The unexpected odyssey of naming a tech company
— “So what are we going to call this startup?”
— “I don’t know… Hmm… I guess something dot com or something dot io?”
We, humans, are story-driven creatures, and a good story needs good characters. From Odysseus to Sherlock Holmes, from RBG to Daenerys Targaryen to Elon Musk. Good characters come with good names.
We attribute a lot of power to names, but does that power come with the name, or does the name come with the power? Yes, a rose by any other name might smell as sweet. But would ‘Google’ be Google without the company? Would it have soared up if it was named ‘Alphabet’ from the start? Would ‘Facebook’ be as big as it is, had it kept the “The” in its title?
Before Rookout was ‘Rookout’, we were just two software engineers working in garage-mode from my living room (I don’t actually own a garage). We had a vision: a data-collection and delivery solution, oriented at other fellow engineers and developers. But we had no name.
To shed some light — Rookout is a platform for live-data collection and delivery; replacing ridiculous amounts of work wasted on writing logs, debugging, database pipelines, analytics, and more. Rookout is used on-demand within seconds via non-breaking breakpoints, no restarts, coding, or redeployments required.
With such a technical, dev-oriented solution, we knew whatever name we’d choose had to be suitable. Perhaps something smart and geeky, or something that touches on advanced capabilities. We wanted our name to be agile and unique.
Greek gods and mythical creatures
Not sure if it was the Greek origin of Kubernetes and Istio, or simply the fact that Greek rhymes with Geek; but we began scouring various mythologies for stories and names. We quickly learned that Zeus, Apollo, Athena, and similar names are overused. Prometheus, for instance, is already a DevOps titan.
Checking into ancient Egypt, we felt Thoth was pretty cool. After all, he is the god of wisdom, among other things. But the name is a bit hard to pronounce. We even looked into Japanese mythology and learned about the cat-like monster “Nekomata”. Sure, cats rule the internet, but while the name rolls off the tongue, it is rather on the weird side.
Our next stop was Persian and Middle Eastern mythology and its majestic creatures. We especially liked the Roc. No, not Dwayne Johnson, but a powerful legendary bird with even more muscle mass. Seen here carrying an elephant with ease. Isn’t that an awesome name for a delivery infrastructure?
But wait! We wanted something lighter, smarter, and maybe even geekier. Also, the fact that it’s super hard to find domains with just three letters kinda helped with our decision to continue our search.
Rook and Roll
One day, I remembered reading about a very clever bird, as in “Public asked to look out for clever rooks,” which led me to watch several cool videos of this bird and others of its kind. They solved puzzles and applied nimble intelligence to get the prize. Perfect for the bird’s-eye view we are envisioning for software, these birds seemed like the ideal lookout for our data collection technology. Plus, they sure did qualify for enabling it on-the-fly.
Rooks can even shape hooks, which is also perfect since hooks are the basic method used in Rookout’s underlying technology. With so many puns, plays, and geeky references, Rooks already sounded like a great base for our name.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a small Rook in your code fetching you the exact data you need?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could Rook-Out any piece of data you need on-the-fly and deliver it anywhere you want?
You name it!
Building a company, especially one in the Dev / DevOps space is quite a journey. A good journey is a good story, and a good story needs a good name. We chose Rookout because it’s geeky and fun. It’s full of puns, hints at tech, and even more importantly, it had an open dot com.
Here are some things we’ve learned while roaming through the jungles of names:
The number of ideas is going to be way higher than the number of people you have in your startup. Try looking at each idea objectively, without being too emotionally attached to any particular name. Consider the ups and downs of each suggestion. Then, use elimination to narrow down your options until you can funnel them into one.
Group options with a common theme – such as nautical, mythical, etc. In the future, they may be used as names of your product’s features. Naming a feature is almost as challenging as choosing a company name, so keep those handy suggestions nearby.
Make sure the name has a story around it! Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Journalists and analysts alike love ending interviews by asking: “so what’s the story behind your startup’s name?” A story can make a big difference in making your company’s name easy to remember.
So, if you’re thinking of a name for your new company, keep these in mind. And may the name-choosing gods grant you safe-passage on your travels. 😉