Athol Foden: Get The Naming Monkey Off Your Back Aug-25 at Red Rock

Athol Foden gave a great briefing on naming your company and your product and took questions on naming at the Aug-25 Bootstrapper Breakfast in Mountain View.

Athol Foden: Get the Naming Monkey Off Your Back

Situation: You are in startup mode. You have little time and less money. But in due course your company or product name will be your key weapon in the battle for mindshare. What to do? How to solve your
problem so you can register the business and protect the trademark?

Featured AttendeeAthol Foden is the president of Brighter Naming which he bootstrapped into existence fifteen years ago until it became Silicon Valley’s original full-service professional naming agency. Before becoming a branding consultant, he was an international sales and marketing executive at various hardware and software companies.

Join this discussion to learn some shortcuts and tricks to get practical results in short order so you can get on with the business by implementing Athol’s first rule of marketing: Do Something.

Athol Foden’s Handount

Athol’s First Rule of Marketing: DO SOMETHING

Remember you are naming it so STOP trying to describe it unless you have first mover advantage (e.g. Genentech ®, Bootstrappers’ Breakfast ® )

Forget descriptors UNTIL you have the key initial part of the full name that you can brand and trademark (e.g. Starbucks® Coffee Roasting Company of Nevada LLC)

BUT use these trailing descriptors that make up your full Tradename (as registered with State) to sell name internally. (e.g. Violin® Memory Inc)


You need to process a lot of names because there are 50Million companies in USA and a billion products and they all need a name. And there are only 100,000 words in English dictionary and they are all taken. Even less names in vocabulary in your industry sector. And over 30million Trademarks already.


Cross over names: Adobe = ugly mud hut or Adobe Systems Inc software
Yahoo = slightly crazy cowboy or big software co.
Cadence = Musical term or CAD software co
Caterpillar = garden worm or big equipment co.
THINK foreign words: Uber, Lyft
THINK two word names: MicroSoft, StarBucks, Gglobal
THINK compound names: Lumatrak, AvidaSports, CocaCola, Solyndra
THINK truncated names: Intel, Cisco

REALIZE Creative Brainstorming sessions don’t work
But you do need a lot of names in play
The helper you need is a word or language or brand centric person – maybe a writer, secretary, scrabble player, teacher, etc.
A competition with a good physical prize may help flush out such a person

Then start building the master list file (in Excel so you can sort and search)
Start with 4 columns and at least 25 names in each column
Combine words from different columns to create lots of nonsense and a few cool possibilities
Polish and tweak and check domains, trademarks, State Reg and common law usage (add cols in spreadsheet).

As a team, seek out 10 candidate names. Keep all names in play even if one member doesn’t like one name.
Final name only has to be initially liked by a management majority, not everyone.

Share 10 names with more key partners, then pick top 3 for final checks.

Additional Notes and Comments at Breakfast

Some other tests and suggestions to help evaluate candidate names.

Evaluating Names

  • Trademarks are sound-alike so a different spelling will conflict if most people would pronounce it the same. For this reason spaces, comma, hyphens will not avoid a conflict.
  • Try saying the name over the phone to test if people can spell it.
  • Test it for meaning in other languages that your prospects may know.

Some quick checks

  1. Determine if the domain is available.
  2. Search the US PTO Trademark database:
  3. If you are contemplating a European trademark you can also search the EU at
  4. Do a Google Search (in incognito mode) to search for who else may be using it.  Athol Foden observed that Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo may be more useful as they don’t return as many “near misses.” Avoid names used by major corporations.
  5. Search the Urban Dictionary for slang meanings.
  6. If it’s for an app check the Apple and Google Play stores for potential conflicts.


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