Zynga, Hulu And GoDaddy: Where 15 Of The Strangest Company Names Came From

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Startups have strange names.

Some founders blame the cacophony that is their company’s name on available domains. “EVERYTHING sensible is taken!” one says.

Others gave their companies meaningless names on purpose. “I wanted a nonsense word because I wanted to build the brand from scratch,” says another founder.

Another entrepreneur named his company after his dog.

We researched 15 of the strangest sounding startups and found out how “Hulu,” “Zynga,” and “GoDaddy” came to be.

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[slide
permalink=”twitter-was-almost-called-status-then-twitch-1″
title=”Twitter was almost called Status, then Twitch”
content=”Twitter’s working title was ‘Status.’ The founders turned to the dictionary for a better name.

Dorsey explains to The LA Times, ‘We wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world.

‘So we did a bunch of name-storming, and we came up with the word ‘twitch,’ because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves. But ‘twitch’ is not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery.

‘So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word ‘twitter,’ and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds.'”
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[slide
permalink=”zynga-was-the-name-of-mark-pincus-bulldog-zinga-2″
title=”Zynga was the name of Mark Pincus’ bulldog, Zinga.”
content=”If ‘Zynga’ sounds more like a pet than a company, that’s because it is.

Mark Pincus named his company after his American bulldog, Zinga.”
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[slide
permalink=”google-came-from-the-mathematical-term-googol-its-the-number-one-followed-by-one-hundred-zeros-3″
title=”Google came from the mathematical term googol. It’s the number one followed by one hundred zeros.”
content=”In its earliest version, Sergey Brin and Larry Page named their search engine ‘Back Rub.’

They changed the name to Google, which stems from the mathematical term ‘googol.’

Googol is the number one followed by one hundred zeros.

Brin and Page found ‘googol’ fitting because it represented a powerful search engine with access to tons of information.”
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[slide
permalink=”yahoo-or-yet-another-hierarchical-officious-oracle-was-inspired-by-gullivers-travels-4″
title=”Yahoo, or Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle, was inspired by Gulliver’s Travels”
content=”Jerry Yang and David Filo renamed their company, ‘Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web,’ in 1994.

The new name, Yahoo! was selected more for its literary definition than for its acronym, Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.

Yahoos in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels were savage creatures. Yahoo, then, meant ‘rude, unsophisticated, and uncouth.'”
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permalink=”skype-was-derived-from-sky-peer-to-peer-5″
title=””Skype” was derived from “sky peer-to-peer.””
content=”The initial name for the project that turned into Skype was ‘Sky peer-to-peer.’

That was chopped down to ‘Skyper.’ Later, due to domain name restrictions, the ‘r’ was dropped.”
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[slide
permalink=”steve-jobs-came-up-with-apple-while-working-at-a-community-farm-6″
title=”Steve Jobs came up with “Apple” while working at a community farm.”
content=”According to his cofounder Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs came up with the name ‘Apple Computers’ while driving on Highway 85 between Palo Alto and Los Altos.

‘(Jobs) said, ‘I’ve got a great name: Apple Computer.’ Maybe he worked in apple trees. I didn’t even ask. Maybe it had some other meaning to him. Maybe the idea just occurred based upon Apple Records. He had been a musical person, like many technical people are. It might have sounded good partly because of that connotation. I thought instantly, ‘We’re going to have a lot of copyright problems.” (via Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most colourful Company)”
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[slide
permalink=”pandora-was-named-after-the-greek-goddess-7″
title=”Pandora was named after the Greek goddess.”
content=”From the music company’s about page:

‘The name Pandora means ‘all gifted’ in Greek. In ancient Greek mythology, Pandora received many gifts from the gods, including the gift of music, from Apollo. She was also, as we all know, very curious. Unlike those gods of old, however, we celebrate that virtue and have made it our mission to reward the musically curious among us with a never-ending experience of music discovery.'”
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[slide
permalink=”godaddy-was-originally-called-jomax-technologies-it-was-almost-named-bigdaddy-but-the-domain-was-taken-8″
title=”GoDaddy was originally called Jomax Technologies. It was almost named BigDaddy but the domain was taken.”
content=”Bob Parsons founded GoDaddy in 1997 under the name Jomax Technologies.

Two years later, the company sought a more memorable name and had an employee brainstorming session. The name ‘Big Daddy’ was suggested, but that domain was taken.

The idea morphed into GoDaddy. Parsons liked the new name because it made people smile.”
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[slide
permalink=”hulu-was-based-on-a-mandarin-word-with-two-meanings-gourd-and-interactive-recording-9″
title=””Hulu” was based on a Mandarin word with two meanings: gourd and interactive recording.”
content=”Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, writes how the name ‘Hulu’ was picked:

‘In a series of marathon naming sessions, Eric, Christina, Eugene and I (shown below) generated, reviewed and debated a very long list of names, filling the whiteboard walls with dozens of possibilities last July and August…

‘At some point during the marathon naming sessions, the name Hulu was suggested…In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission…It literally translates to “gourd,” and in ancient times, the Hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is “interactive recording.” We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu.

‘We were also excited about the name because it had no meaning in the English language. Given that we had aspired — and continue to aspire — to create a unique experience that is both worthy of remark and defies easy comparison, having a name with no direct definition appealed to us. For practical purposes, we also set out to have a relatively short, easy-to-pronounce name.'”
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[slide
permalink=”etsy-means-oh-yes-in-italian-10″
title=”Etsy means “Oh, yes!” in Italian.”
content=”Robert Kalin sought a meaningless word that he could turn into a brand.

He listened to foreign movies, wrote down what he heard, and turned it into the company’s name.

Kalin explains to Reader’s Digest, ‘I was watching Fellini’s 8 ½ and writing down what I was hearing. In Italian, you say ‘etsi’ a lot. It means ‘oh, yes.’ And in Latin, it means ‘and if.””
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[slide
permalink=”meebo-means-nothing-and-stands-for-nothing-11″
title=”Meebo means nothing and stands for nothing.”
content=”The founders wanted a two syllable name with no prior meaning that was easy to spell. If it started with ‘M,’ that was a plus.

Meebo is no secret acronym or inside joke,’ the company blog explains.

‘As far as we know, it doesn’t translate to anything…Sandy, Seth, and Elaine wrote down all the possible names they could think of on a napkin. Two syllables were a requirement and Elaine leaned heavily towards names that started with the letter ‘M.’ It had to have no prior association and the spelling had to be easy enough so that if you heard it, you could spell it.

‘…they came up with about 50 before starting to repeat themselves. they entered all 50 names, one by one, into a browser and eliminated all but something like five, because the rest were taken. After playing with variations on the few remaining, they picked Meebo and voilà!”
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[slide
permalink=”yandex-has-a-double-meaning-yet-another-indexer-and-the-russian-word–ya-sounds-like-i-in-english-ya-ndex-12″
title=”Yandex has a double meaning, “Yet Another iNDEXer,’ and the Russian word “Я” (Ya”) Sounds like “I” In English (Ya-ndex).”
content=”The Russian search engine’s name is both an acronym and a pun.

According to Wikipedia, ”The name initially stood for ‘Yet Another iNDEXer.’ The Russian word ‘Я’ (‘Ya’) corresponds to English personal pronoun ‘I’, making ‘Яndex’ a bilingual pun on ‘index’; another pun is based on yin and yang contrast.'”
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[slide
permalink=”bebo-means-blog-early-blog-often-13″
title=”Bebo means “Blog Early, Blog Often.””
content=”Social network Bebo is an acronym for ‘blog early, blog often.'”
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[slide
permalink=”zillow-the-online-real-estate-database-combines-zillions-with-pillows-14″
title=”Zillow, the online real estate database, combines “zillions” with “pillows””
content=”According to Zillow, ‘The Zillow name evolved from the desire to make zillions of data points for homes accessible to everyone.

‘And, since a home is about more than just data – it is where you lay your head to rest at night, like a pillow – ‘Zillow’ was born.'”
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[slide
permalink=”yipit-got-its-name-because-everything-sensible-was-taken-case-in-point-it-was-almost-called-streetcar-frankencity-citybat-or-noocher-15″
title=”Yipit got its name because “everything sensible was taken.” Case in point: it was almost called “streetcar,” “frankencity,” “citybat,” or “noocher.””
content=”Cofounder Vinicius Vacanti wrote a post about how difficult it was to name his daily deals aggregator, Yipit. He explains the gruelling process:

‘You realise at some point that EVERYTHING sensible is taken…We came up with a long list of terrible names and these were the ones we actually bought: streetcake, frankencity, 1gotham, citybat, noocher, zaxme.

‘We wanted something short and we decided we wanted the domain to end in “it”. We figured people say “google it”, and we hoped that one day, if we got popular enough, we could make it easier on people by having the “it” as part of the name.

‘So, I wrote a simple python script to generate every [consonant][vowel][consonant]it.com. With 21 consonants and 5 vowels, that resulted in 2,205 possible domains…Around 400 were available. The available domains were terrible but, amongst the trash, we spotted the needle in the haystack: yipit.com.'”
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[slide
permalink=”the-names-of-the-startups-might-be-silly-but-at-least-theyre-good-business-ideas-unlike-16″
title=”The names of the startups might be silly, but at least they’re good business ideas. Unlike:”
content=”The 20 Most Idiotic Inventions You’ll Ever Encounter >>
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[/slideshow]