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Apples with Worms

December 20, 2010

In the United States, we have a house of representatives that shamefully holds an approval rating of around 11%.  Yet, in the 2008 election, 94% of them were re-elected.  How is it possible in a democracy that 91% of people can say you suck at your job, yet re-elect you by a land-slide margin?  Well, the answer is quite simple.  Everyone likes their guy, and to criticize everyone else who they didn’t vote on.

Turns out, trying to come up with a new name for a start-up by way of democracy suffers from a similar phenomenon.  When asked, people are happy to come up with names they think are great.  However, if you put all these names on a list, the majority of people won’t really like any of them.  This, of course, brings us to the topic of the post; to review the results of a “poll” that went out over a week ago to solicit feedback on a variety of new names proposed for KitchenPC.

First off, I’d like to thank the 125 people who voted.  You can rest assured your vote did count and I took every comment written very seriously.  There were five new names proposed, as well as the existing name.  Here are the results in tabular format for those who don’t care to read, say, words.

Results

Rank Name Likes Favorited
1 Preprika! 49 (39.2%) 27 (21.6%)
2 MealSage 39 (31.2%) 25 (20%)
3 KitchenPC 43 (34.4%) 23 (18.4%)
4 Mealmatic 30 (24%) 19 (15.2%)
5 MealsAlready 37 (29.6%) 18 (14.4%)
6 Mealable 27 (21.6%) 13 (10.4%)

Favorite Names

Well, first off you’ll see that Preprika! and MealSage were the top choices by any metric; that’s fantastic because those were my two favorites as well.  However, looking at the pie chart on the right you’ll notice a fairly even distribution of name choices (Heh, pie charts are so appropriate for KitchenPC.)  In other words, no single name really resonated with the masses.  If you take the name Preprika! by itself, less than 40% of people that hear it will say they like it.  Would you want a name for your company that 60% of people don’t like?  The more immediate issue here is this: do you spend a massive amount of work changing from KitchenPC to Preprika! only to get another 5% of the population to like your name?

Screw numbers, what are people saying?

The comments I got from the poll were also quite interesting to read.  There were a few trends that stuck out.  First, no one seemed to like the word “meal” used in any context.  This is somewhat of a hassle for me since my company vision is to make meal planning easy and fun; that’s a tough sell when people hate the word meal.

I don’t like any with ‘meals’, since I negatively associate it with mealy-mouth.

I don’t really care for any of the meal* names.  They make me think of ‘mealy apples’ and ‘mealy worms’.

Mealable made me think of meal worms, ugh.

Mealable makes me think of mealy apples and meal worms.

I don’t even like the word meal in the title.

Not a huge fan of any of the ‘meal’ ones.  ‘Meal’ has some weird associations popping up – like ‘mealy’ and ‘mealworm’.

Ok, if I ever start a company that sells worms for fishing trips, I know what I’m calling it.  The second trend was the utter dislike of the entire group of names as a whole.

I’m not big on any of these name proposals…

…I don’t think that any of them sound much better than KitchenPC.

None of these really screamed at me as the right choice…

These.. out of 1,000 candidates?  Come on!  This is heavy critique on all of them, but to tell you the truth I don’t think the name will matter much in the end.  Keep KitchenPC…

My advice: start over! (sorry).

I think KitchenPC is the best name for the site…

Keep looking!

I hate to say this, but I don’t like any of them!

Some people even took this poll as an opportunity to suggest their own names.  That’s not to say that there was no positive feedback.  Preprika! definitely has its fan base.

the other ones sound lame and old… this one reminds me of mint.com

Cute

The best one

Delightful

ZOMG love this!

Catchiest one here!

Preprika is the only one that won’t get lost in a sea of sound alikes on Google.  It’s nice, and I like it!

Preprika is memorable and I will remember it.. I have already forgotten the others.

As does MealSage.

Catchy.  Conjures an image of forethought and guidance in meals.

Love the play on words!

Clever!

I like MealSage – sounds like the smart cooker!

A Name to Remember

Last week, I grabbed dinner and drinks with five friends of mine at a Rock Bottom.  Everyone at the table had voted on a name, so I decided to ask them which name they voted on.  Not only could no one at the table answer that question, but not one person could name a single choice that was on the list!  I believe someone said Menumatic which I guess I can give half a point.  Yet, everyone at the table knows the name KitchenPC.

Though a name is important, in the dot-com world, the ability for people to remember your name is of even greater importance than the name itself.

So How Does Everyone Else Do It?

During this experience, I began doing a little digging on how various startups got their names.  One trend that seems to occur a lot is this: a company starts out with a mediocre name, builds some traction or gets some funding, then is able to allot the resources necessary to come up with a truly great name.  This means money, focus groups, dozens of people working on the problem for hours each day, etc.

Mint.com, who apparently paid around $2 million for their four-letter domain name, is one such example.  I couldn’t even find out what Mint.com was called before they got their first round.  The story of Gist can be found here.  Gist was originally being developed under the name Minebox, however they could never actually acquire the dot-com domain.  Their seed funding enabled them to work with a marketing firm (these firms charge major coin, I checked) and Gist really stuck.  They were able to purchase the domain name from a defunct startup for what I would imagine would be quite a bit of money.

The point is, the great startup names you can list off in your head probably didn’t start off with those names, but acquired them only after they had a great business vision, funding, VC resources, access to naming firms and a large budget to purchase the domain name of their dreams.  I believe it’s somewhat of a fantasy to expect you can start off with one of these names.  Allowing the general public to vote on your name at this early of a stage, I believe, will blow up in your face because the general public expects a name of the same caliber as those they’ve grown to love (Mint, Facebook, Twitter, Expedia, etc.)

My advice for new entrepreneurs: Pick a name you can live with, and change it once and only after you have the resources (both time and money) to do it right.  There’s no sense in gradually upgrading to better and better names.

So now what?

I’m sure if you’re read this far, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve decided to stick with the name KitchenPC for the time being.  That’s not to say I won’t keep thinking about names, because I will, but until I can come up with a name that will win the hearts of the majority, I can’t let myself move from a poor name to a slightly less poor name.  If I’m going to change the name of the site, I’m going to change it to a name that rocks; a name that at least 80% of surveyed people like.  If the site does gain traction or get funding, I don’t want to have to go through the headaches and randomizations that would come with changing the name a second time.  And who knows, maybe a month from now the perfect name will just pop into my head.

At the very least, I hope someone out there who is searching for a name for their startup will read this post and get some insight on how difficult this process actually is, and what is realistic to expect for a very early stage company.

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