How to name your big idea

25 months ago I was sitting outside drinking a beer with my brother. We knew we wanted to start a business together, but we had one last hurdle….what should we call it?!

The process of naming is challenging and sometimes debilitating, just ask any mother or father looking for that perfect name (I for example was allegedly named after toilet paper). As you prepare to start your next project or business, you undoubtedly ask yourself: What should I call this?

Naming 9 Clouds

When my brother and I were thinking of a name, we brainstormed around what we saw as the future of our industry and also the goal of our new company. We knew that cloud computing was an important concept and a developing space online, one that we thought businesses in the area did a poor job of utilizing. Additionally, we wanted to make people happy and put them on cloud 9. Thus, we flipped it around and came up with 9 Clouds. Techies that can make you happy.

Of course, two years later, we learned quite a bit from the process and realized that there are three important criteria to keep in mind when naming your big idea. It needs to be:

Easy to say
Easy to spell and read
Easy to remember

Easy to say

9 Clouds was easy to say. We have the occasional, is it plural or singular, question, but in general I can say the name over the phone and people don’t have a problem understanding what I am saying.

Easy to spell and read

Here is our biggest regret. Using a number, especially a number between 0-9, people are never sure if they should write out the number or use the digit. Originally we had both pointing to our site, but it gets tiresome always saying, “9 like the number.” If we were to do it over, we would have reconsidered using the number.

Easy to remember

People enjoy the 9 Clouds name and the branding that goes along with it helps a lot; unfortunately, a lot of people call us Cloud 9. It is an understandable mistake since it is a term they know and use frequently. However if someone searches Cloud 9 they find gifts, shuttle services and spas. Not the best digital education firm in the country. Trying to play off of a common phrase is dangerous, and we would have been more careful about it in hindsight.

How to stand out online

As our experience with Cloud 9 shows, it’s also important to stand out. If you name your business Nike Computing, you probably will be impossible to find online as shoes will fill the search results. Think about a term or phrase you can use that is not crowded, and don’t hesitate from using statements. Even though my friend Jason at has a long domain name, it is easy to remember and it says exactly what he does.

Finding the perfect domain to go along with your business is often a challenging and fun exploration. When we started, 9 Clouds wasn’t available as a URL so we used instead. We weren’t even incorporated yet and already we added the inc! Fortunately on Christmas Day 2010, 9 Clouds was available and we were notified via Godaddy’s Domain Monitoring Service ($21). We had to bid for the domain but eventually came away owning our name, however flawed it is.

To help you get started with a clear name across the web and social networks, check first to see what is available. Use a tool like to look for unique URL combinations and to check if your perfect name is available online. Also use to see if that same name is available on almost 100 different social networks (many of which you’ll never use). If you don’t want to manually go through each network and sign up, you can look at a tool like to do it for you.

If you have a domain that you absolutely want, it may be for sale or you may be able to purchase it directly from the owner. Visit and type in your domain to see who owns it. If it is for sale, the link to purchase may be there. If there is contact information you can try contacting the owner directly (we haven’t had much luck with this method). If the information is private, you can try hiring a broker to purchase it for you. Godaddy offers a service that starts at $70 plus the cost of domain and commission.

Make your name yours

Shakespeare said that “A rose by any other name, smells the same,” and at the end of the day, you can make your name yours. There might be competition, but if you can establish yourself as an expert in a specific area, you can be found. Don’t let naming be a roadblock to starting your idea; instead, use it as a way to get excited at the possibilities and endless potentials that await.

And hey, if you don’t like it, you can always change it from something like GotVMail to Grasshopper. They rebranded after six years and promoted their new identity by sending 5000 chocolate covered grasshoppers to online influencers. (Read the case study and let us know if you want similarly creative ideas.)

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Have you tried naming a company or project? What challenges have you encountered and how did you overcome them?

Posted on July 5th, 2011 in Business