Naming a business is a hugely important but also distinctly personal process. Giving your business a name with a story behind it or a connection to something that is unknown by people outside your organisation is a risk but it’s a calculated one because it has paid off for the some of the world’s biggest companies. As it turns out, some of the most quirky and memorable business names are those that have no immediate meaning to those who come across them. Despite this, the best ones still arouse curiosity, stick in people’s minds and often become the subject of conversation.
For many of the corporations headquartered in the Bay Area, inspiration regarding their business name ideas was obtained from locations, animals and even Greek mythology. Some of the origin stories remained a mystery for years after their formation.
Here are the stories behind the company names of 10 of the biggest companies in the Bay Area.
The latest entry and the name given to Google’s recently announced holding company. When Google’s co-founder Larry Page announced its formation, he explained: “We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!”
The origin of Google’s name is made clear on the company website. It is a play on the word “googol” – the mathematical term for one followed by 100 zeroes. It was a fitting choice given that the mission of co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin was to “organise a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.”
Rumours about the origins of Apple’s name have been circulating for some time. In 2011, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, suggested that the late co-founder had been on a fruitarian diet and had said that Apple sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
Other accounts intimate that Jobs had joked that Apple would come before his former employee Atari in the phone book, while there is also a suggestion from co-founder Steve Wozniak that the name is a tribute to Apple Records, the Beatles’ label.
Originally called “The Facebook”, the social networking giant gets its name from a document containing information about staff and students that was distributed to freshmen at Harvard University, and known as a “facebook”.
The company was initially named “Jerry and Dave’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” after co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo. In 1995, a name change was deemed necessary and the dictionary provided the inspiration for its new identity. Starting with words beginning with “y” and “a” for “yet another,” they opted for Yahoo and the “backronym” “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” was born.
Its founders wanted to convey the message of professional networking and considered a number of business name ideas around this. LinkedIn’s Doug Madey revealed that because Connected.com was already taken, they began thinking about the virtues of being connected and alternatives included “having an in” or “being in”. As a result they swapped “connected” for “link” and registered linkedin.com.
Quite a simple one, Adobe took its name from the Adobe Creek in Los Altos, California, which ran behind co-founder John Warnock’s home.
Interestingly, Twitter’s co-founders had their hearts set on a word that describes what happens when your phone receives a tweet. “Twitch” and “jitter” were early contenders according to now interim CEO Jack Dorsey. Co-founder Noah Glass came across “twitter” after looking up words close to “twitch” in the dictionary. The name they settled on is defined as a short inconsequential burst of information, chirps from birds.
The technology company reportedly gets its name from a shortened version of San Francisco, the city where they were founded in 1984.
US news outlet CNN report than founder Pierre Omidyar had originally intended to give his auction website the same name as that of his consulting firm – Echo Bay. However, EchoBay.com had already been registered by a mining company, so the name was shortened to eBay.
Struggling to come up with business name ideas? Get inspired with some helpful hints from Business Name Checker and then search with us to see if your idea is available.