Thinking a name for your startup? Here’s how they got theirs


A company name is very important aspect for the business and it is often challenging and tricky task to find a name that is distinct and gives a glimpse of the overall business. So if you are thinking about a name for your startup, here’s how these tech giants got their names,


In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin called their initial search engine “BackRub,” named for its analysis of the web’s “back links.” Back in Sep 1997, while discussing a number of possible new names for the rapidly improving search technology, , Sean and Larry discussed were in their office, using the whiteboard, trying to think up a good name – something that related to the indexing of an immense amount of data. Sean verbally suggested the word “googolplex,” and Larry responded verbally with the shortened form, “googol” (both words refer to specific large numbers). Sean executed a search of the Internet domain name registry database to see if the newly suggested name was still available for registration and use. Sean made the mistake of searching for the name spelled as “,” which he found to be available. Larry liked the name, and within hours he took the step of registering the name “” for himself and Sergey (the domain name registration record dates from September 15, 1997).                     


Did you notice where ‘’ takes you, if you navigate it on a web browser?Well, if you didn’t try it, it takes you to Amazon’s website.  And there is history behind it.

Amazon was not always called Amazon. Initially Bezos called it as in “abra cadabra”, but this was dropped soon after his lawyer misheard it as “cadaver” (corpse). Then he registered his online bookstore as ‘’ as a possible name that sounded a little sinister to his friends.  Finally he started looking at dictionary for suggestions and zeroed down to Amazon for two reasons – at that time alphabetical listing of websites were common, that gave him an edge with the letter ‘A’ and he noted Amazon was by far the “biggest” river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest in the world.


Twitter was called as ‘Status’ during its inception days. As Jack Dorsey says, “we wanted to capture the feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world. So we came up with ‘twitch’, but “twitch” doesn’t bring up the right imagery. So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word “twitter,” and it was just perfect. The definition was “a short burst of inconsequential information,” and “chirps from birds.” And that’s exactly what the product was.”

At some point they were also trying to call it”twttr” in order to operate SMS, after taking out the vowels to get the 5-digit short code. But that short code was already taken, so they called it Twitter and the rest is history.


Writing in his 2006 book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon, Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak explains : “It was a couple of weeks later when we came up with a name for the partnership. I remember I was driving Steve Jobs back from the airport along Highway 85. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an “apple orchard.” It was actually some kind of commune. Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer. The first comment out of my mouth was, “What about Apple Records?” This was (and still is) the Beatles-owned record label. We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn’t think of any good ones. Apple was so much better, better than any other name we could think of.”


The name “Sony” was chosen for the brand as a mix of two words. One was the Latin word “sonus”, which is the root of sonic and sound, and the other was “sonny”, a common slang term used in 1950s America to call a boy. In the 1950s Japan “sonny boys”, was a loan word into Japanese which connoted smart and presentable young men, which Sony founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka considered themselves to be. But the company name did not change to Sony until January 1958.

At the time of the change, it was extremely unusual for a Japanese company to use Roman letters to spell its name instead of writing it in kanji. The move was not without opposition: TTK’s principal bank at the time, Mitsui, had strong feelings about the name. They pushed for a name such as Sony Electronic Industries, or Sony Teletech. Akio Morita was firm, however, as he did not want the company name tied to any particular industry. Eventually, both Ibuka and Mitsui Bank’s chairman gave their approval.                                                              


Flickr was co-founded by Stewart Butterfield, Caterina Fake and Jason Classon and was bought by Yahoo! in 2005. They wanted to have a name that communicates what it offers. They decided to call it Flicker but as explained by Stewart, “the guy who owned the domain wouldn’t sell it and we loved the name. Dropping the “e” was Caterina Fake’s idea — I was against it at first because it looked so wrong, but I eventually came to see the wisdom: it was easy for us to get the domain, but it was also more distinctive & recognizable, easier to search for, etc.

Stewart goes on further to say, for a long time when I searched Google for “flickr” I got a “Did you mean flicker?” suggestion. I knew we’d have “made it” when that stopped. Eventually that message did stop showing up … and by 2005 or 2006 the search results page even asked “Did you mean flickr?” when searching for “flicker”. That’s when I knew it was big! (Google seems to have stopped doing that since.)                            


As mentioned by Daniel Ek, founder and CEO of Spotify – “This again takes us back to my flat that I had out in the suburbs of Stockholm. Martin and I were sitting in different rooms shouting ideas back and forth of company names. We were even using jargon generators and stuff. Out of the blue Martin shouted a name that I misheard as Spotify. I immediately googled the name and realized there were no Google hits for the word at all. A few minutes later we registered the domain names and off we went. We were a bit embarrassed to admit that’s how the name came up so our afterconstruction was to say that Spotify stems from SPOT and IDENTIFY.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


Go Daddy was founded in 1997 as Jomax Technologies by Bob Parsons. He had previously sold his financial software services company, Parsons Technology, Inc. to Intuit in the mid-nineties for millions of dollars. In 1999, a group of employees at Jomax Technologies were brainstorming and decided to change the company name. An employee said, “How about Big Daddy?” However, the domain name had already been purchased. Parsons replied, “How about Go Daddy?” The name was available, so he bought it. Parsons said the company stuck with the name because it made people smile and remember it. The company changed its name branding from “Go Daddy” to “GoDaddy” in February 2006.                                                           


Cisco Systems was founded in December 1984 by Leonard Bosack, who was in charge of the Stanford University computer science department’s computers, and his wife Sandy Lerner, who managed the Graduate School of Business’ computers. The name “Cisco” was derived from the city name San Francisco, which is why the company’s engineers insisted on using the lower case “cisco” in its early years. The logo is intended to depict the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.             


Motorola started in Chicago, Illinois, as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in 1928 when brothers, Paul V. and Joseph E. Galvin,purchased the bankrupt Stewart Battery Company’s battery-eliminator plans and manufacturing equipment at auction for $750. The company’s first first products were battery-eliminators, devices that enabled battery-powered radios to operate on household electricity. Soon they became obsolete and the company’s engineers soon designed an inexpensive car radio that could be installed in most vehicles.

Paul Galvin wanted a brand name for Galvin Manufacturing Corporation’s new car radio, and created the name “Motorola” by linking “motor” (for motorcar) with “ola” (from Victrola), which was also a popular ending for many companies at the time, e.g. Moviola, Crayola. The company sold its first Motorola branded radio on June 23, 1930, to H.C. Wall of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for $30. The Motorola brand name became so well-known that Galvin Manufacturing Corporation later changed its name to Motorola, Inc.                                       


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