Gawker’s ValleyWag Picks Up On -ly Names


A few days ago we blogged the piece in The Atlantic Wire about startup names, in which I was quoted. That piece, and a similar one in the Wall Street Journal, then got picked up in the ValleyWag section of Gawker, in which my quote was again featured  – but this time without my name attached to it:

The Atlantic Wire quotes one startup “name consultant” who says all that needs to be said, really: “They’re planning on getting bought in a year, their name essentially doesn’t matter.”

OK, was it really necessary to put scare quotes around the words name consultant? Two seconds of Googling will tell you it’s a real job, guys! There’s a big wide world of naming out there beyond startups, and big companies are quite happy to hire naming consultants to develop names like McBistro, Refreshers, and Sprize.

I’d also like to point out that I chatted with the reporter from the Wire for quite a while, and only a few of my quotes made it into the piece (due to space limitations, likely). So here’s what else I have to say about crazy startup names:

  • Misspellings aren’t always bad. In fact, if the spelling is intuitive and interesting, it can make for a great brand – look at examples like Flickr, Tumblr, and the delightfully named Grindr. Easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and they look cool.
  • There are lots of ways to spell creatively besides using the -ly or -li ending. Look at Google, a misspelling of googol: it’s actually easier to spell! Or the name Vudu, mentioned above – the new spelling is graphically elegant, shorter, and still intuitive to pronounce.
  • Dot-com domains just aren’t that important, unless your domain is a destination, like an e-commerce site. Most people won’t type it in the address bar of Chrome or Safari and expect to go directly to the site; they know they’ll get a list of Google hits to choose from. As long as the name isn’t confusing similar to other names in the same field, it’s fine to have a modified .com domain. (We’ve done really well with

I agree with Nancy Friedman that all the -ly names are overkill at this point. But they’re not all bad names, and as it becomes ever more difficult to find available names, they serve a purpose.