No, this is not a cheeky, startup name generator with silicon valley unicorn startup terminology. Just a simple process to help if you’re stuck coming up with a name for your business, startup, product, service, app etc.

This is by no means the only method or criteria for naming. But see if it helps move your product forward quickly. It could take you less than an hour to come up with a solid list to choose from. Try it. If it works for you: great! Move on. Don’t let naming bog you down.

A List of Human-Friendly Words

Don’t worry about domain names at this point. There was a time when the hottest trend was to first search out available or cheap domain names and let that define what the business name would be. That is why you’d see so many business names with invented, Frankenstein mashup names, that, more likely than not, didn’t have any built-in meaning for those who heard it.

These names were computer-friendly names, not necessarily people-friendly names. I fell into this trap a few times myself.

What you see more often now from strong startup brands are human, sometimes evocative, not-made-up words. Buffer (schedule social media posts), Slack (team productivity messaging tool), Sketch (design tool), Bench (accounting service), Drip (marketing automation for drip campaigns).

Domain Names?

Many of these businesses started out as bootstrapped businesses where much was unknown — including their own success. Spending scarce resources on a “pure” domain name (ie, the domain name minus any prefixes or suffixes) was low on most of their priority lists. And they didn’t want to fabricate new words. So what did they do for domain names? They appended their names with other words and abbreviations.

BufferHQ.com, SketchApp.com, theFacebook.com.

If the business proved successful, only then did they consider buying that 5, 6 or 7 digit “pure” domain name. BufferHQ.com became buffer.com. TheFacebook.com became facebook.com. Driftt.com became drift.com. And Sketch seems to be doing fine carrying on with their SketchApp.com domain.

Yes, waiting until after your business is showing signs of success can result in the pure domain name increasing in value and cost. But consider valuing a great business name over that (possible) eventual domain name pain.

We’ll dive into some options for domains later on. For now, free yourself up to make a list of great names, not great available domain names.

Search Out Terminology in Your Space

But where can you quickly find such words that might be good candidates for names? Looking through terminology within your industry may be a great source for words with rich associations for your target market.

Example: Let’s assume you are creating an accounting SaaS software as a service product. Search Google for “accounting terminology.” Find a resource such as this.

Here’s one for photography.

Scroll through the list. Look for words with a familiar, personable, human feel.

Many of these words may be TOO rich in meaning and associations. Your job is to find words that have some flexibility. Words with perhaps some association with your industry, but not so much baggage that your name can’t claim it as its own.

Skip over the “on the nose” heavy baggage ones. “A Misstatement is Inconsequential”, “Accountant” and “Annuity” likely shouldn’t make your list.

But what about:

  • balance
  • basis
  • books
  • bond
  • boot
  • ledger
  • cycle
  • gain
  • flow
  • line (as in bottom line or line item)
  • etc

Cycle Accounting. I can’t say I know the accounting space well, but that sounds like a solid choice to me.

Lard Up That Domain Name

OK, you’ve narrowed it down to a small few you like best? Now, it’s time to find good, available domain names.

With our “cycle” selection, we know we can’t get the cycle.com domain name. Let’s consider domain name suffixes and prefixes that might work. What words can we add to our name to find an available domain name? List out some options such as:

  • getbasis.com
  • basishq.com
  • basisapp.com
  • basisaccounting.com
  • basisaccounts.com
  • etc
  • get + name
  • name + hq
  • name + app
  • name + [your industry]
  • etc

There are domain name search tools that add words to your core word for your consideration. A couple examples are Agile Domain Search and Lean Domain Search.

Other Top Level Domains?

Some businesses have chosen to get other top-level domains when the .com is not available. Some popular top-level domains include “.co” (as in: “company”) or the specialty “.ai” for artificial intelligence / machine learning / bot -related businesses or products.

These may work for businesses that target the uber hip, tech-aware folks who have become familiar with these top-level domains. But for many businesses, the added burden of educating their audience about their non-“.com” domain name may prove to be too cumbersome.

Check Domain Availability

Check availability of your favorites. Consider domain name lookup services that also check the availability of the name on social media accounts such as this one.

As of the writing of this post cycleaccounting.com is available. Are the domains still not available even when adding additional words? Are business names and domains currently being used by someone in your specific industry? Consider going back up to your list and trying other names on your list.

STILL not finding good names? You may have to move on beyond your industry terminology. Spending time with an online thesaurus might be a next step.

Check For Trademark

Do a trademark search to see if someone is using that name for a product similar to yours. (Click the link above, then click “Basic Word Mark Search (New User).” Sorry it’s a government site, therefore it is not easy to use. I can’t share a link for the search section deeper into the site.)

If you are building a brand for nationwide domination, you most likely need a more thorough search from a hired pro. But for the moment, as you are checking all your options, you can search for yourself.

Caveat: I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice etc etc.

Check the Price of the “Pure” Domain Name

Is someone “squatting” on the “pure” domain name? Ie, the domain name doesn’t look to be a site currently in active use by a profitable business? Consider contacting them now while you and your business are unknown and see what they are asking for the sale of that domain. Or make an offer. You can always walk away and use the prefix / suffix domain mentioned above if it doesn’t work out.

Move Forward

Move on. Make a great product and a great business that make your customers happy and let THAT be how you add meaning to whatever name you select.

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