Apr 9, 2017

How to name your startup

Photo illustration by Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Rich Barton, the founder of Expedia, Zillow and Glassdoor, explained to Axios why naming your company is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs need to make throughout their careers. Barton shared his advice for the most important things to consider when naming your business.

Why it matters: Naming affects your bottom line. A study by The Society for Personality and Social Psychology shows that companies with names that are simpler to pronounce and easier to remember perform better on Wall Street. Per Barton:

I learned a lot from Expedia, too many syllables. The extra two syllables cost me 1/4 billion in TV dollars to hound it into people's heads.

Here are Rich's suggestions for tactics that work well in naming a successful company:

  1. High-point scrabble letters: "You get more points if you use rare letters," Barton says. "Because we rarely use those letters, when we read, see and say them — they jump out at us. And they stick in our heads."
  2. X's and Z's sounds work well: Expedia and Zillow both follow the X and Z rule.
  3. Two-syllable names: "If you think of the biggest brands in the world, they tend to have fewer syllables," Barton says. Barton notes that he learned this lesson when his son couldn't pronounce the name of his company as a four-year-old.
  4. Homonyms: (Words that mean something prior to the brand's adoption of them, like Apple and Amazon.) Use simple words and create a new meaning for them.
  5. Palindromes and double letters: Some of the world's largest brands use these techniques effectively: Kodak, Xerox and Google, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo, and Zillow
  6. Words you can verb: Words that can easily be turned into verbs, like "Googled" or "Instagrammed."
Go deeper