Last week, Basis Science, maker of fitness tracker Basis, announced an $11.75 million round of Series B financing from investors like Intel Capital and Stanford University. The news serves as one more data point for an increasingly obvious trend: the wearable technology market is in the midst of explosive growth, predicted by some to increase tenfold in the next several years. But whether they’re backed by startups, small businesses, or major brands like Samsung, Google, or (potentially) Apple, wearables face a common challenge: They must successfully bridge the disparate worlds of cutting-edge consumer technology and mainstream fashion.
As pointed out in a recent Fast Company article, the advent of wearable computers demands that technology companies “pay as much attention to the ‘wearable’ as [they do] to the ‘computer.’” Simply offering multiple colors, inviting designers to launch events, or putting their products on models may not be enough to make these devices desirable from a fashion standpoint.
What should we name our company?
This question, although faced infrequently by a company’s founders—perhaps only once—has significant implications for how the company is perceived by future investors, partners, and customers. Square, Bitcoin, Snapchat, Ouya—company names vary dramatically in style and meaning (or lack thereof). Equally diverse are companies’ answers to a related question: How should we choose our name?
As a professional namer and strategic writer, I’m especially interested in the answers to these questions. When a name catches my eye, I often try to find out what it means, who came up with it and how, and why it is or isn’t working well. Recently, while researching for an article about San Francisco Bay Area startups with great names, I found Retrace, an app that helps you remember and organize everything about your daily meetings. I like the name because it hints at the core idea behind the product and because it’s a short, real word, which makes it easy to pronounce and spell. But it’s also not a word you hear every day, so it’s more memorable and less likely to cause legal problems.
I spoke with the CEO and cofounder, Austin Marusco, to get the story behind Retrace and discover some tips for others seeking the perfect name. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see Marusco pitch Retrace at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2013, check out the video at the bottom.
I had the really exciting opportunity to speak with eBay’s CMO North America, Richelle Parham, as part of Interbrand’s IQ publication and Best Retail Brands report. The videos are below. Click here, here, or here to see them in context.
The Bay area gets a bad rap when it comes to names. No, I’m not talking about your friends’ babies, Namaste and Venture. I’m talking about brand names — especially the names of startups.
Here in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and the rest of the Bay area, we’re home to plenty of brand names that sound nonsensical at first, but have since become household names: Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Apple. But for every quirky company name we eventually learn to take seriously, there are a handful of local startups whose silly names never seem to reach escape velocity — names that we never warm up to.
Worst-case scenario, these names can be a hindrance to their companies rather than a leg up. Of course, whether or not a company’s name is “good” is partly a matter of opinion. (Doostang, for example, sounds scatological to me — especially inappropriate given it’s “an exclusive career community.”) But some simple guidelines can add a bit of objectivity when looking at brand names. QOOP, a now-defunct “social commerce network” based in Mill Valley, failed the basic test of clear pronunciation (Koop? Kwoop? Co-op?). Weebly, a San Francisco company that lets users create sites “as unique as they are,” suffers from an unfortunately non-unique name — it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other startups with names that end in “ly” (a trend that started with Libya’s country domain). And Pinwheel, now called Findery, had to recover from the hiccup of changing its name early on due to legal availability issues.
But it’s too easy to get negative about names, especially when they’re taken out of context or with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight after a brand has run into trouble. Instead of nitpicking, let’s correct the Bay Area startup scene’s reputation by highlighting some of the great brand names working their way into our collective lexicon every day. Here are a few brand names — new or just in the news — that get their respective companies off on the right foot.
Just saw this on the website of my local UPS Store and am now wondering if they cater mainly to ex-chemistry teachers who’ve turned to meth manufacturing.