What should I call my company? (without taking weeks!)

Rebecca and I from Hatch Bali were talking to an entrepreneur who will have a great company one day, and we spent the call convincing her not to use Hatch, but to do it herself, which she is perfectly capable of there was no need to pay Hatch for help (Hatch isn’t cheap). Then the one thing she said was

“wait!… the one thing I am stuck on and need is a name!”

Name is so important! Think about the genius of the name “Apple”. Think long and hard about that and take your time!…. we see this a lot and it is wrong.

The name doesn’t have to be amazing (but it does have to not be shit!)

Thinking of ‘the perfect name’ wastes a lot of time. I see this over and over again, Its the one number one thing that Bec and I see almost every time when company launches are delayed. It can waste months. People agonise over it too much. So let me save you lots of time and heartache. To pick a name, spend half a day getting a shortlist of 3 then just pick one randomly and get on with it.

The name is not as important as you think. And research shows that you learn to love what you choose. Your brain literally tricks you into thinking it was the best name all along. Below I will go through a few times when I have named companies. Maybe that will help.

My main naming glory was Tigerspike. The company was a huge success because of the name alone, and nothing else! We actually made up a long story about how it was “east meets west” etc etc… for investors, but the truth is we called it Tigerspike because we liked the name “razorfish” so we wrote down as many names like it as we could like Razorfish, and then ruled out any names where the .com was unavailable and came up with Tigerspike and Spiderflux and we chose Tigerspike. Not too bad considering we did it in one afternoon on Olly and Anna’s sun deck in Pyrmont.

The second name we chose was amazing but never really came to fruition. Ned and Aki and I founded wealth tech company Bambu. We went through the usual thinking “a company that helps you meet your goals”… what about “tenzing” (the sherpa who summited Everest with Hillary) — this was of course sheer genius but of course there was already many financial companies called Tenzing (duh!). One of the names on our short list was “Cache”, which we dismissed as stupid and obvious (guess what Google is calling their new fintech product)

Don’t try to be clever. Your sheer genius name has been thought of many times before by other smarter people. Pick a name that doesn’t really mean anything.

The best story was my wife Lydia (who is an artist and not in the business world) knew we were having trouble choosing a name and was thinking of a name that would imply wisdom and help… so she said “wait a minute, I have got it!… what about “Oracle?!”

Check that the names you choose don’t already exist. If you pick one that is a clever reference to what you are doing as a business then it will have already been thought of.

The name we originally came up for Bambu was ‘Mangosteen’. It was an homage to “Apple” (but from Asia). A mangosteen is a fruit where (like the wealth industry) the outside is kind of hard but once you get in its delicious. To this day, Bambu is incorporated as “Mangosteen” but Ned didn’t love it and Bambu is his baby so it was changed. We wasted about a month on this. Hear Ned talking about it in this podcast

The last company was one that Olly Palmer and I named: Silkstone Partners, which is an impact investment fund that that invests in purpose driven companies run mainly by women. We were about 3 hours in to thinking of names and we weren’t getting anywhere, and I knew that this leads nowhere so we said “fuck it lets just take Silkstone” which neither of us liked, but which I have come to really like. Hard and soft.

Obvious is sometimes best

We were thinking of a name for Rebecca’s company Hatch Bali. It is a company that launches other companies, and she does it from Bali. She went with the obvious, and it works. Logo is pretty cool too.

logo and brand are as or more important than a name

We also went with obvious for Sasha’s Farms which is a company that finds smallholder farmers producing clean healthy food in the right way, and selling it in Singapore. Sasha Conlan is the CEO and the company is named after her. This is also helpful if you get sued for using a name that is similar to someone else’s name. If the name is your own name then its much harder for people to do that.

Make a shortlist of 3, then choose one and get on with it. Your brain will trick you into thinking it was the clear and obvious choice from the outset.

Finally, one of the names I am most proud of is Lucy. The name of our neo-bank for underbanked women. We wanted an approachable every day name for amazing everyday women without being too obvious (names we dismissed were Xi, She, Her, etc…). I originally liked Lydian for the name. My wife’s name is Lydia, and the Lydians invented coins (but of course someone else had had this sheer genius idea and named their bitcoin company Lydian). Lucia is also the name of my fearless first daughter so that worked too.

Final note: don’t worry too much about the name not having a .com, you can use many other URLs for it. Just don’t pick a name that is the same as another company in your industry.

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Entrepreneur. Founder of Tigerspike (sold to Synnex), Bambu, Silkstone Partners, Lucy, HatchBali.

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Luke Janssen

Luke Janssen

Entrepreneur. Founder of Tigerspike (sold to Synnex), Bambu, Silkstone Partners, Lucy, HatchBali.

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Source: Author. Image of Michelle from a magazine article when she launched her business.