Triva - Tech Company Names From Apple to Yahoo!


With apologies to William Shakespeare -- A rose by any other name may .. not .. smell as sweet. A company's name influences brand perception, the corporate "story" and even the organizational culture. GIrlfriend, don't forget about the domain availability and the viral ease of pass along.

Did you know Google was a misspelling, HP was named by a coin toss  and Yahoo! was from a classic novel? A look at how some of the most successful technology firms - from Apple to Yahoo! - got their groove er .. name!
Apple Computers
- favorite fruit of founder Steve Jobs. He was three months late in filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if the other colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 o'clock.

CISCO - its not an acronym but the short for San Francisco.

Google - the name started as a jokey boast about the amount of information the search-engine would be able to search. It was originally named 'Googol', a word for the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. After founders, Stanford grad students Sergey Brin and Larry Page presented their project to an angel investor, they received a cheque made out to 'Google.

Hotmail - Founder Jack Smith got the idea of accessing e-mail via the web from a computer anywhere in the world. When Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, he tried all kinds of names ending in 'mail' and finally settled for hotmail as it included the letters "html" - the programming language used to write web pages. It was initially referred to as HoTMaiL with selective upper casing.

HP - Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.

Intel - Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore wanted to name their new company 'Moore Noyce' but that was already trademarked by a hotel chain, so they had to settle for an acronym of INTegrated ELectronics.

Lotus (Notes) - Mitch Kapor got the name for his company from 'The Lotus Position' or 'Padmasana'. Kapor used to be a teacher of Transcendental Meditation (by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi).

Microsoft - coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally christened Micro-Soft, the '-' was removed later on.

Motorola - Founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company started manufacturing radios for cars. The popular radio company at the time as called Victrola.

ORACLE - Larry Ellison and Bob Oats were working on a consulting project for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). The code name for the project was called Oracle (acronym for: One Real Asshole Called Larry Ellison).

Red Hat - Company founder Marc Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while at college by his grandfather. He lost it and had to search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux had an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone!

SAP - "Systems, Applications, Products in Data Processing", formed by 4 ex-IBM employees who used to work in the 'Systems/Applications/Projects."

SUN - founded by 4 Stanford University buddies, SUN is the acronym for Stanford University Network.

Xerox - The inventor, Chestor Carlson, named his product trying to say 'dry' (as  it was dry copying, markedly different from the then prevailing wet copying). The Greek root 'xer' means dry.

Yahoo! - the word was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book 'Gulliver's  Travels'. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.

So what's in a name? Why did you name your company what you did? Would you change it?

Wondering .. would be curious to hear .. what does the "Diva Marketing" mean to you?

Thanks to  Academy Learning Resources  for the list.
Thanks to Utah Baby Namer for the cartoon.


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That was informative and fun.

I always thought a bunch marketing eggheads came up with those catchy names!

It just goes to show that if you have a great product and good marketing team then anything is possible.

Hey, What do you think of Sprudellwasser Inc,? Naw, oh well, back to the drawing board!? :)

Posted by: Liza D on Jun 14, 2008 1:17:06 PM

@Liza -I was surprised too at where those names came from .. guess in the 'marketing consultants' were not called in. You make an excellent point .. it ends up with a great product and some innovative marketing efforts.

Sprudellwasser Inc,sounds like Sesame Street's SNAGGLEPUSS .. and he was a hit. I'd say Girlfriend - go for it!

Posted by: Toby on Jun 14, 2008 5:44:41 PM

Yes, Toby, an excellent marketing teem means life or death to a product.

Yes, the product must have merit but it is the marketing that makes it a household name.

The best example I can think of at the moment is the George Foreman Grill. The grill is a simple kitchen grill. This kind of product is mass produced in many forms. However,the George Foreman Grill is something that all of us own or owned at one time. The marketing team chose to let the consumer into George Foreman's life by featuring his children all named George ... BRILLIANT! Tying the ho hum grill with a sense of family and oddity again, BRILLIANT!

The formula is simple. Take the everyday product and mix with very strong marketing team and viola you have instant magic and household name!

Posted by: Liza on Jun 15, 2008 2:14:57 PM

Toby, I love this post. I believe in 'action' names...quickly, cleanly telling the prospect what it is all about or what it does...or easily decipherable.

Thanks for the history lesson.

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel on Jun 15, 2008 7:18:51 PM

Hi Toby, I always remembered Yahoo!'s name as an acronym. In checking the Yahoo! website, I found the following information (
The Web site started out as "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web" but eventually received a new moniker with the help of a dictionary. The name Yahoo! is an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they liked the general definition of a yahoo: "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth."

Which would be funny considering how Oracle was named =)

Posted by: Csalomonlee on Jun 16, 2008 12:03:38 AM

What a fun post, Toby! When I worked at HP, we learned about the "coin toss", too. I also heard that some ex-HP employees, back in the 70's, left HP and started their own company, Dysan - and their logo looked just like the original hp logo upside-down (the hp being lower case, so upside down looks like a 'dy').

My company name, Petra Consulting Group, came about this way. We wanted the name to reflect the focus (customer retention and loyalty). "Petra" means "rock" in Greek, and customers should be the rock, or foundation, of any business.

Happily, my blog "Customers Rock!" fits right in with the name. :)

Posted by: Becky Carroll on Jun 16, 2008 5:39:16 PM

Love the post - one of the few I read all the way through today.

We picked our name after a survey of our potential customers hated all of our previous options. One of the commenters suggested "how about something that shows the emotional bond between the pet and owner?" and we threw out "Embrace" - kinda gagging at its seemingly cute-overload appeal but figuring if they wanted emotion, by dang, we'll give them emotion.

But, after our resurvey results shot Embrace through the roof, we figured it was a keeper, and after about 3 days of getting used to it, we just loved it.

It encompasses all that we're about in many ways. Ah, the good old days!

Posted by: Laura Bennett on Jun 16, 2008 9:26:14 PM

What does Diva Marketing mean to me?

Well, it is female. It is fresh, now and today.

I think of strong women with their finger on "IT".

Women make most of the money spending decisions in the house. Women are intuitive. They can spot BS from 50 yards and they have no problem telling it like it is.

Diva Marketing is NOW!

Posted by: Liza on Jun 18, 2008 5:12:13 PM

@Liza - wonderful. starting with a good product (I think GFG is great) with the right marketing team = long term success.

@Susan - short, sweet but with an action spin!

@Csalomonlee - thanks for the additional research and resource. one just never knows where the next will come from ;-)

@Becky and Laura -Loved your back-stories of your company/blog titles.What's more it adds to the overall story which makes you/your company more real and memorable.

@Liza - appreciate your over the top kind words. [no this was not a pfc (pay for comment - smile)] tossing thank you pink boas to you!

Posted by: Toby on Jun 18, 2008 6:03:09 PM

With all of these cute stories it almost seems a shame that my company name is not an acronym or a cute reference.

Hmm the name Diva Marketing to me conveys "The better way" of marketing etc.. Diva is a high end term :)

Posted by: Carrie on Jun 19, 2008 1:00:54 PM

@Carrie - I think your company name is great - Ad Chicklet creatively tells exactly what you do. Thanks for the feedback on 'diva marketing.'

Posted by: Toby on Jun 19, 2008 7:10:51 PM

Hey Toby,
That was a really informative post! Diva makes me think of the best of the best like a shining star! My mother is a pediatrician and runs a practice for preemies in India called 'Cherub'.

Posted by: Prashant on Jun 19, 2008 10:43:42 PM

@Prashant - appreciate your feedback. Love the name of your mom's practice .. lots of interesting branding opportunities too.

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