The Name Game

From appearances, one of the most difficult decisions that a set of founders make about their early stage company is what to call the company and/or first product (often one in the same). The name game appears to be so difficult because, at the end of the day, the rationale for each choice is largely subjective. For this reason, the process often becomes one that antagonizes the company for too long. But it shouldn’t be that way.

It is one thing to have a couple people involved generating and filtering options, and then it’s whole other when too many other constituents (investors, advisors, employees, marketing vendors) are sharing (read: strongly lobbying for) their disparate opinions as well. The last situation you want is a board meeting with bunch of VCs brainstorming name ideas. Ugh. (The only thing worse is asking that group for their thoughts on how the logo should look and what colors to use.) The situation is only exasperated by the limitations of .com domain names available these days or the willingness of everyone to pay up for one that’s parked.

In thinking about this post, I tried to come up with a solid list of go-to rules of thumb to guide in this exercise (e.g. “the name should describe/evoke what the company does,” “it should have five letters or less for simplicity sake,” “there should no mistake on how the name is pronounced”, etc., etc.). But then I realized not only are these rules broken occasionally, they’re broken often… and very successfully. I think the only rule that matters in a naming process is that founder(s) should listen to all advice but then absolutely trust their own gut as to what runs parallel to their vision. And then everyone should quickly move on. The hurt feelings will fade over time, and if the decision turns out to be the wrong one, it can always be changes later (with costs, of course).

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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