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Choosing a company name: a step-by-step guide for startups

Choosing a company name: a step-by-step guide for startups
Choosing a company name: a step-by-step guide for startups

Every brand that you know went through a naming process, even Amazon and McDonald's. Many brainstorming sessions occurred to conjure up the perfect name.

Even though we’ve seen successful name rebrands including Google, Nike, and Navan, some fail miserably and cost the business dearly.

What you name your business matters.

Companies' names become part of their DNA, the brand identity will become the initial point of contact with customers.

It can be tempting to use random name generators and Companies House searches. There’s nothing wrong with this but you could be circumventing an important (and rewarding) part of the process.

How to get started with naming your business

Not too long ago it was commonplace to use your surname for a business, Mcdonald's is an example of this. But unless you’re an A-lister, it’s now typically avoided. 

If you haven’t already defined your vision, this is a great place to start as it rolls into your mission statement, future audience, products, and target market.

Here are five questions to steer your thinking:

  1. What do we do
  2. What problems do we solve
  3. Who do we help
  4. Where do we help them
  5. Why are we helping them

Once you have a clearer idea, you can take it one step further. Think about:

  • Concepts or ideas you wish to convey through the name. Perhaps a sense of luxury, speed or ease?
  • Name criteria and construct (e.g. compounds like 'EasyJet' or coined words like 'Kodak')
  • Tonality: what feelings should it invoke? Are you thinking playful, whimsical or sincere? 
  • Competitor names: are any too close for comfort?

Use these learnings as a reference point for when you start workshopping names.

Workshopping ideas

Here's how we workshopped ideas before settling on Kinsail:

We merged two popular methods: brainwriting and mind mapping to compile a diverse, longlist (example below).

Kinsail's example

If these methods don't suit, there are alternatives.

After setting these up, you’ll want to assign a time limit to keep focussed. Aim to generate a longlist of names, between 30-40.

Shortlisting names

Don’t forget, you still need to like your choice as you’ll most likely repeat it daily over the next ten years! With this in mind, reduce your list of names to around five or six.

We did this by assigning scores from one to five to each name, with one being the highest. We then removed all names below two. 

Testing your business name

Put your names to the test; assess the scalability, discoverability, availability and legal considerations of each one and ask your community for feedback.

These will shape the global appeal, ease of recognition, and resonance within the community.


Assess the long-term trajectory of your company. A poor choice of name can hinder expansion into new or foreign markets. Remember to consider negative connotations or associations. Taking language and cultural adaptability seriously will allow for expansion without limitations.


You want your name to be accessible and effortless; to roll off the tongue and easily type into a search bar. 

We went one step further to understand and maximise Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) using data we derived from Semrush.

You’ll also want to ensure the domain and consistent social handles can be secured. We used Godaddy's domain checking tool to identify the .com and other extensions and Namechk for our social handles.

This choice was important as it’s known to define your digital presence and impact brand recall.


You can use government resources and online tools like Companies House's to confirm the availability of your shortlisted names before you get too carried away.

This will ensure compliance, taking you a step closer to creating a solid, legally secure brand identity.


With your list whittled down, engaging your community is a must. We took a group of 50 and split them into two groups.

Group one was given the list of names alongside a description of our vision and asked which fit best. Group two was given names and asked to guess the vision of each company.

This provided a ton of valuable insight to guide our choice, ensuring our name aligns with the brand's vision and aspirations. It was arguably the most crucial step in the naming process.

Legal: company registration

With this confirmed, you can purchase your domains and kick-off the admin process that must be completed to register your company at Companies House.

Then you can move on to drafting equity agreements with your co-founder(s).

Take your time

The journey to naming your company or products isn't just about labels - it's about shaping your brand identity and customer perception. So don't rush the process.

Next to your child’s name, this may just be your most important naming exercise. 

When you're ready

Set up your UK limited company in just five minutes! Incorporate your startup using our guided workflow, and assign directors, shareholders and equity splits, all in one place.

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