3. Four tips to naming your startup – The Story of a Startup in Palestine

What’s in a name?

Propozal.com was our first official name, but we changed it after several months.  The main problem with that particular name is that after we pivoted a few times and changed the focus of our business, the name stop reflecting what we were doing.  When people heard Propozal.com, many were under the impression that we were a proposal builder or database (which we were when we first started).  Another problem with the name was that by replacing the “s” in proposal with a “z”, it was very difficult to find us online after hearing the name mentioned.

While there are many sites and tutorials that provide much greater insight into choosing a name for your startup, I can share the criteria we stumbled upon when we selected the name AidBits.

  1. Keep it short.  Selecting a company name that is 20 letters long can be hard to remember and spell.  We decided to combine two short words or modify an existing word.
  2. Make it relevant, but not too specific.  Propozal.com was not a good choice because it seemed like it was directly related to writing proposals.  The moment we shifted our focus, the name stopped reflecting what it is that we did.  You will definitely change your business a number of times so have the name focus more on the area or sector rather than what the tool is.  AidBits on the other hand reflected the sector we were targeting (Aid – both humanitarian and development aid) and Bits in reference to computer bits and bytes to reflect the technology focus of our company.
  3. Be careful of a play on words (intentional misspelling), because most people won’t be able to find it in the future.  If you’re on the phone or in many cases, a meeting or an event where you mention the name of your company, unless you have a business card to hand out, there’s little chance that people will find you even if they want to.  A common response when we gave people our business cards is: “Oh, Propozal with a z, we were looking for proposal.  Now we know why we couldn’t find you when we Googled your name”.
  4. Find the domain name.  This is one of the more difficult exercises.  If you’re building a mobile app or game, you could probably get away with a domain name with any TLD, such as .co or .biz or .info. If you’re building a web application, you should definitely have a .com or .net.  You can easily check whether a domain name is available or reserved.  Godaddy and Network Solutions are a couple of sites where you check and purchase domain names online.  Note that this process takes a lot of time unless you have a really weird and unusual name.  The chance of finding a good domain name on the first day is very unlikely.  I can’t remember exactly how long it took us, but it took weeks, not hours or days.  Some tools to help you find both a name and domain name at the same time are: http://impossibility.org/ and http://www.bustaname.com/

The most important thing is to get feedback and ask others what they think of your name.  If everyone else but you thinks the name is terrible, chances are it’s terrible.  If you’re juggling around a few options, survey people and ask them which name they prefer and why.  Make sure you reserve the domain name if you think the name is a likely option for your startup.

Deciding on a name for your startup is a big step.  Once you have a name you’re happy with, you can start sharing your name with others and start to get your brand known, even if it’s only to the people around you.  What I would highly recommend after that is designing a logo. In designing a logo, you have a number of options:

  • If you have decent design skills, you can design it yourself
  • There are a number of free logo design tools available online.  From my experience with them, I haven’t found any that are even half decent
  • Hire a designer to create a professional looking logo.  This can be someone from within your network, or you could probably find people on elance or other freelance sites.  This option will probably set you back a few hundred dollars.
  • Start a competition using sites like www.99designs.com

Now that you’ve picked out a name and your logo design is ready, create a quick website.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy at the moment, as long as it’s not an “Under construction” page.  The last thing you want is someone to be interested in learning a bit about your company, only to find that your site is under construction for weeks or months.  There are a number of tools, such as wix or even WordPress, that will help you quickly create professional looking sites.  For a start, have some basic information about your product, your target market and some way for people to contact you.

If you have a designer, I would also suggest having them design business cards for you and your future team.  Again, it doesn’t have to be anything complex; your name, company name and logo, phone, email and website should be enough.  You can throw in an address, a QR code, your Skype ID or anything else you think is important or nice to have on your card, but I definitely wouldn’t overdo it.  In Ramallah, I found that iPrint does a great job and we use them for our printing needs.  The quality of their work is great, they’ll usually finish the work for you same day or the next, and their prices are reasonable.