Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Some pitfalls of chosing a company name

In setting up this blog I was reminded of a regular issue for our investees: choosing a suitable company name (and no I don't think that TechGain is a great name!). Over the years I've helped quite a few companies with this process, and it usually starts being fun, then gets increasingly frustrating. As an aide memoir as much as anything else, I thought I'd tabulate some of the issues that need checking, but more importantly the order that I think eliminates them most quickly:

  1. Won't degenerate into a TLA*
    In the UK we have a particularly insidious problem that results from the way we stick "Limited" on the end of (most) of our company names. If you decided to call yourself, for the sake of argument "Blue Prism" you're very likely to find it degenerates into becoming "BPL" in lieu of "Blue Prism Limited" unless you work hard to avoid it (as this company has!). Not only does that kind of invalidate your careful efforts to select those two names, but it also tends to mean that you can't register a meaningful domain name. *TLA is an ironic term for a Three Letter Acronym
  2. It's Google-able
    Doing a web-search on the name is vital, if you've chosen something with loads of existing close company names, brand names, websites, blogs etc. it'll be a real struggle for anyone who remembers your company name but not the URL to find your site. A good example of this is the great guys at First Capital, I really struggled to "Google" their website- I should've just guessed (www.firstcapital.co.uk)
  3. You can get the domain name
    Goes without saying that it's much better to be able to get the obvious domain name, less obvious are that names such as aardvarkuk.com are potentially a big problem if the "aardvark" bit is not easily google-able (see 2 above). I've heard stories that some less domain name registrars look through the queries people make of potential domain names and bag the good ones first, maybe I've just never come up with a good name but it hasn't happened to me yet, does anyone know if this is just an urban myth? I've used uk2.net to search for availability, and recently used GoDaddy.com as they seemed a bit cheaper.
  4. It doesn't catch the zeitgeist
    Poking a little fun at the great guys at GP Bullhound, the original name of the UK incubator from which it in part sprung was Gorilla Park, 'nuf said! More recently I suspect that companies that have copied flickr.com's style of domain name might look a little dated before long.
  5. Not someone else's
    If you've got this far the chances are you're not going to bump up against any really meaty issues with someone else having rights over the name- after all it makes no sense at all to register or claim a trademark and to fail to register the equivalent domain name.However you should check:
  6. No bad history
    One of our investees considered a company name, which I shall not mention for now, which turned out to have been previously used by a company which met an "unfortunate" end. Again google searches should help show this up.
  7. Unambiguous Spelling
    Some great names you could choose don't work so well when spoken, or have multiple possible spellings. nCapsa suffers from this problem, with enCapsa being a different company entirely, and there are plenty of worse examples!
  8. Not too Anglo-saxon!
    It was pointed out to me recently that English words that have their roots in Anglo-Saxon/Germanic can be more problematic, than latin-based words which are much more likely to travel well.
From our portfolio, personally I like best: Provexis and Femeda. I wont tell you the ones I really don't like, but I'd be interested in your views via the comments!