OpinionStartup Name-tion: Israeli startups & the name game
Startup Name-tion: Israeli startups & the name game
Picking the perfect name for your startup will not make or break it - unless it’s really awful - but having a great backstory for how you came up with your company name, is the ticket.
The very first question I ask in any interview with a startup is not “How did your company get started?” or even “How much money have you raised?” but something much more basic, “How did you come up with your company’s name?”
In general, the concept or idea for the startup comes well before the name, but the name chosen gives a unique insight about the company. However, in most interviews with Israeli startups the origin and meaning of the name of the company is simply not explained in the article.
Of course, sometimes there simply is no story, as was the case several years ago with the native mobile ad company named Avocarrot. “We just like avocados and carrots,” the founder told me with a shrug.
Like Avocarrot, many startup founders try to combine two short words, or parts of words, to form their company name. In an interview with the CEO of global freight booking platform Freightos, I learned that the company name was derived from combining "Freight" with “OS" (Operating System). Similarly, the founder of Rankset, an Israeli sports-tech startup matching up teams and players, explained to me in a recent interview that his company’s name combines ‘rank’ - ranking of the players - and ‘set’ - as in setting up a match between two parties - which is an accurate representation of what the company does.
A few months ago I interviewed the co-founders of an Israeli startup named Vim, a company which connects U.S. healthcare payers and providers at the point of care, and my opening question caught them off guard. Apparently previous interviewers never asked them about the meaning of their name. “We chose the name Vim because we are seeking to bring ‘vim and vigor’ into the outdated world of the U.S. healthcare system,” co-founder Asaf David explained. “Our goal is to connect with providers at the point of care and laying the groundwork for better connectivity is a crucial step toward value-based care.”
Another good example is UBQ Materials, an innovative Israeli company that turns all types of unsorted household waste into a sustainable plastic substitute. Whenever I succeeded in securing a media interview for them I’d urge the interviewee to work into the conversation the intriguing reason why they are called UBQ, that it stems from the term “ubiquitous”, meaning present or found everywhere, and ubiquitous describes both the global crisis of waste and the potential impact of UBQ’s solution. I embarrassingly admit that even though I hold a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, I had never even heard, let alone knew the definition of, the word ‘‘ubiquitous’ until I started working with UBQ. Now I try to work that intelligent sounding word into a conversation whenever I can.
Of course sometimes my guess as to why a company chose its name is completely off the mark. Just last week I interviewed TripleW, an Israeli startup dealing with the global issue of food waste in a pioneering way. I assumed the W’s in TripleW stood for ‘waste’ and two other relevant words, but the company’s co-founder Tal Shapira corrected me. “‘TripleW’ stands for a triple ‘win’”, he said. “It’s a win for food waste management, a win for materials production, and a win for the environment, because the materials that we produce are made from 100% renewable carbon.”
On a rare occasion, the birth of a company’s name appears suddenly, in the form of a bolt of inspiration, as it did for Veetahl Eilat-Raichel, Co-Founder and CEO of Sorbet, an Israeli startup unlocking the enigma of PTO (Paid Time Off).
“As we were researching the space and interviewing employees,” Eilat-Raichel related on the company blog, “we started to develop this initial hypothesis around micro-vacations. We felt that they were amazing hacks to recreate all the positive effects of long vacations, while at the same time more suited to our new normal. When I shared these initial thoughts with a CFO of a large company, he said, 'I think what people need most right now is a mental sorbet.' And with that, everything truly fell into place for us. Sorbet is that palate cleanser you have in between the main dishes. It is cool, refreshing and sweet, but not overly indulgent, so you don’t feel guilty after having a taste. It’s just what you need to get that fresh boost to keep you going. That perfectly captures the spirit of our product.”
A great story is ‘the secret sauce’. True, picking the perfect name for your startup will not make or break it - unless it’s really awful- but having a great backstory for how you came up with your company name, well for me, as a journalist, that’s the ticket.