As an entrepreneurship professor, every semester I have about 20-30 student teams developing concepts and the first big question they struggle with is: What should we name our company?
While there are plenty of resources on the web that provide guidance on naming a company (I’ve included a few of my favorites at the end of this post), I have yet to run across a post about the most common discussion I hear when potential founders discuss naming their company.
Without a doubt, every semester, I always have student teams that immediately say: Well, what does “X” mean in Latin? Or Greek? Or Spanish? Or French? Or Pig Latin? (Ok, maybe not Pig Latin)
For some reason, Latin is always the first choice. Unless it is a startup focused on solving something for the Pope, this makes no sense. While there is a small movement pushing for the revival of this dead language, there is no country that uses Latin as its official language. So why would you name your company something the majority of 7.6 billion humans wouldn’t understand?
The answer: laziness. Here is a simple example. At Chico State (and I’m sure many college campuses) bike theft is a problem. My students are always coming up with ways to solve this problem. Let’s say a group develops a better bike lock. Let’s name the company, Cursoriam! It is Latin for bike! Done!
I think you can already see some problems with this. Perhaps the domain name for cursoriam.com might be available for purchase, but when would a consumer ever see this name and think ‘bike locks’? How would a consumer remember it if they did run across the name? Further, how would a consumer remember how to spell it? I think I may actually prefer Pig Latin for the company name: Ikebay.
Even if the team decided to go with a benefit-focused name such as safety, the Latin word for safety is salutem. Cognitively, Americans probably see the word ‘salute’ and ’em’ and read it as a military-focused company.
For fun, I found a site that boasts a list of Latin company names calling them “intelligent and classic.” Feel free to browse and let me know in the comments if you can tell what any of the companies do just by their names.
Unless the startup is either 1. focusing their market on a market that uses or knows that language or 2. deeply ingraining some part of that language’s origin into the culture, it just does not do the job of communicating value. One recent example is the dating app Chispa, a dating app focused towards the Latino/Hispanic population. Chispa means spark, which makes sense!
Company names need to communicate the personality of the company and the value of the offering while also speaking to target market that has that personality and values the offering.
Let’s look at examples such as Uber and Google. Uber’s definition is a supreme example of something (upgrading the taxi experience), and initial users gravitated towards something better than what they had. Google’s original definition was a take on ‘googol,’ an unfathomable number (or a number 10 to the 100th power). This nerdy and audacious name made their savvy early adopters love it. It becomes somewhat apparent why Yahoo isn’t doing so well.
While naming a company is no easy task, simply taking the name and putting it into another language unrelated to your market is the easiest and stupidest way to name your company.
For those of you that want to put some thought into your company name, here are some of my favorites:
- Do Startup Names Matter?
- 12 Tips for Naming Your Startup Business
- Does Your Company Name Suck? Take the “Ten Word Test’ to Find Out (shameless self-promotion post)
- Why Most Company and Product Names Suck and How To Make Sure Yours Doesn’t
- Stop Worrying About Your Company Name and Start Worrying About Your Product