Is the latest technology bubble about to burst? A page-one article in today's Wall Street Journal reports on several indicators of a downward trend:
The goofy-names index, for example, is back near its previous high. Consider Orgoo Inc., which helps people organize all their Web communications. Or Zipidee Inc., a purveyor of "digital goods" such as cellphone ring tones. "Are these names of dogs or are they names of companies?" asks Kate Mitchell, a venture capitalist in Foster City, Calif.
After the jump, reporters Rebecca Buckman and Kevin J. Delaney mention another newish tech company "whose moniker might qualify for the goofy-name index": Obopay.
Ouch! This isn't business--it's personal. And also business. My naming company, Wordworking, worked with Obopay's founders in 2005 to come up with a name to replace "Ultralight FS" for the mobile-payment service they'd developed. Because the initial market for the service was U.S. college students, the founders wanted a name that sounded "cool" and "fun." (For legal reasons, it couldn't sound like "banking"--even though the premise of the service was that you'd use your cell phone as a portable banking account.)
As the WSJ article accurately reports (Ms. Buckman interviewed me on the phone), the "Obo-" portion of Obopay came from obol, an ancient Greek coin. OBO is also shorthand for "or best offer," which suggests financial transcations. Those stories piqued the founders' interest. But what really made them happy was that Obopay was fun and easy to say. And it definitely didn't hurt that Obopay.com was available. So while other contenders such as CellWorth or Cashify might have been more straightforward, they wouldn't have had the equivalent emotional appeal to college students.
Is Obopay "goofy"? Maybe a little. But it's also serious enough, and international-sounding enough, to attract customers and investors--not just on college campuses but, eventually, among "underbanked" populations in Africa and other areas of the world where cell phones greatly outnumber ATMs. Which is where the idea for Obopay was born.
The defense rests.