Are There Enough Great Names to Go Around?

Being smack dab in the middle of tech-startup world here in San Francisco,  I’ve seen more than my fair share of clever names.

Businesses in the Mission where I’m staying all seem to draw on the appeal of one-word randomness, like Beretta (a restaurant), Ritual (a coffee shop) and Revolution (a clothing boutique). Pithy and tidy, these monikers do a good job evoking the zeitgeist of the city hipster.

Naming an online property is not that much different, with the glaring exception that it must be wholly unique to qualify for its own URL. So my question is: In such a crowded but unlimited space of domain names, how do you come up with something original and catchy?

All Great Companies (Seem to) Have Great Names

Just look at some of the names of the most innovative and successful companies out there today — snappy, clever, sometimes quirky, with universal appeal.

Examples from some of the latest hot startups:

  • Airbnb.com: Feels light and springy, like travelling should. A huge improvement on its predecessor VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner)
  • Squareup.com: The company is actually Square, but the domain makes for some great vernacular (as in “let’s square up our debts”).
  • Shortform.com: Sounds like industry jargon, which it is soon becoming by way of this video curation startup.
  • Foodia.com: The -ia suffix takes the common word “food” and makes it sound like “the kingdom of food.” Same goes with Trademarkia.com for “the kingdom of trademarks.”

The point I’m making here is that it’s not hard to come up with a stellar name for your blog, website and/or company. You just need creativity, a little patience and my 3-part series on domain naming.

I’d even argue that the more “out there” a name is, the more intrinsic appeal it will have to both the early adopters and mainstream consumers. Names that try too hard, are too literal or in my opinion — are too common (what can you really do with social.com after spending millions to buy it, start the next Facebook?) — fail to capture the spirit of the bootstrapping startup, which is all the rage these days.

Let’s not forget that you obviously have to build a real business around your name, so when you do make it huge, the name becomes a household word, or better yet — a household verb.

Photo by JoopDorresteijn.