How to name a company: sharing the story of “Yoosh” after getting officially registered

December 4, 2021

First of all, Yoosh Oy is now an officially registered company in Finland. Hooray! To celebrate that we bring you the story of why we name it “Yoosh” and share some insights about naming a company.

From the whole ocean of words, you have to choose one that will be glued to your project. It will be mentioned during the official meetings and the coffee breaks in the student cafeteria. That word should be short and interesting enough so people can remember it. It should describe the project well enough but be unique to stand out. That is what naming a startup is. It’s a wonderfully creative and sometimes excruciatingly hard process.

If you are working on a name for your startup or project, that reading might help.

Case #1: “Fraktus”

Fraktus app logo
Fraktus logo

Fraktus was the first test app we released about one year ago. Its name is a fun combination of words. Here’s the story.

Our note-taking app works like a messenger, but messengers are bad for taking notes because they lack structure. All your thousands of channels are just hanging out in the same endlessly long list creating a mess. OK for messaging, bad for note-taking. Easily manageable notes structuring is one of the features we wanted to build the app around.

We came up with grouping Channels in Workspaces. As each Workspace can contain a limitless amount of child Workspaces and Channels, it forms a structure that looks like a fractal. But calling the app just a mathematical term seemed boring to us. We needed a twist - something funny or cute. Something like… ”cactus”! Combining the word “fractal” with the word “cactus” we got [TADAA] “Fraktus”.

If you don’t get the idea, no problem. Nearly nobody did. It turned out, a rare person knows what a fractal is, not speaking about trying to link it with our Spaces and Channels. So, Fraktus was a nice-sounding but “nobody-gets-it” name.

Case #2: “Yoosh”

Yoosh app logo
Yoosh logo

Fraktus was a nice little app, but the challenge was that we wanted to add features that would take a lot of time. Luckily, we found Element. It’s an open-source messaging app that already had many features we desired. We decided to build a different, more functional app based on it. That meant we needed a new name. So, here’s how “Yoosh” was born.

This time choosing a name took a few months. Normally, you wouldn't want to spend so much time on it. But we had to support Fraktus for some time and had the luxury to juggle new naming ideas around.

I gathered most of the options in the table. Let’s have a look.

A table with naming options
Naming options

This time we took a slightly different perspective. Instead of just combining words and letters, we wanted to find a metaphor that would emphasize the core concept. The ideas were:

  • Our app will operate much like our most-used apps. It will make the between-apps transition seamless. That’s where “seamlez”, “seamsalabeam”, “seambo”, and other similar options came from.
  • Our app works like a messenger, where text is packed in containers called “message bubbles”. We tried to play with the word “bubble”. We came up with a straightforward option first (“BubbleData”). Then we thought: what are the most common words and concepts that are related to bubbles? Answering that question we got more metaphorical and interesting options (“Soda”, “Boyl”, “Soup”).

But that wasn’t it. We wanted the name to be more youthful. More catchy. More awkward…

I don't remember how we bumped into a company called “mmhmm”, but it was a gigantic inspirational load. The company offers a simple way to level up your visuals during online meetings. Well, who in the world would call it a mumbling sound?..

Yes, you might say: “it’s unofficial”, “it’s hard to pronounce”, “it doesn’t describe the company’s core activity” and so on. But I would say it’s a brilliant name. A barely understandable idea, awkward and cheeky word. Brilliant.

Mmhmm inspired us to think differently. At some point, we thought that as our app is about sending, what if we take the sound of something flying away. And we came up with “Yoot”. That’s the sound that appears in our heads when we press the “plane button” in messengers. That’s it. Simple, short, catchy, a little bit awkward. Almost there.

We told our friend Heikki Immonen about our idea and he came up with a better version. It was “Yoosh”.

Your turn

Now you know our story. What can we learn from it?

Here are a few naming tips to try during the next brainstorming session:

  • Combine the opposite things: serious and funny, tasty and nonedible, soft and hard. Examples: Fraktus (“fractal” + “cactus”), Iron Borsch (“iron” + “borsch”)
  • Use metaphor: think what concept or process describes your project the best and find another interesting word that can symbolize or maximize it. Examples: Yoosh (the sound of a note or message flying away after pressing the “plane button”)
  • Have fun: don't stick with too descriptive, location-based, or surname-based options. They usually are the sign that people spent ideating less than one minute. Instead, innovate, free up your creative genius, go crazy. Then come back to the meeting room and analyze the results. Examples: mmhmm

Bonus tip

It’s always good to have options to choose from and iterate from. Set a timer to 10 min, open Yoosh, create a “Brainstorming” channel, invite team members and start fountaining the ideas. Review the results and tap twice to like and mark the best ones. Repeat a few times.

Become a Yoosher

If you liked what you’ve just read, we invite you to join our community. We are looking for people like us: active, creative, and busy minds.

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