Brad Feld

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I Suck At Naming Things

Dec 11, 2007

One of the hallmarks of a great entrepreneur is knowing what you suck at.  I suck at plenty of things – Paul Berberian’s blog The Name Game reminded me of one of them – naming things.

I was an investor in Paul’s last company – Raindance Communications – which went through five names to get there (Intellistat Media Research, Vstream, Evoke, Evoke Software, and finally Raindance Communications.)  At some point I suggested we change the name to Ekove (read Paul’s story to learn why) but I was over-ruled – or rather, ignored.  Paul ends his story with the line "My Advice – don’t do what I did" which should always be an enticement to read it.

My legacy of names for companies is long and troubled.  It starts back at the beginning with the name of my first real company – Feld Technologies.  Very creative.  My dad was proud of me, but I learned rule #7341 – don’t name your company after yourself.

After moving to Boulder, I co-founded a company with Andrew Currie and Brian Makare.  The business created the first known (at least to me) email service providers.  At the time (1995) none of us knew what an email service provider was.  We struggled to name the company.  Over beers one night I asked "so – what do we do?"  One of Andrew or Brian (I can’t remember) annoyingly looked over at me and said "We publish email."  Hence – the name of the company – Email Publishing.

Another company that I helped start at the time was an attempt to create one of the early consolidated web hosting companies.  At the time there were lots of companies doing web hosting with loads of creative names that typically included the words "web" or "communication" or "network" somewhere in their names.  We named our business "Web Hosting Organization" and then shortened it to WHO, which caused much amusement (and confusion) in the ensuing legal documents we used to acquire other companies.

Around 1999 I gave up naming things.  I realized that virtually every company I invested in was going through name changes and the marketing people were gleefully spending investor money "rebranding."  I put this in the "what a fucking waste" category and started being more aggressive about my current mantra – "pick a name and stick to it, but please don’t ask me for my opinion on it."

Oh – and the name of this blog fits in that category also.  Feld Thoughts?  C’mon…  But I’m not changing it.