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Think Big. Move Fast.

Epicenter pointed me to an interesting Seattle Times article that asks what is the impact of startups with weird names.

New Internet companies are being baptized daily with handles that sound like a blend of toddlerspeak, scat singing and what the aliens will greet us with when they land.

Most Internet company names make little sense, and they roll around the mouth like a marble.

“Old-school ideas about sounding trustworthy or sounding big are not as important as they used to be,” said Burt Alper, co-founder of Catchword Branding in Oakland, Calif., which has helped companies pick such names as Vudu (makes a device for watching videos) and Promptu (creates voice-recognition products). “Now it’s about sounding different and standing out from the crowd.”

Maybe I’m showing my age, but I’m not a fan of dropped vowels or unconventional use of high scoring Scrabble letters in company names. I think company names (or at least URLs) need to pass three tests:

1. Can people say it?
2. Can people remember it?
3. Can people spell it?

Word of mouth is a great, free user acquisition channel. But if a happy user tells a friend to check you out, you only need to fail one of these three tests to lose the shot at a new user. Remember how Universal Tube and Rollerform Equipment Corp’s website, utube.com, got a lot of traffic intended for Youtube? Word of mouth can be like playing the Telephone Game. The wrong name risks that happy user’s referral getting lost in the translation…