More stories from the Recent Name Change file:
In the beginning there was TweetPhoto, founded in 2009 to allow users of Twitter and other social-media platforms to share photos. In August 2010 TweetPhoto became Plixi and added a geolocation focus to the service. And on May 1 Plixi will change its name again—to Lockerz Photos , to show its kinship with Lockerz, the social-commerce network that acquired Plixi in January.
Congratulations to all concerned, but really: “Lockerz”? Enough with the hip-hop Z-plural, which was already looking dated in 1999, when Fox launched the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel—and when Lockerz’s target market of 13- to 30-year-olds was barely sentient. Even worse, Lockerz awards its users something called Pointz—it prefers that you call them PTZ—which can be exchanged for discounts or direct purchases. PTZ: it’s just a vowel away from “putz.” (Hat tip: Trochee.)
Texas-based Seeing Interactive, which launched in January 2010 after three years in development, changed its name last month to OwnLocal. In addition to its original mission—helping newspapers take ad dollars away from the Yellow Pages—the company has added a daily-deals feature. Like Groupon, yes, but for “markets that haven’t even heard of Groupon,” according to CEO Lloyd Armbrust. “Seeing Interactive” was a less-than-optimal name for this combination of services. OwnLocal is an improvement, but not just because it’s shorter: interactive was boring and overly technical, and what does seeing have to do with ad revenue? OwnLocal, by contrast, contains the keyword local, communicates ownership, and incorporates assonance (vowel rhyme) to make the name more memorable and fun to say.
Here’s a cautionary tale about names, language, and slang.
PinkelStar founder Alexander van Elsas had a great story to tell investors and customers: his company name was a blend of the color pink and Elstar, a Dutch apple variety. The –star suffix could be transformed into a versatile graphic element.
Founded in July 2010, PinkelStar (the S is lower-case in the logo but upper-case everywhere else), which provides tools for developers of mobile apps, got off to an encouraging start, with a $500,000 funding round and coverage by VentureBeat and TechCrunch. I’ll let van Elsas take it from there:
And then it all happened. After a TechCrunch post someone made an smart remark about our company name. Were we aware that ‘pinkeln’ actually means ‘to pee’ in German, and that we effectively managed to call our company ‘Peeing star’? WTF?
Our company is based in Amsterdam, Germany is our neighboring country. But none of us realized what PinkelStar translated to in German. We were hoping that developers would pick up on the benefits of our service. Instead that one comment lead [sic] to an entire new discussion.
The comment got picked up by ‘a few’ German Twitter users, and a ‘peeing’ storm was born.
Long story short: van Elsas and his team went back to the drawing board and emerged with a new name for the consumer service, Zwapp, and a related name for the developer platform, Zwapp Connect.
I’d have liked van Elsas to explain name choice. Is it as meaningless in Dutch (or German) as it is in English? Is it meant to suggest “zap”? Since the website and blog are in English, are we meant to give the name an English pronunciation, or is the W pronounced like V?
In any case, it’s an interesting choice with some positive non-urinary associations. I wish the company well. And I wish all startups would seek the counsel of professional name developers with strong linguistic skills before they make costly and energy-sapping mistakes. (Hat tip: @CalliopeCo.)