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How’d They Come Up With That Name?

Ever scratch your head wondering why a certain tech company chose a certain name? We asked a few in the DC region point blank: "What were you thinking?"



Tahzoo founder Brad Heidemann had a deliberate plan when naming his customer experience startup: It had to be six letters and two syllables, since those are the easiest words to pronounce. And it had to sound familiar, yet whimsical and have search equity. So anything starting with “mic” was out. Who can outrank Mickey Mouse and Microsoft? While spending two weeks working out of a Starbucks during the pre-customer days, he played around with different variations until he fixed his eyes on the tea sold at Starbucks: Tazo. He added an ‘H’ to help get to six letters. He also thought it would work well globally. He rolled it out at a BBQ at his house to Tahzoo’s first employees and they liked it. Validation also came when an exec from one of Tahzoo’s first customers, DirecTV, named her dog Tahzoo.



Veenome founder Kevin Lenane wanted a spin on the word “video” since the company would be working on video data for the advertising world. Vidi, from veni, vidi, vici, the latin phrase for “I came, I saw, I conquered,” was on the table. But the team initially settled on Venome, which was a play on “video” and “genome” since it was providing the building blocks of video. Here’s the problem: many pronounced it like “venom”—that which spits out of a snake’s mouth. Not exactly the best name to woo new customers. So the team added an “e”. Veenome was recently acquired by NY-based Integral Ad Science, and Kevin says the name will eventually get absorbed into the new brand. 



Another company name challenge: Someone else owns it. That’s what happened to Ostrato when it really wanted to name itself CloudFusion, but realized its owner was a guy in China, who wanted way too much money. The cloud management platform developer liked the concept of fusing clouds together, says founder Jay Chapel, so several iterations of “cloud” were considered. Then they started thinking about types of clouds and where they live and they started playing around with the word “stratosphere.” After some advice from employees and friends, the names were narrowed down to five and Ostrato was one of them. Jay says the company realized it was best to leave the word “cloud” out of its name because you never know how the current cloud market will morph over the next few years. 



To understand the name Willow, it’s important to understand what the DC startup does: It’s a social media app launched in February that connects people through fun and meaningful conversations. Users scroll through feeds of random questions and topics and connect through online dialogue. Founder Michael Bruch says coming up with the name was challenging, especially since the team was under pressure to release a nearly ready product. The app store is a crowded place, and finding a name that hadn’t been taken was tough. Plus they wanted a name that symbolized upward growth and making new connections. One day, Michael’s co-founder was driving through California, passed some willow trees and suggested the name. It worked well, along with the slogan “Branch Out.” A professional, however, was brought in to draw a logo of a cool willow tree. 

Surefire Social


The name Surefire Social came from an obvious place: the e-book shelf. Founder Chris Marentis had spent several years running venture-backed Web 2.0 tech firms and had created a digital marketing system to help small businesses rank well in search engines. He wrote an e-book about the strategy called “Surefire Social” and hit the small business speaking circuit. After getting calls from small businesses for help with website development, search engine optimization and social media marketing, he decided it was time to open up a digital marketing shop and name it after the e-book that started it all. The idea is that every form of communication, whether it be on a website, social or directories, would become dynamic and “social.”