A Start-Up Trek – What’s in a Name?

Geek Culture

Polly + Math. Polly image taken by Evelyn Giggles. Creative Commons License.

I am starting a new prototyping lab in Huntsville, AL based on the fab lab model. While I’ve done a lot of reading over the years while dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur, this is my first endeavor. This weekly article is where I document my mistakes and successes in creating a business from scratch.

So what should I name my new enterprise? I’ve toyed with this fab lab idea for years and have come up with many names. My original idea was to call it the Tinkerer’s Workshop. My icon would be a gnome or a couple of gnomes. I figured that I could show the gnomes constructing all sorts of contraptions to show off the versatility of the lab. And how anyone could come in there and build anything they can imagine. Problem is everyone I asked thought the gnomes would indicate a gaming or comics store. Besides Tinkerer’s Workshop doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. A name with five syllables is asking to be shortened. The obvious nickname here would be the same as a certain Disney pixie (or is it fairy? I don’t know). Not exactly speaking to my core customer base.

There were also some strong opinions about including the word Workshop or Lab. These words sound geared to engineers. That’s a sensitive subject in a town where one out of every 11 people is an engineer. Having looked at similar businesses I expect to have two types of people visit this lab. The first would be those building prototypes for some sort of experiment or invention. Those of course would predominately be engineers or from some other technical background. Others would be creating art, but would not necessarily call themselves artists. And the general consensus would be that lab or workshop could deter the artistic folks. Personally when I think of workshop I think of people that were great artists and great inventors, like Da Vinci. However my feelings matter less than making sure everyone feels welcome there.

After I gave up on Tinkerer’s Workshop I kept coming up with ideas using the word Polymath. I loved how polymath implied the ability to do almost anything. But here my informal market research said that polymath was too obscure. My favorite line was from my son. “Polymath Labs sounds like a girl owns the lab instead of you.” Seeing my confused look he continued, “You see Polly is a girl’s name and Math would be her last name.” I’m still laughing about that one. He also shot down Tinkerer’s because “if you replace the second part with bell you get Tinkerbell.”

In the end I’ve decided to go with MindGear Labs. I figure it will generally be referred to as MindGear, and keeping Labs on the end will help distinguish it as a prototyping lab. I’ve reserved the name with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office and set up a very cursory website. Next stop – figuring out a logo and advertising plan.

Have a thought about the company name? Please leave a comment below. And thanks to everyone who wished me luck on last week’s post!

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