Only One Thing Matters When Choosing a Name for Your Startup

And the thing that matters most is never what most people think.

Aaron Dinin, PhD

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I’m typing this article on my iPad. Isn’t that funny?

No? It’s not funny?

Then I guess you’re not reading this article on March 7th, 2012. That’s the day Steve Jobs announced the iPad, and everyone spent the next month laughing at the name. For example, I specifically remember a Saturday Night Live skit talking about iPads as a certain type of feminine hygiene product. But, here we are, over a decade later, I’m busily typing away on an iPad in the middle of a coffee shop, and nobody is making fun of me. I guess they’ve all forgotten that the name “iPad” used to be a punchline.

I bring this up because I recently named a company, and, when I launched it, the name generated lots of strong opinions. The company is called Autopest. It’s a ChatGPT-powered, automated email follow-up tool.

Within the first few hours of announcing Autopest, people emailed and tweeted and commented to tell me they loved the idea, but they could never see themselves using an email marketing tool with the word “pest” in it because they didn’t want to feel like they were bugging people. If I would just change the name, they assured me, lots of people would sign up. Here’s one of the (more polite) examples of the kinds of criticism I received:

Other opinions were so strong that I immediately questioned my choice. Had I chosen the right name? Was I scaring away customers? Would a simple name change be my ticket to startup glory?

Then I remembered the iPad, and it reminded me that founders are always misunderstanding what’s most important about naming a startup.

Famous startup names and their impact

To be fair, for a long time, I was just like all of those founders who misunderstood how to choose a great startup name name. In fact, for each of my first four startups, I spent at least a month trying to figure out the perfect name. And, ultimately, for all…

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Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com