What’s in a name? On branding a start-up inploi Team | 19.04.2016
Selecting a name for your startup is a pretty integral part of the process of setting it up and getting it off the ground. It is your name that identifies you; that defines your product; around which you build a brand. Deciding on one isn’t altogether straightforward, however, particularly in tech where what is available to you is dictated by what domains are available. Start-up names range from the inspired to the absurd (when in doubt add “ly” to a word, or drop the final vowel and add an “r”). In a quest to be ‘Silicon Valley’ you can get bewildered, trying to copy the patterns of everybody else. We wanted to avoid this. And to avoid being sued.
We weren’t always called inploi. Those who have had an eye on things since the beginning will have noticed that we underwent a name change and pretty comprehensive rebranding in January 2016. Two weeks before the trademark for our previous name was due to register I received a stern letter from a firm of lawyers, informing us that they were acting on behalf of a client who had taken exception to our name and believed it to be an infringement of their intellectual property, because it was too similar to theirs. Woops. We are a fledgling company and had just received our first bit of investment. There was no way we were going to spend it all on a legal fight.
So, having looked at our options and their potential outcomes (and consequent costs) we decided to draw a line in the sand and move on. We withdrew the trademark application and started again. An identity crisis was about to set in, and I now had 500 useless business cards to find a use for. Great.
The intellectual property of brands, names trademarks is not to be taken lightly, particularly if you intend to build a significant global company. In a nutshell, you cannot use a name that is identical to (or could be confused by consumers with) another company’s trademark, if they are operating in the same sectors (and are registered in the same country) as you are. Do your homework around this, and take the time to be sure you’re in the clear.
The name-change saga of 2K16 turned out to be a brilliant opportunity. We hadn’t been attached to our previous name and now we had the opportunity to rebrand - to decide who we wanted to be again. We were right at the beginning of our journey , but far enough along to have a firmer idea of what we were trying to achieve, what our company values were and how we wanted to be perceived. There were A LOT of potential names, scribbled in long lists and email threads and doodles all over the place. Some were awful (there was a moment where “turtll” was a front-runner (whatwerewethinking), and “Qwerk” was up there too). Finally, we got to inploi – a mixture of “Independent” and “Emploi” (the French word for employment) – which gets to the core of what we are about.
With a better understanding of the IP issues, and after a comprehensive search to see whether there was anybody who may get in the way, it was decided: we were going to be inploi. Domain names were secured (getting the .com from a lovely lady in the States is a story for another time) and trademark applications submitted.
That which we call a rose may indeed, by any other name, smell just as sweet. But the majority of the effort you put in to grow a business are concentrated in your brand – be sure to pick well and secure it. It’s a valuable asset.
If you would like to join the inploi ßeta testing group then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author: Matt de la Hey is co-founder & CEO of inploi.