04. How to name your startup

Estimated Time

  • Reading: ~4 minutes
  • Video: ~23 minutes
  • Activities: to be completed prior to next week

Top Insights

  • You want a name that is beautiful, simple, and clean.
  • If someone can't say it to another person on a bad mobile phone connection and they understand - it's not a good name to use.
  • Look at how other people are branding and adapt it.
    • Zendesk put "zen" in front of a very basic word.
      • What you gain is the credibility that the original brand created.
      • However, what you stand to lose is that the word is associated with the original, more popular brand.
      • They may even sue you. You have to think about that.
  • Don't beat any ideas down.
    • Let them all come out and go from there.
    • People like personal or clever names.
  • Come up with a name that you love.
    • Remember, you can always change the name later.

Episode Date: May 22, 2014

Jason Calacanis | TWiST | Twitter | LinkedIn


  • One of the most important things you'll ever do with your startup is naming it and this is incredibly hard.
  • Do you want it to be literal or evoke a feeling?
    • A name that evokes a feeling, like Yahoo or Google, doesn't mean something until it means something.
    • When you use something literal, you get the benefit of people knowing what you're doing.

Tips for Naming

  • You don't have to spell it perfectly.
    • You can make something unique by misspelling it.
    • For example, Flickr couldn't get "e-r" so the left out the "e".
    • At a certain point (of success) it's going to come up on search results above the correct spelling.
  • Use an acronym that means something.
    • Short, memorable, punchy.
  • Use a dictionary or thesaurus.
    • One of Jason's favorite tools is OneLook
      • They have a reverse dictionary page
      • This lets you describe a concept and get a list of words and phrases related to that concept

Domain Names

  • Fake it until you make it.
    • It's OK to have an ugly domain when you start.
"If your product sucks and you put a million dollars into a domain, that may actually be a negative signal like, maybe, you're just a little loopy. Now, if you're rich, fine. If you're Mark Cuban and buy a great domain name, you can afford it, fine. It's just a rounding error." - Jason
  • Having .com makes you look legitimate
    • Having a .net is not the end of the world
    • Personally, Jason thinks a .co is better than a .net domain
    • For more guidance on "How to Buy the Right Domain" this blog walks you through the process nicely.
  • Add prefixes or suffixes
    • Look at how they used to name newspapers
      • For example, NY Post, NY Press, NY Times
  • Put a word before the name you want for your domain, if the exact word is already taken.
  • One tip, buy a few different domains associated with your name.
    • Then when you negotiate with someone who owns the domain you want, you can write to them something like:
Dear Mrs. (Domain Holder),


  • Apps have created a new reset on branding
  • You should think about filing a trademark on your domain or company so if people on another medium use your name, you are able to recover your brand
    • However, if you're not active in those verticals, you really can't have it everywhere
  • The more generic your name, the more open you are to other people being able to use it.
    • This is not legal advice, just general rules.
  • For example, if you use inside.com you can't go to Inside the NBA and ask them to stop using it
  • If you get the best domain name, you have a better chance of winning the SEO race.
  • Another option, you can buy an app from someone to take over their namespace in the App Store.
    • Often you will see people build horrible apps just to grab the space
    • They may be open to negotiating

Twitter Handles

  • Most of the premium handles have been acquired already
  • Twitter has a process for asking them to release unused handles but it probably won't work out for you
  • You can put a "go" or "get" before the word on the handle.
    • Just add an additional word
    • Pairing words is also fine
  • It's against the terms of service on Twitter to buy or sell a Twitter handle — yet it happens all the time.
    • If you try to buy a Twitter handle, you have to be discreet about it.
    • Jason shares the following:
"So the way you do it, I've


  • Tip: Once you have decided on a name include update your profile to include it
    • For example, Charlie Cuddy [LAUNCH]

Additional Resources


🔲  Decide on the name for your company🔲  Register the domain name

  • It is a good idea to try and buy a domain name to ensure you won't run into any issues down the road
  • A website is one of the first places people will go to learn about your company

🔲  Bonus: Put together a landing page

  • Basic info to include, your name, what you do, how to contact you, etc.
  • We will talk about tools to help with this in the coming sections

LINK back to Content Pacing Guide