The Defensely

Okay, so about a week ago in The Wall Street Journal an article was published concerning “Why Startups are Sporting Increasingly Quirky Names”, the awesome trend of playfully naming digital startups. While I think Shodogg.com, one of the article’s primary examples, veers a bit off into the excessive creativity land, the article provoked several topic copycatters including the Atlantic Wire.

The Atlantic Wire ran a hatchet job piece entitled the “Pitfalls of the clever.ly named startup” attacking the ultra-awesome -ly ending and pointing out that there were at least 161 companies ending in -ly or something similar. The author then quotes “naming consultant” Nancy Friedman that all companies using the ending after the first one are “’just lazy’”.

First, being original for the sake of being original is the height of trite. Reminds me of the hippies on South Park. The point of using an -ly ending on a real word is that it’s easy and straight to the point. The point isn’t just limited to having people know what your company’s about in an easy to trademark name. A nice -ly name immediately tells users that the company is part of the technology culture and can be expected to take advantage and evolve with the appropriate ecosystems.

Another important point is that these aren’t the names of companies at the end of the day. They’re the name of products. While you can get too far from the essentials of picking a good brandable domain name; at the end of the day having a great deal of gravitas can make you seem not user friendly.

It’s also important to note that tech founders tend to be highly trained people whose time is very valuable. If you pick a name like say producely.com for your 3-d printer startup (hint hint) then you can get down to business with a name that while it might be unoriginal is nevertheless unique, trademarkeable, and  extremely evocative of what you do.

The author seems to rail against straight generics as well while lumping them in with plays on real words. In addition, the author advocates the use of country codes without at all quantifying the very real problem of .com leakage.

Another major criticism of the article is the workarounds suggested by the author such as putting go in front of the business names, using a country code, or (and I think this is the height of silliness) suggesting the URL’s aren’t important since everyone is just using apps now.

The Atlantic piece generated a great response from Parse.ly explaining the very well thought out reasons why they picked the -ly ending. It’s worth noting that they purchased the straight .com later on for a forwarding domain.

The Parsley piece generated a response from Domain Name Wire since Parsely is spelled Parsley. While I think this makes a lot of good points, since Parsely is B2B (I.e., less dependence on word of mouth) I think they can get away with 1 rule break. I use a service called pheenix.com to buy a lot of domain names and when you offer a service that’s valuable enough you can get away with a lot.

Overall, an interesting discussion. While I might be a bit biased, I think the track record of success for businesses started on brandable names speaks to the soundness of the concept.