Scene Stealers: Winning The Southeast Asian Start-up Name Game

What’s in a name? Entrepreneurs share how they found “The One” and how the process can be a cinch

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 05 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

From wanting the name to sound as catchy as possible to making sure it’s still available—there are many things to consider when naming your start-up. The process can keep some founders up at night so we rounded up some tips from entrepreneurs on how to fast-track things a bit.

As Paolo Rentero of Digiteer Creative Studio says, as much as a start-up’s name is important, “a ground-breaking name does not equate to a ground-breaking start-up…If your product or service is truly awesome, it won’t be long until everyone knows its name,” he says.

Here are three lessons to help get you started:


1. Make sure it fits into the whole story

Rentero says it’s important to be deliberate with the name you choose. “Make sure that it fits the context or story or purpose of what you’re trying to do,” he says. founder Henry Motte-Muñoz says that he felt that their name should be in the Filipino language (“edukasyon” is Filipino for education). “[We] wanted to do a search engine for education and felt that the name should be in Tagalog (Filipino),” he says. “I tested the name with students, schools, foundations and government officials, and it made sense to all.”

Motte-Muñoz says that the start-up name should relate to the enterprise’s primary activity—which, in the case of, connects students to education opportunities. He also says, “It must be broad enough that we can pivot our business model without having to change the name.”


2. Wait for the light-bulb moment

In his Inc. article, John Brandon suggests waiting for that light-bulb moment when you just know you’ve found the perfect name for your start-up. He cites social media strategy firm BloomThink, when founder Billy Cripe had family members write down interesting words and his daughter eventually put “bloom” and “think” together. Everyone at the table knew it was the right name.

As Cripe says in the article, start-ups should take time to say those words aloud because they will be saying it over and over again over the phone, in presentations, and face-to-face meetings.


3. Make it unique enough to be available

Make sure that the name is unique enough, not just to stand out, but to ensure its availability. “Online presence is one of the most important things to a start-up so make sure your name is available on both .com and social media platforms,” says Rentero.

PaidUp founder Asim Haneef says it’s very important the start-up name be “short and unique, so when doing SEO, people would be able to Google [the name] and find it and not see something else.” He adds it’s a must that the Twitter and Facebook handles of the name are available.

Haneef shares that he originally wanted to call their start-up “Prepay”. “The logic was random—basically I wanted to call it ‘Prepay’, but the domain name was around $50,000 and some guy in San Francisco wanted to rip us off for buying it. Instead we just typed in kind of short, similar words until we thought we had something.” Haneef says that PaidUp’s domain name only cost a mere $5—a far cry from the original $50,000. The lesson here? Don’t fall for such domain name scams and try to think of solid alternatives with an affordable domain.