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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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I Suck At Naming Things

Comments (9)

One of the hallmarks of a great entrepreneur is knowing what you suck at.  I suck at plenty of things – Paul Berberian’s blog The Name Game reminded me of one of them – naming things.

I was an investor in Paul’s last company – Raindance Communications – which went through five names to get there (Intellistat Media Research, Vstream, Evoke, Evoke Software, and finally Raindance Communications.)  At some point I suggested we change the name to Ekove (read Paul’s story to learn why) but I was over-ruled – or rather, ignored.  Paul ends his story with the line "My Advice – don’t do what I did" which should always be an enticement to read it.

My legacy of names for companies is long and troubled.  It starts back at the beginning with the name of my first real company – Feld Technologies.  Very creative.  My dad was proud of me, but I learned rule #7341 – don’t name your company after yourself.

After moving to Boulder, I co-founded a company with Andrew Currie and Brian Makare.  The business created the first known (at least to me) email service providers.  At the time (1995) none of us knew what an email service provider was.  We struggled to name the company.  Over beers one night I asked "so – what do we do?"  One of Andrew or Brian (I can’t remember) annoyingly looked over at me and said "We publish email."  Hence – the name of the company – Email Publishing.

Another company that I helped start at the time was an attempt to create one of the early consolidated web hosting companies.  At the time there were lots of companies doing web hosting with loads of creative names that typically included the words "web" or "communication" or "network" somewhere in their names.  We named our business "Web Hosting Organization" and then shortened it to WHO, which caused much amusement (and confusion) in the ensuing legal documents we used to acquire other companies.

Around 1999 I gave up naming things.  I realized that virtually every company I invested in was going through name changes and the marketing people were gleefully spending investor money "rebranding."  I put this in the "what a fucking waste" category and started being more aggressive about my current mantra – "pick a name and stick to it, but please don’t ask me for my opinion on it."

Oh – and the name of this blog fits in that category also.  Feld Thoughts?  C’mon…  But I’m not changing it.

  • http://www.shunyaglobal.com Anurag Pandey

    Me too.. I call myself “creatively challenged” :)
    And as things look right now, we might be renaming our company in the coming few months.

  • Heather Duey

    I have the same problem. I try to come up with catchy names that nobody remembers. I once had a company called LEnfIS (Law Enforcement Information Systems) – nobody got it. I let David name all our stuff because he's really good at it (or at least way better than me).

  • http://www.invesp.com/blog Ayat

    ha! that's pretty funny. Honestly, the most difficult thing about naming is when you choose an acronym for your company, but then because the company changes focus and direction teh acronym no longer applies. People ask me: where the heck did you guys come up with the name Invesp!” It doesn't make sense to go into details of how the acronym no longer applies. It's just funny to have to deal with that every time.

  • fewquid

    The most useful tools for naming are: (a) sugary bubblegum, (b) beer (not to be consumed simultaneously with (a)!), (c) a mild state of euphoria and (d) a speedy whois lookup so you can check domain availability… I'm sitting on a bunch of names that don't have a home — Piggr, anyone? Flocket? Spotgap? Tidyr? Always wanted to set up a company called Rinky Dinky Software (a c-corp not an LLC so the rhyme works)…

    Still, as weaknesses go, it's probably better to be good at substance rather than flash ;-)

  • http://parmaproductions.com/vip/index.html Sara

    did you have anything to do with naming VirtuFlex or Channelwave? Just remembering the good old days Brad!

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I missed the opportunity to participate in the naming of VirtuFlex (that was all Ron and Dan) and by the time it got renamed to Channelwave I knew I was lousy at naming so I stayed out of it.

  • http://www.bottomupdesign.net Jonathan Chauncey

    I have this same problem. I am amazed when I see names like Google (its used as a freaking verb now how cool is that?), Flikr, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and all the countless others. My current company is called BottomUpDesign (how sporting for a custom software design shop? bottomupdesign.net btw) But for my current project I am stuck on what I will name it.

    I should enlist the services of a professional product namer… well I guess thats what marketing people get paid for.

    • fewquid

      No no… We get paid for making glossy flyers and “getting your name out there”… ;-)

  • http://blog.suretomeet.com Cliff Allen

    When I ran a high-tech advertising and PR firm we encouraged start-ups to choose a name that isn't too restrictive and stick with it. The customers' experience with the products will define the “brand image.”

  • Sara

    did you have anything to do with naming VirtuFlex or Channelwave? Just remembering the good old days Brad!

  • Ayat

    ha! that's pretty funny. Honestly, the most difficult thing about naming is when you choose an acronym for your company, but then because the company changes focus and direction teh acronym no longer applies. People ask me: where the heck did you guys come up with the name Invesp!" It doesn't make sense to go into details of how the acronym no longer applies. It's just funny to have to deal with that every time.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I missed the opportunity to participate in the naming of VirtuFlex (that was all Ron and Dan) and by the time it got renamed to Channelwave I knew I was lousy at naming so I stayed out of it.

  • Cliff Allen

    When I ran a high-tech advertising and PR firm we encouraged start-ups to choose a name that isn't too restrictive and stick with it. The customers' experience with the products will define the "brand image."

  • Jonathan Chauncey

    I have this same problem. I am amazed when I see names like Google (its used as a freaking verb now how cool is that?), Flikr, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and all the countless others. My current company is called BottomUpDesign (how sporting for a custom software design shop? bottomupdesign.net btw) But for my current project I am stuck on what I will name it.

    I should enlist the services of a professional product namer… well I guess thats what marketing people get paid for.

  • fewquid

    The most useful tools for naming are: (a) sugary bubblegum, (b) beer (not to be consumed simultaneously with (a)!), (c) a mild state of euphoria and (d) a speedy whois lookup so you can check domain availability… I'm sitting on a bunch of names that don't have a home — Piggr, anyone? Flocket? Spotgap? Tidyr? Always wanted to set up a company called Rinky Dinky Software (a c-corp not an LLC so the rhyme works)…

    Still, as weaknesses go, it's probably better to be good at substance rather than flash ;-)

  • fewquid

    No no… We get paid for making glossy flyers and "getting your name out there"… ;-)

  • Anurag Pandey

    Me too.. I call myself "creatively challenged" :)
    And as things look right now, we might be renaming our company in the coming few months.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/heather_duey heather_duey

    I have the same problem. I try to come up with catchy names that nobody remembers. I once had a company called LEnfIS (Law Enforcement Information Systems) – nobody got it. I let David name all our stuff because he's really good at it (or at least way better than me).

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