Choosing a name for your business is one of the first steps an entrepreneur should take, but for some it can be one of the most difficult. Not knowing exactly how your company will work or what it will do can stall the naming stage. As the Co-Founder and Operations Officer of ChooseWhat.com, I’ve been through this process and would like to share my experience.
My business partner Gaines and I decided to create a company to provide resources to other entrepreneurs in September of 2007. At that point, like any business idea in its infancy, we still had a lot of details to work out. The first thing we needed was a name because we knew that right away we were going to have to start acquiring things for the business (like a business mailing address, a phone number, a fax number, an LLC, an EIN, and so on).
I remember the exact circumstances of naming the business. We brainstormed ideas over the phone while I was driving my car and Gaines was at his computer in his home office. After a few minutes, we homed in on the word “Ventures” and decided to work it into the name because at that point we weren’t exactly sure which direction the business would take. The process basically became a crapshoot as we stuck words in front of “Ventures” and put them into GoDaddy to see if the domain was available. Eventually, we paired it with “Zilker” (the name of a very popular park in Austin near Gaines’ house) and found that ZilkerVentures.com was available. In addition to the domain availability, we thought the name sounded cool and was easy to say. After about 10 minutes we registered the domain, and Zilker Ventures was born.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we used the name Zilker Venutes to set up the business by doing what is now listed as steps 2 through 17 on the ChooseWhat Startup Guide. Of course, back then ChooseWhat.com didn’t exist, so we probably missed a few steps and did some others in a less than optimal way (which is the exact problem we help others solve with ChooseWhat.com). We launched our first website, FaxCompare.com, to test our idea of comparing business services. The need for this type of information was apparent almost immediately, and we even had a bit of financial success.
Gaines and I used that experience to lay out our plan for the future of our business. We hired a trademark specialist to help us find a good name for our long term vision. This process took several weeks of pretty focused efforts, but we eventually settled upon the name ChooseWhat.com, because it:
- was two simple, commonly known words;
- utilized the word “choose,” which is part of our goal – to help people choose the services they need to set up their business;
- the domain was available; and
- our trademark specialist did not see any apparent conflicts with other registered trademarks.
The specialist prepared a formal research report on the viability and availability of the trademark, and we eventually formed a new LLC for ChooseWhat.com. But, as you can see, we conducted a considerable amount of business under the name Zilker Ventures long before we ever conceived of the name ChooseWhat.com. Today, we still utilize both names. (If you’d like to know more about how we use the separate entities today, the explanation is more relevant to forming LLC’s and corporate structure; if you post your interest in our Form an LLC forum, I’ll elaborate.)
The lesson here is simple – if the creative inspiration for a great business name seems to be eluding you, just pick a name that has an available domain and revisit the issue later. Don’t let the fear of picking the wrong name for your business stand in the way of getting started.