How to find a great name for your startup

Finding a good name for your startup is an important part of creating your business and its brand. You want something that will stick in people’s minds, something that sums you up and gets people excited and intrigued. But how can you find a name that’s original, catchy, that encapsulates your brand – and that’s never been used before? Virgin StartUp business advisor Jonathon Spanos is on hand with his top tips to finding the perfect name for your startup.

Make it descriptive or original

When picking a name, there are two general paths to start with when picking a strong one. Either pick one that’s descriptive, eg has something to do with what YOU do; or make up a word entirely. Both have benefits. Descriptive names can be tricky when it comes to trademarking, as you can’t use overly descriptive language, but  it gives a sense of what your business does right off the bat. But a made-up name has the power of intrigue, and can be something that you really own and project your brand’s specific meaning onto (just think of Google.)

Timeless versus trendy

Startup names are prone to trends, such as losing vowels, adding –ly onto the ends of words, and more. The problem with this is that it dates you, and can make it look like your startup is jumping on a bandwagon of similar businesses. Think about what you want people to think when they hear your business name in a decade or two.

Make it unique

Before you get too excited about the brilliant name you’ve just invented, make sure you check that nobody else has a claim to it. Search for similar business names on Google, look on Facebook pages, Twitter, domains – anything you can think of. Even if it’s not trademarked, it can lead to problems down the line – not least people being unable to find your company. And making it unique as possible can help with the next point…

Keep it memorable

You’ve come up with your startup name – of course you can remember it. But what about someone seeing your business name on an advert, in an article, on the radio or during a conversation? The only way to find out if your name is memorable is to test it. Have a chat to people about the business, mentioning the company name only at the start. At the end, ask them if they remember your business’s name. If they don’t, it’s a bad sign. A good way to ensure it’s memorable is to keep it short. This also helps when it comes to social media, as you want a Twitter handle that won’t eat up the character limit.

Make it available

Talking about Twitter handles, ever notice how all the good ones seem to be taken? Considering your Twitter handle when you pick a name is really important - if your business name is already taken on there it could lead to mix-ups and make it difficult for potential customers to find you. Similarly, check that your favoured business name is available on your preferred domain. If it’s already taken, see if you can purchase it from the current user. The key thing here is discoverability. If you have one name for your business but different ones for your social handles and website it can be very confusing.

Have a story behind it

If someone asked you about the story behind your name, what would you tell them? It doesn’t need to be the world’s greatest story, but something interesting will help people remember you and also helps your brand come alive. Even a non-story can become a story - music discovery app Shazam was named that because it was the best they could come up with at the time, yet over a decade later and it's still going strong, because everything else they thought about changing it to didn't quite work.

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan