stronger memory. ‘Mind Candy’ is a great example of a name that piques the interest and creates a visual and emotional tie. We can all imagine colourful, tasty candy and the enjoyment of eating it, then to suggest that the same kind of enjoyment can be thought, not just tasted, is a great concept that is hard to forget.

3. Is it easy to say?

This is a big problem for web start-ups, because so much of the thinking and planning is typed, discussed over web chats and so on. Especially for early-stage start-ups with small budgets, word of mouth is going to be one of the biggest drivers for early adoption, so having a name that is easy to say verbally, rather than just written down, is hugely important. It also helps tick the box for ‘is it memorable’.

Too many companies these days are called something like ‘’ or ‘’ – what is that? Why use bizarre domains and missing letters? If I tell you to ‘check out my new company,’ I then have to explain ‘That’s start-up, without the a, dot L Y’. Maybe wasn’t available, but that just means I should have been more creative when considering points 1 and 2 above. ‘’, ‘’, ‘’ – you can’t get those wrong. ‘’ is not so good, ‘’ is terrible (that one really exists!)

4. Is it available?

While you’re brainstorming ideas according to points 1-3 you’ll want to be checking both the available domain names and the Twitter, Facebook and any other important account usernames you’ll want. It’s no good deciding that is the perfect name for your company if you can’t have the domain or the twitter handle. The unavailability of some domains is, I think, exactly why we’re seeing so many .ly and .io start-ups being launched, but spend a little longer coming up with something more creative and meaningful that still allows a .com. All ‘normal’, non-techy, web users assume .com is the standard, and it should be. While you’re searching, you’ll also want to check for other companies with similar or the same names for copyright and trademark purposes.

5. How will it look on a business card or as a logo?

Once you’re getting close to deciding your name, spend a bit of time sketching possible logos and writing the name and URL out on mock business cards, letterheads, web pages and so on. You’ll want to test how it looks alongside other links, other information and confirm in your mind that you’re happy with it. Even if you’re not a designer, everyone can sketch some rough ideas for a logo and see if they’re going in the right direction. My current company almost broke the ‘no strange domains’ rule, but in our case it works for the emotional tie if offers. The logo is actually just 2 letter ‘e’s, but the orientation make it look like both an infinity sign and the DNA double helix, which subtly suggest that we are working towards something both fundamental and globally-reaching. I may be biased but I think it’s a brilliant logo. If we weren’t ‘’ it couldn’t have happened.

There will always be exceptions to these five tips, and you’ll know when you need to make them, but if you follow them through as a process while brainstorming, you should avoid any potential pitfalls before it’s too late. Mostly, make sure you’re personally happy with the name. You’re going to be the one seeing it, saying it and typing it more than anyone else, after all.

Further reading on company names

Toby Vacher

Toby Vacher

Toby was Head of Product and UX at and is founder of &

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Business names

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