The Algorithm That Named Us Nelmio

I have never been one of the cool kids that play in a band, but I have heard that kids in a band spend more time coming up with a good name than actually playing music. My co-founder Jordi and I felt a bit like that in the first few months after deciding that we would start our own company. At that time we were still working a full-time job at Liip and had many side projects in addition to speaking at various conferences. We simply did not have enough energy to put into our new company. But whenever we met, we eagerly discussed new business ideas and fantasized about the hardware we would provide our employees. Sometimes we even worked on minor projects like Techup or Don’t Make Me Steal (did you sign the petition?). And there was one thing we always ended up doing, no matter what: Trying to find a good name for our company.

This is the story of how we came up with the perfect way to name a company!

The Importance of a Meaningful Name

We went through different phases in order to find a name for our company. Our initial requirement was that our name needed to be meaningful. Something that would speak for us. We were looking for a name with the following message:

  • We are geeks.
  • We are the best at what we do.
  • You really want to work with us!
inc6 logo

Logo idea for inc6 with emphasis on the fact that we are a Switzerland based company.

Jordi came up with our first name: inc6.

It stood for increment 6. inc6 was a short name that sounded professional. And most importantly: the domain was available in both the TLDs we were looking for, namely .com and .ch. I even came up with a logo idea based on the short name: +6

We bought the domain names and had a shared folder called inc6 in our Dropbox. I guess that’s the nerd’s equivalent of drawing a band logo on a bass drum.

Once we were sure that we’d go with this name, we asked our friends and families what came to their mind when they heard inc6 and something unexpected happend: non-technical people thought it stood for incorporated 6. It was clear that we had to find a better name!

The Importance of a Unique Name

This is when we realized that many of the good names don’t actually mean anything: The words Mozilla, Google, Sony, and Atari pretty much mean nothing. They sound good but we only know them because talented, hard working people made them big.

We had our solution! All we had to do was to come up with a new name that sounded good. A name that never anyone had used before. Nothing but some randomly added up syllables. And who thinks random, thinks computers.

auth_pwgen(): Dokuwiki's function that create a pronouncable password

I loved the idea that a computer program would come up with our company name. And so did Jordi. I remembered that Dokuwiki had a function called auth_pwgen() which produces random pronounceable passwords. After slightly modifying the function I printed out 1’000 random words and asked Jordi to join me at a Starbucks in Zürich. We read all the words aloud. We read them with German, French, and English pronunciations. We googled and whoised the words. This process took us about 3 hours. 3 hours during which we pronounced 1’000 words never before heard. Words like bolbow, rinned, and zeelin. 3 hours during which many guests at Starbucks were trying to figure out what language we were speaking. And we finally came up with our name: Nelmio.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. More like the contrary. It felt familiar and slowly grew on us. And the fact that we could use the very hip .io TLD was a bonus: nelm.io.

Nelmio was actually the 3rd word on the list. But we didn’t loose our time reading all the other words. We actually came up with 5 other good names that we kept for future project names.

This is the story of how we came up with our company name. And I really hope that both the company and the name are here to stay.

August 17, 2011 by Pierre Spring in News // Tags: 11 Comments

11 Responses to The Algorithm That Named Us Nelmio

  1. Dhruv Kumar says:

    That’s Really interesting, Script to find a name, Really cool.

    Do you guys plan to open source the script?

    • Here is the code:

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      $c  = 'bcdfghjklmnprstvwz'; //consonants except hard to speak ones
      $v  = 'aeiou';              //vowels
      $a  = $c.$v;                //both

      for ($i = 1; $i <= 100; $i++) {
          $pw = '';
         
          //use two syllables...
          for($j=0;$j < 2; $j++){
              $pw .= $c[rand(0, strlen($c)-1)];
              $pw .= $v[rand(0, strlen($v)-1)];
              $pw .= $a[rand(0, strlen($a)-1)];
          }

          echo $pw . "<br/>";
      }

      You can test it here:
      http://codepad.org/2KvaO35I

  2. Atari is the name of a term from the game of Go. Google is a mispelling of the word googol.

    Interesting approach you took, though I’d have cautioned against an L and M next to each other, for pronunciation purposes.

  3. Also, http://wordoid.com is a neat tool for helping to find pronounceable names.

  4. Cédric says:

    Interesting story, thanks for sharing it!

  5. Henrik says:

    Shouldn’t the inc6 logo have been ++6 instead :)

  6. Hugo says:

    Hello, i’m a french “developer” student and I really liked your code. I created a page to use it : http://is.hugo.free.fr/BRANDomNAME/ If you don’t want I use your code just tell me and I’ll remove my page :)

  7. @hugo: What you built is cool! The code is open source, so you can use it. Just don’t forget to publish your changes to it!

  8. Pingback: Bir isim koyma hikayesi: nelm.io « tahapaksu

  9. crop says:

    Hi there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!