5 Things To Remember When Choosing Startup Names

What Asia-based businesses should keep in mind when choosing startup names.

A startup’s name is usually the first, most basic level at which the audience starts to interact with a business. Subconsciously, they are already forming ideas of what your brand is about, and what they can expect from you. In this situation, a startup will want to get their first impressions right –you want a name that sticks.

The truth is that there is no right way of naming a startup, but there definitely are several wrong ones. Getting to know the fundamentals is a good starting point. Keep the following things in mind when naming your new business.

1. There are different ways to approach startup names.

Lots of companies have built successful brands out of names that directly describe their business, such as Coca Cola or iPhone or Uber Eats. Others use suggestive names that connect to an idea or a metaphor more than the actual business. An example of this is Paytm, which loosely connects to the word ATM, or Alibaba, which is derived from the children’s story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

A third way is to use the founder’s or mascot’s credentials (think Betty Crocker), but this is a relatively antiquated way of naming a business that few modern founders choose. A fourth way is to throw the rules out the window, and pick a name arbitrarily. This works best for emerging tech companies or companies targeting a younger crowd.

2. Keep up-to-date with regulation.

Depending on how big you see your business becoming, and what markets you want to enter, make sure you know what the legalities are with respect to names, or consult a lawyer. For example, Section 27(1) of Singapore’s Companies Act (2006) points out several reasons why a company’s name can be rejected during incorporation, such as a name that is obscene or religious, or is identical to that of another company.

3. Be careful to check what it means in other countries.

The word gift in English means to give someone a present or token, maybe during a celebratory event. In German though, giften means poison, and that is probably not what a company would want to be named after. In Southeast Asia, where there are so many languages in addition to dialects of those languages, it is a good idea to cross-check the meaning of the possible names of your company. This is particularly important if you are expanding, in which case you may even want to consider localizing your company’s name.

4. Check for same or similar startup names.

In 2016, several Indian web portals such as BookMyShow and Naukri.Com filed cases against smaller companies for infringing their intellectual property rights by using similar sounding names to pass off as those brands.

This is something you need to be wary of. Naming your brand something similar to another one will not only create bigger struggles for you in establishing your own identity in the market, but could also potentially led to legal tussles. It’s best to stick with a name that is unique to your company.

5. Test a bunch of options.

After you have a list of possible startup names, run them by your network of friends, advisers and mentors. Ask them what they think about the names, and which of those they think could work.

Take this a step further through a fun exercise by putting the names into basic logo design templates. You and your test focus group will get an idea of what the tone, voice, and look-and-feel of your brand could be with that particular name.

If you are at your wits’ end with the naming process and are out of ideas, sites such as Naming Matters or NameMesh can help. And remember to take your time with it – your startup should be worthy of its name, so make sure the name is impressive.


Header image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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