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Utah Business

Big turquoise arrows. | Photo courtesy of Pluralsight

How to name your company

This story appears in the February issue of Utah Business. Subscribe

A turquoise-painted arrow points directly to an unlabeled button on the wall of Pluralsight’s Draper, Utah, headquarters. It looks serious and mysterious. Does it call security? Does it summon customer service? Does it open a trap door? 

No. It names your company.

In 2003, four software developers were poised to launch a new tech skills company. They didn’t know much about marketing but wanted their company name to sound like the tech giants they loved—Microsoft, Autodesk, Counterpane, etc. 

They noticed a formula: none of those names had an obvious meaning, they were all unique, and they each combined a two-syllable word with a one-syllable word.

If you’re a software developer with a problem and you’ve defined a formula to solve it, the next logical step is to write a program—and that’s exactly what they did. 

“The program basically pulled words out of a dictionary—two-syllable words and one-syllable words—stuck them together and then did a Google search to ensure there were zero hits,” says Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of Pluralsight. 

Skonnard and his co-founders sifted through all the generated names and highlighted the ones they liked. “Once we found Pluralsight, … we could see how we could layer meaning on top of the name,” he says. “The name conjured up these ideas of a plurality of insights into tech … [with] all these instructors and authors who were experts across many different fields.”

Today, that same computer program powers the mysterious button on the wall, and anyone can stop by to generate a company name in a matter of seconds. With the emergence and accessibility of AI tools, budding entrepreneurs may soon have equally smart results on their own computers—if they load their prompt with good naming fundamentals.

Naming fundamentals

Chris Crosby and Chris Mann are the co-founders of Goal, a design and branding agency that has created some of Utah’s most magnetic company names—like Album VC, Ember, Podium and Storied

Often, clients approach Goal when they have entered a growth stage and realize they have outgrown their company name. Their name might be so specific that it precludes expansion, or they may have grown large enough to attract a cease and desist letter from a trademark holder. Whatever the case, after an organization has invested millions of dollars in building equity around a single name, the prospect of renaming the company can be distressing.

“It’s not like naming a child,” Mann says. “It’s way, way, way harder.”

Goal’s naming blueprint starts with conducting a competitive audit, outlining brand positioning and creating brand name criteria. What will feel timeless? What should the brand’s personality be? What will not cause a distraction from the company? 

Next, Goal generates name options—at least 500 of them. Crosby says this is where the most common mistake occurs in naming a company: People tend to brainstorm names one at a time and vet them for availability along the way. This back-and-forth breaks momentum and extinguishes the creative spark.

Instead, Crosby recommends a solid brainstorming session before checking even one name’s availability. “The vetting phase is a bloodbath, and it always will be,” he says. “If you’re not bringing a long list to the vetting phase, … you’ll get stuck there.”

Finally, Goal’s vetting phase includes trademark reports, common-law and online usage screening, web domain availability, international linguistic checks, surveys in target geographies and cultural or existing brand associations.

Decisions are the worst

After going through the entire naming process and landing on a final option, it can still be difficult for companies to commit to a new name. Crosby says that’s completely normal. “There is no perfect brand name that descends from the heavens,” he says. “Every name—even if it’s ownable—has some trade-offs.” 

For example, Crosby gives high marks on branding effectiveness to Lucid, Purple and Vivint but recognizes they had challenges in the beginning. Abstract, suggestive or coined names like these require more money and time investment to build customer brand awareness than descriptive names like The Container Store. 

Instead of worrying about missing out on the perfect name, Crosby says to simply commit. If there’s nothing offensive about the name, the team likes it, and it’s ownable, it may be perfect enough. 

“Six, 12 or 24 months from now—after we’ve built some memories around the name and created a visual identity around it—then it’s going to seem as if it was meant to be,” Crosby says.

In fact, sooner than you can imagine, the second choice from a list of naming options will start to feel foreign. Today, it’s hard to imagine that the Pluralsight founders almost selected “SnowCadence” as their company name 20 years ago. That name is still available, by the way, and Skonnard says any company is welcome to adopt it.

Chris Crosby and Chris Mann, courtesy of Goal
Chris Crosby and Chris Mann, courtesy of Goal

The do’s and don’ts of naming


  • Brainstorm hundreds of names to take into the vetting process.
  • Ensure the name is ownable, simple, appropriate, delightful and adaptable.
  • Explore different naming tactics while brainstorming.
  • Skim through a thesaurus, dictionary or urban dictionary (ex. Homie, Ruck, Swig, Whelm)
  • Word fusion (ex. Blendtec, Instructure, Pluralsight, SimpliCourt, Skullcandy, Vivint)
  • Foreign languages (ex. Domo)
  • Visual imagery (ex. Cotopaxi, Purple)
  • Mind mapping/associations (ex. Lucid, Myriad Genetics, Ancestry)
  • Utilize founder names when there is a positive association (ex. Caputo’s—customers love the idea of buying a sandwich from an Italian family restaurant).


  • Use an alternate spelling in order to acquire a domain or trademark. Misspelling a name doesn’t make it any more likely to pass trademark checks, plus it confuses the customer along the way.
  • Pigeonhole your brand by being too specific. This can hurt your brand architecture when you’re ready to expand.
  • Base your naming strategy on SEO. The way we search for things will change as technology evolves.
  • Change an existing name to an acronym to “avoid a rebrand.” You’ll still have to rebrand—remember Kentucky Fried Chicken and KFC?—so choose a name that delights you. An acronym will rarely be delightful. Take a page from Intergalactic’s naming strategy and reach for the stars!
Photo courtesy of Crystalee Beck
Photo courtesy of Crystalee Beck

The stories behind six Utah company names

Avalaunch Media

In 2008, David Mink and his team at Rocky Mountain Mattress had become so adept at digital marketing that they jumped into the consulting space, helping other companies with SEO and paid ads. Because their mattress company’s parent LLC was named Dream Systems, they named their consulting business Dream Systems Media. 

“I could tell the name never connected with people,” Mink says. “There was nothing for them to really grab onto.”

The team decided to rebrand and generated more than a thousand company names, all of which would end up on the cutting room floor. Instead, a burst of inspiration on a snowy drive would win the day—a play on the word “avalanche” that connected to the agency’s Utah roots and the way it helps businesses launch. Mink took Avalaunch Media back to his two partners for consideration, who were just as excited about the name as he was.

Comma Copywriters

Crystalee Beck wanted to start her own business for years, but one detail froze her progress—a company name. She finally applied for a business license with a generic name to get started, and it took her three years to settle on a brand name she was proud of.

Comma Copywriters is perfect on the surface: a punctuation mark ties logically to copywriting services, and the word “comma” is present within the word “communication.” There is a deeper meaning behind the name as well, tracing back to a financial low point Beck and her husband experienced a few years ago. “I remember distinctly looking at our bank statement and net worth and thinking, ‘If I had one more comma, then a lot of my money problems would go away,’” she says.

Today, Beck has built Comma Copywriters into a million-dollar company, and the brand name’s multi-layered meaning continues to be inspirational to her.


Robert Sweeney, CEO of the talent search platform Facet, turned to a list of recently expired domain names for inspiration. Because a domain reseller hadn’t yet picked up these dormant domains, they were available for around $15 per year. “You page through thousands of names and hope you come across something that inspires you or that is an empty vessel name—a word that doesn’t mean anything yet, but you could define a brand around,” he says. 

In his search, Sweeney stumbled upon and immediately pictured searching for a diamond. “Diamonds are rare, precious and super valuable,” he says. “So is the perfect hire. People are multi-faceted. To find the right person, you need to be able to search on all those facets.”


Airborne ECS was a bland and predictable name for an aerospace company, according to Brad Plothow, chief growth officer at Intergalactic. He says it also turned out to be a problematic name during an airborne pandemic, and it was too narrow in scope. “Our ambitions include the air but aren’t limited to it,” reads a post from Intergalactic’s blog. “Our reach extends from the deepest recesses of the Mariana Trench to the vast unexplored regions of space. Our brand needs to reflect our expansive vision.” 

With the help of identity and brand development studio Bondir, the company rebranded itself as Intergalactic in 2021. “We wanted to recapture the awe and coolness that’s been lost in aerospace,” Plothow says. “[Intergalactic] captures the big, aspirational vision we have for aerospace, and it borrows an iconic word from an all-time banger of a song from our teenage years, ‘Intergalactic’ by the Beastie Boys.”

Mayflower Construction Group

“Throughout history, names have brought power and meaning to leaders, cities, countries and civilizations,” says Brock Richards, owner of Mayflower Construction Group. “The name can tell a story about the brand, or it can be personal, or both.”

In the case of Mayflower Construction Group, it’s both. Four of Richards’ direct ancestors sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, he says, and he felt inspired to name his company after these trailblazing individuals. 

“I felt that by naming my company after such strong, bold men and women, we might remember them when we’re facing the challenges of starting and growing a business,” he continues. “It seems to stick with people because of the familiarity they have with hearing about the Mayflower and pilgrims in elementary school.”

Vivint Smart Home

When APX Alarm decided to expand its offerings beyond traditional security services, it needed a new name to match its new aspirations around home automation. The name “Vivint” originates from the Latin root “Viv,” meaning to live, and “int,” an abbreviation of intelligent, resulting in “Vivint,” or “live intelligently.” This encapsulates the essence of the brand, which strives to promote intelligent living, says a Vivint spokesperson. 

Today, Vivint has evolved into a comprehensive smart home brand dedicated to providing solutions and technology that enable customers to “live intelligently” with solutions that make homes safer, smarter and more sustainable.

A rose by any other name

Here’s a sampling of other names the program suggested for the company now known as Pluralsight:













































Melanie is the editor-in-chief of Utah Business. She worked as a curator and speaking coach at TEDxSaltLakeCity for five seasons, collaborating with some of Utah’s brightest minds. She also spent over 25 years in the medical device manufacturing industry and has specialized in various areas including international account management, product training, digital marketing and project management. Melanie is a frequent emcee, panelist and podcast guest, and produced her own dental products podcast starting in 2006, before podcasting was cool.