Why Startups Have Such Stupid Names

If you want to launch a company, you need a name that will stick. And it should probably have at least one “Z” and some missing letters.

Why Startups Have Such Stupid Names

Somewhere along the way the Internet got crowded.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, there are about 252 million domain names registered across the web–meaning that any sort of sensibly titled web real estate has long been occupied.

To wit, the rights to investing.com got sold for $2.5 million last year.

So if you’re a startup, you gotta go creative

The companies need names. The names need to be memorable, so who cares if you have to invent a word or eschew an e? Thus the Tumblrs and Zyngas and Zaarlys, the Quirkys and the Qnarys, the Etsy and Artsy and Loverly.

“The challenge is to come up with something that conveys meaning, is memorable,— and isn’t just alphabet soup,” reports the Journal’s Lindsay Gellman.

But names need to be crisp, too, as Steve Manning, founder of name consultancy Igor, tells the Journal. Founders think any longer than five to seven letters could be easily forgotten–too much of a cognitive load to have more than eight letters, we imagine.

So the name must be hacked

Data scientist Anthony Goldbloom came up with the name for his data science community site now called Kaggle in a fitting fashion: He put together an algorithm that spat out all the pronounceable three-syllable or fewer combinations of letters for addresses that we still available.

That begat 700 names–with two finalists, Sumble and Kaggle, to be decided on. After getting the thumbs-up on Kaggle from friends and family, he went with that necessary neologism.

“I was too frugal to want to pay for an [existing] domain name,” Goldbloom tells the Journal.

Hat tip: The Wall Street Journal

[Image: Flickr user Shardayyy]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.