Startup Success Starts With Cracking the Name Code

Evrybit

Editor’s note: Please excuse our writing hiatus. We have been searching for the Yeti since our last blog post on Christmas Eve 2013. We didn’t find him, but we learned a few things.

Naming a startup is tougher than naming a child.

My wife, Maria, and I have two kids. They each have one first name, one middle name and one last name. Eva Maria Ortiz and Emilia Muriel Ortiz. None of the names have changed since they were born.

Our startup, on the other hand, has had three names in the span of eight months, shorter than a normal pregnancy. We started with Moblish in August 2013, evolved to Beekyn in February 2014 and landed on Evrybit a month later.

Moblish combined the words “mobile” and “publish.” Mo-blish. Some people liked the name. Some people didn’t. We liked the name until we didn’t – that is, until I saw a Facebook ad for Mobli, a photo and video social sharing service. I thought Moblish was too close to Mobli, so after consulting with some other people, I decided to change the name.

Before that happened, I partnered with another Knight Fellow to be our CTO. He is a technologist and systems architect. We combined visions and began building a collaborative news platform for mobile. The vision included my initial Moblish vision of a mobile-first production platform and his vision of a collaborative filtering platform. We needed a name that reflected our new vision.

Brainstorming for the Beekyn name lasted two weeks – about twice as long as brainstorming for Moblish. The process involved combining existing words, creating new words and exploring foreign words. The creative juices got flowing during a namestorming session with Knight Fellows in the Knight Garage on Jan. 10. One big takeaway came courtesy of a fellow fellow, a Venezuelan journalist. She said, “Maybe, instead of being literal, we could think more abstract. What kind of animal conveys what the product does?” Well, we streamline live reporting and simplify the production of stories on smartphones. Frog. Owl. Bird. Negative. Nope. No. Searching for the proper animal symbol would not be as easy as it seems in this off-color joke.

I didn’t give up, though, and less than 48 hours later, a name was born. During a Sunday afternoon drive from Menlo Park to my sister and brother-in-law’s house in San Francisco, I had an epiphany on I-280, around Millbrae. Beacon. This very positive word meaning strong light, radio signal, guide, and source of hope captured the essence of what we do: connect through news.

I knew Beacon would not have any of the major domains and social accounts available (.com, .org, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), so I played around with the spelling.

Bee. Bees are powerful. Bees are an essential part of nature and prominent throughout history, culture and myth. They have been used as a model for human society and community from ancient to modern times. A bee was the perfect symbol for Beekyn, in the sense of dropping knowledge, cross-pollinating ideas and sharing stories around the world.

For the second half of “beacon,” I thought of “kin.” Kinship promotes building a community, family, common ground, and bringing people together. This idea of connection around living news was our mission. I adjusted the spelling of kin. Kyn.

Bee-kyn. Beekyn. Gold.

I told my wife. She dug the name. I ran it by my family focus group at dinner. I told our CTO. Thumbs up all around. Done deal. The christening was complete. Beekyn — a creative spelling of “beacon,” mixing “bee” and “kyn” — was our new name.

The marketing wheels were already turning. We rebranded with a new website, social accounts, pitch decks. We applied to become a resident of the Stanford Venture Studio in the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and were accepted. We applied for some competitions, the BASES E-Challenge and Product Showcase at Stanford. We pitched and failed. We pitched and succeeded a little bit. Everywhere we pitched, we grew.

We were feeling good. But not for long.

Another resident in the Venture Studio mentioned that Beacon was the name of another company. I brushed off the comment. “No worries,” I said. Then, I saw a brief surge of media coverage about that same company. Their name? Beacon Reader. That is why I didn’t see their name appear when I did my Google due diligence before going with Beekyn. Beacon Reader goes by Beacon. They are in a similar media space as us. We had to change our name again.

We felt like this.

Not long after that, we had another bit of unexpected news. I got a call from our CTO. He said he was leaving our project to focus on a different project at the end of our second development sprint, in a couple of weeks.

We felt like this.

We refocused our mission. We would be all about production, mobile-first publishing for live reporting and collaborative storytelling – the original vision for Moblish. We could be more agile and return to our roots.

We considered unburying the Moblish name but decided a new name, a fresh start, would be best. So I started brainstorming once again. Same as before, I started combining words, creating words, exploring foreign words. I used name brainstorming tools and brand generators. I started a Google doc and listed potential names. Swarmsaw. Hakful. Sqryber. Quipustream. Stringmob. To name a few. The list had over 250 names.

One day became seven days. One week stretched into two weeks. Two weeks was becoming three weeks. Still no name. Then, a breakthrough. During Condoleeza Rice’s Knight seminar on March 12, I started riffing on the word “editor,” rearranging the letters to spell new words: Redito, Ordite, Doreti, Tidero, Oredit, Trideo, Rideot, Otride, Idetor. You get the idea.

I did this for about 10 or 15 minutes. Coming up with a name felt like cracking a code. I wanted to find a name that described what we do without being obvious. I was getting warmer. I thought about the evolution of storytelling and what that meant. The future is news streams of video, audio, photos, text, tweets, social media updates, community engagement and crowdsourcing. Media bits. Strung together into narratives. By merging “evolution” and “story,” I got ev-ry. The idea of short individual pieces of content led me to “byte,” as in Evrybyte, as in every media byte. In computer parlance, a byte is eight bits. Each piece of media is smaller than a byte, so we wanted the smallest measurement possible. A bit. Evrybit. We will provide every bit of the story. Jackpot.

We searched the United States Patent and Trademark Office site (USPTO.gov) to see if there were any copyright conflicts for Evrybit. Golden.

This code was cracked. We had the name. Now we needed the domains and social accounts. The URL evrybit.com was parked and unavailable, so I got every variation: evrybit.co, evrybithq.com, getevrybit.com. I secured @evrybit on Twitter, Evrybit on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. We narrowed our focus and zeroed back in on being a production tool. We refined our product description, went to work rebranding ourselves as Evrybit and continued development.

We now have v1 of our prototype built. Alpha testing has begun. Our journey continues.

I have learned that every step of the startup journey is a code. Learning how to understand that code leads to breaking the code — and breakthroughs. Progress.

We have a lot more codes to crack. Coming up with a name is no longer one. The process of naming a startup – three times – has reaffirmed in me the value of  tenacity, curiosity and relentlessness in the pursuit of disruption. Any time we hit a roadblock going forward, we will employ the same techniques we used to crack the name code.

Names are important. They establish identity for brands. They create identity for people. As I’ve discovered as a founder and parent, building a successful startup is like raising a child to be a productive member of society. Both require steadfast attention, patience and love.

Our two kids are on their way to going places.

So is Evrybit.

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