Naming A Company Right Can Spell Success

Aug 15, 2011

One area in the U.S. economy that is booming, despite the sluggish recovery, is technology. Facebook and Groupon are expected to go public in the coming year, and tens of billions of dollars of venture capital continue to pour into the tech industry every year to support new companies.

But one of the first challenges new companies face is coming up with a name, which can be a difficult task.

For instance, would Google be as successful if it were named 'BackRub' — the name when the company started in 1996. And Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey said his company considered calling his company Twitch instead.

"I liked the word twitch, but I felt really bad about it," he says. "I didn't feel bad about Twitter at all. I wrote it down a bunch of times. I drew it out. It just felt great, so I knew that if I felt great about it, then I could convince others to feel great about it, too."

A Way To Connect

It wasn't the name Twitter that made the company what it is today, but it was Dorsey's relationship to that name that helped it be successful — he liked it, so he could sell it to investors and to the public.

A company name is important because it's how companies connect with consumers, investors and other businesses.

Gail Anne Grosso, who has helped several Fortune 500 companies come up with their names, gave some feedback to two new tech startup companies. She says first impressions are important.

Which, she says, could be a problem for Ryder Ripps' and Scott Oster's website, Dump.fm. The website allows its users to communicate through images.

"Well, dump is a word that, traditionally, is associated with, a rather not too thought through activity," Grosso says. "It just sort of seems like something that a dog would do."

But Grosso does believe Tereza Nemessanyi is on the right track with her new app, Honestly Now.

She says the name gives off the impression that the app will cast light on something. Which is exactly what Nemessanyi says it does. Honestly Now is a place users can go to pose a question to a group of friends or experts and receive anonymous feedback.

Making First Impressions

Regardless of Grosso's impressions, it's hard to know if either company will be successful since they're both new.

A company that isn't so young but is very successful — Apple — didn't get the best reaction to its name when it started back in the 1970s, co-founder Steve Wozniak says.

"We hired a publicity agency, and they give you an image for your company and they said, 'You got to get rid of the name Apple. It just doesn't suggest enough power. Your computers can do a lot of stuff,'" he says at a gadget show in downtown Manhattan.

"And Steve [Jobs] and I had to say, 'No, no, no, no, no. Computers are now going to be in the home. Apple is a good name in the home.' And so we had to fight to hold it a bit, but it was a good name, and we knew it," Wozniak says.

So the lesson may be that you shouldn't always listen to your branding consultant. But the Apple founders knew that their name had really positive connotations, which could be what it's all about — first impressions.

Twitter's Dorsey agrees. He says you have two seconds to open the door with the name, and after that, it's down to the product.

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