Right Skills

Reading Time Time to read: 3 minutes

How to name your product, service or company

Carl Martin

Brand and Communications Lead

There’s something incredibly special about naming your big idea. The identity suddenly makes it all very real, and allows us to proudly begin talking about it more directly - as opposed to a sentence that vaguely resembles an elevator pitch.

A great name can stand the test of time, can become established as a verb in the english language and can say a thousand things with just 6 letters. Some people have been just plain lucky in picking their names, whereas many others have been rewarded with taking a bit more time and effort to name their own.

In honesty, killing yourself over a name just isn’t worth it, and is likely a distraction from working on your product itself. That said with the right tools at your disposal you can still pick a name with thought and diligence at startup speed.

Each of the below activities should be done in sequence, and realistically each one should take you no longer than an hour or two. So you could try going through the lot in a day, or even do one activity a day over the course of a week - either way, you should get to the end of the process with confidence in the outcome without burning a huge amount of time or budget.

  1. Pick big themes

Themes are a valuable tool to give you some parameters to work in, and ensure you don’t kill yourself thinking across the full spectrum of global language. Try picking three themes - (a) which feels very close to your product, (b) only slightly connected to your product, and (c) a wildcard. For example, say I’m naming my accounting Saas startup - my themes might be (a) money, (b) maths and (c) mythical creatures.

  1. Research ideas

Spend time researching, reading and exploring these three themes, writing down as many ideas as possible in the process (aim for 100 ideas on paper). At this stage there really is no such thing as a bad idea, and we’d recommend taking 2-3 ideas from each theme through to the next activity.

Other than googling, you might find value in using dictionaries, thesauruses and even word generators to help you stack up lots of ideas.  

  1. Understand cultural context

If you have ambitions to be global business, being aware of the disparity of global culture is key to naming your business. What a word means in your country might very well mean something radically different elsewhere. Whether that’s important is down to you. Whatever happens, you probably want to get to this point with one or two favourites.

You can use Urban Dictionary to see if your name has a widely used second meaning, and Word Safety to see if your name means something in a foreign language.

  1. Check availability of online footprint

Domains and social handles rule the world in tech enabled businesses. Getting the fabled ‘dot-com’ for your desired name is almost never straightforward, but whether something you find now, or look to acquire later down the line, starting with a solid, consistent online presence will definitely help.

Namecheckr is an awesome tool for checking the availability of certain names across both domains and social, with I Want My Name a great universal domain search tool that covers dot-com and beyond.

  1. Check for trademarks

Trademarks can be a funny and frustrating part of the business - but a little bit of work up front ensures you aren’t caught up in a complex legal battle once you’ve scaled (or even worse when you’re still tiny and have no money to fight it!). With confidence in all the above, trademarks should be your last port of call.

Use the WIPO global brand database to do quick searches across geographies, and the USPTO database to do a deep dive focussed on the US.

Whatever you might decide, we’d recommend these two tips to wrap it up:

  1. Sleep on it! Don’t rush into any decision, buy any domains, begin creating marketing collateral until you’ve taken some time away from your result. The perspective will help you understand how you really feel about it.

  2. Share with friends and family - but not for their feedback. Present to friends and family to see how it feels to talk about your company with this new name. Does it feel natural? Is it a mouthful? How do people respond emotionally?

And that’s a wrap. Best of luck nailing a great name!

Carl Martin

Brand and Communications Lead

Self proclaimed artist, activist and adventurer. Looking after all things brand at Forward Partners - from comms through culture and community.

Apply for Office Hours

We’re looking for great entrepreneurs with great ideas.

Apply here

Similar Guides