By Grant Polachek

Startup culture is thriving in the U.S. – the number of startups in the country has increased by almost 50% since 1982.  As an entrepreneur working to get your business off the ground, joining the entrepreneurship community likely makes you both excited and apprehensive. On the one hand, you’ll have peers you can reach out to for support. On the other hand, it’s likely that you’ll encounter some other startups – or well-established companies – who are your direct competitor.  

There are many things you can do to distinguish your company from your competitors, from creative branding to witty marketing. However, at the basis of everything you do is your name. Your name is the first thing that will catch your potential customers’ attention and will help drive your company to success.  

To help you find that fantastic name that beats the competition, we’ve shared the Squadhelp naming pyramid, which will help you narrow your business strategy down to your name. As well, we’ve highlighted the different categories of names, which you can use to focus your naming efforts.

Startup Naming Philosophy: The Naming Pyramid

Your name stands for every aspect of your business. The Squadhelp naming pyramid will help you refine every aspect of your new startup into one comprehensive name.

Level 1 – Business Strategy: At the base of the Naming Pyramid is your business strategy, including your plan for operations, finances, and marketing. While these are essential parts of your business, they don’t need to be explicitly expressed in your name.

Level 2 – Brand: Your brand is represented in your story, mission, colors, and fonts.  At this level of the pyramid, you combine the vast amount of information from Level 1 into these few items that are meaningful and relevant to your potential customers.

Level 3 – Value Proposition: This is the short overview of why you exist and why people should care, further refined from Levels 1 and 2. It’s your value proposition or elevator pitch – essentially, a concise explanation of what you do.

Level 4 – Name: Your whole business is distilled into your brand, your brand into your elevator pitch, and at the top of the pyramid is your name, a single word or phrase that supports your positioning. Your name will be used more than any other branding piece on this pyramid.

Startup Name Selection: Categories of Names

The naming pyramid should give you a clear idea of how your name represents your business. From there, you may be wondering, how do you choose a name for your new startup? Looking at naming categories will help you focus your naming brainstorm. During Squadhelp’s naming genome project, we found that most names fall into one of five categories:

Category 1: Intriguing Names

Intriguing names are ideal for companies that don’t want to be confined to a specific product line or industry with their name or want to keep an air of mystery around their name. As a startup, having an intriguing name can be helpful if you decide to change direction in the future.

Intriguing names come in many forms.  Abstract names, like Voya, are short, memorable, and appealing.  Names like Rinsio and Itorix are more metaphorical and don’t make it immediately clear what the company does.  Beepz and BackPorch are built from descriptive root words, making these names slightly experiential.

Category 2: Clever Names

Clever names can be used in any industry, if they align with your branding. When used correctly, they can be very powerful and appealing because they can be descriptive, while still connecting deeply with your target audience. However, only use a clever name if your business and branding match the fun vibe conveyed by the name.

Clever names are fun to create and fun to use. They can incorporate puns (Whey to Go), plays on words (Playformance), witty phrases (Next Comes Love), silly imagery (Flirt Perfect), and alliteration (Moody Mango). Look to tech companies like MailChimp who successfully created a playful and fun brand around their clever name.

Category 3: Classic Names

Classic names are commonly used in well-established or traditional industries, like banking, law, consulting, and traditional marketing. If your new startup falls into one of these categories, choosing a classic name will help you convey your industry. Consumers are also likely to view brands with classic names as sophisticated or high-end.

There are typically three reasons to use a classic name: to exude prestige, to fit in your industry, or to align with a luxury price point. Examples of classic names developed by the Squadhelp Creative Community include London Cotton Collective, Zenith Capital, Terralink Transportation, and Ellie Grey.

Classic Names also have their opposite form, outlier names, or names that are built to stand out.  Apple is an excellent example of a name designed to stand far out from an industry that was filled with initials and last names.

Category 4: Emotional Names

For startups that aren’t afraid to lead with emotion, emotional names can be an excellent way to connect and make a brand statement. This type of names is built on powerful, emotive words like love, joy, thrill, and ignite. If you want consumers immediately to feel a connection to your brand, then emotional names are the way to go.

Emotional names often blend with other naming categories. For example, names like WorkJoy contain a level of descriptiveness. Promise Hill and Waverlust may evoke emotions and intrigue potential customers.

Category 5: Experiential Names

Experiential names work great if your startup has a pointed and direct value proposition, as an experiential names convey your brand experience right in the name. Experiential names make it clear to users exactly what to expect from your startup.

Dollar Shave Club is a great example of this type of name – you know exactly what you’re getting when you sign up for the service. Other examples from the Squadhelp community include The Tea Shack (a tea company), Playformance (playground surfacing product), and Flirt Perfect (a dating app).

How to Choose Your Startup’s Name

Now that you have an idea of different categories of names you could choose, think about which is the best fit for your business. Narrow your focus to a few styles of names and begin the exciting process of brainstorming your awesome moniker to beat out your competition.

Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at–the only full-service, agency-like name development platform, that is also affordable. His book How to Develop the Perfect Name for Just About Anything is available to SmallBiz Daily readers for free.