20 Odd Tech Startup Names And The Real Stories Behind Them10:00 AM EST Thu. Sep. 19, 2013
You've heard of "Peak Oil?" Well, get ready for "Peak Startup." Here's the situation: All the "good" startup company names -- i.e. ones that strike a balance between resonance and practicality -- were snapped up long ago. Now, in their search for names that people will remember, startups and vendors are flexing their creative muscles and twisting artistic license in ways that would've made Noah Webster hopping mad.
In the cloud computing space, there's a dizzying array of companies that have gone for the low-hanging fruit by naming companies after scientific cloud terms like "cumulonimbus " and "cirrus." In other parts of enterprise technology, we're seeing names mashed together in the hope of finding something workable. CRN reached out to 20 tech vendors and startups recently to get the real story behind their company names. Some of the back-stories will surprise you with their ingenuity. Some are adaptations of non-English words. Others shine for their brilliant simplicity. We'll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not the names work.
CEO: Dave Husak
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.
Plexxi, a software-defined networking startup that emerged from stealth mode last December and has raised more than $50 million in VC funding, is named for a Marshall amplifier called "The Plexi."
Plexxi founder Dave Husak is not just an avid musician and guitar aficionado, a company spokesperson told CRN, he's also a "Luthier," or someone who makes their own guitars (look it up). Husak always liked the name Plexi but didn't seriously consider using it as the name of his company because it sounded too similar to plexiglass. One day, he realized it could work if he added an extra "x."
But there's a practical aspect as well: "Visually, the two XX's with a filled diamond in our logo also represent a network formed at the edges, with a hollow 'core,' which is how we view the new network we are enabling," the spokesperson said.
CEO: Dheeraj Pandey
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
Nutanix, a startup that's embracing the "scale-out" approach to data center infrastructure used by Amazon, Google and Facebook, got its name in a pretty random way.
The three Nutanix co-founders -- Dheeraj Pandey, Dr. Mohit Aron and Ajeet Singh -- were playing Scrabble, and N, U, T, A, N, I and X were the tiles left in the trays of the two losing co-founders at the end of the game, a company spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Kieran Harty
Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.
Storage virtualization vendor Tintri gets its name from the Gaelic word for "lightning" -- which is meant to signify the speed and performance its software delivers in virtualized environments. Tintri CEO and co-founder Kieran Harty is himself Irish, and his wife came up with the name, he told CRN.
CEO: Luke Kanies
Headquarters: Portland, Ore.
Puppet Labs, whose configuration management software automates data center tasks, was originally called Reductive Labs, but its product was called Puppet. The company changed its name in 2010 as part of a larger effort to acknowledge the popularity of the product and align its naming with it, CEO Luke Kanies told CRN.
Kanies said he named the product Puppet because it gave system admins greater control over their infrastructure. With the software, admins could play the role of "puppet master," managing and controlling their organization's servers as a puppet master would manage marionette strings.
CEO: David Farajun
Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario
Though it's not a startup per se, Storage vendor Asigra has an interesting back-story. Its name comes from the Spanish infinitive asegurar, meaning "to assure."
Prior to founding the company, Asigra CEO David Farajun was developing the second generation of an operating system for programmable logic controllers (PLCs) when one of his hard drives failed, causing him to lose data.
To keep it from happening again, Farajun developed technology that backs up data to a secure, remote location over the Internet, without having to manually transfer data on tapes, a company spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Jim Morrisroe
Headquarters: San Francisco
Before co-founding Piston Cloud Computing, CTO Joshua McKenty was the Technical Architect of NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Platform and the OpenStack compute components. So, he worked on the cloud and SaaS for years before these terms became buzzwords.
McKenty eventually realized that the perfect name for his company was lurking beneath all the hype.
"By the time I started OpenStack, I was sick and tired of hearing people say, 'The cloud is nothing but hot air.' The cloud is nothing but hot air. What do you do with hot air? You put a steam engine around it. You put a piston on top of it. Then you capture that force and turn it into work. So a piston is how you get power out of a cloud," McKenty said in an email.
CEO: Poojan Kumar
Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.
Flash storage startup PernixData, co-founded by former VMware veterans Poojan Kumar and Satyam Vaghani, came out of stealth mode in February.
The idea behind choosing "Pernix" -- which comes from Latin and means "agile, nimble, brisk, quick" -- was to show that PernixData was about to do something big in storage, in contrast to larger, slower moving storage vendors.
Mark Leslie, who founded Veritas Software in 2004 and is one of PernixData's investors, suggested that PernixData choose a Latin name, a company spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Corey Thomas
Rapid7 was based in midtown Manhattan when it came out of stealth mode in 2006. Every day, co-founders Alan Matthews, Tas Giakouminakis, and Chad Loder commuted to work on the No. 7 train on the New York Subway, which goes from Queens to Times Square.
Since so much of the company's planning and development work happened on the train, the co-founders decided Rapid7 would be a good name, a company spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Anthony Goldbloom
Headquarters: San Francisco
Kaggle, a startup whose online platform connects companies with big data projects to data scientists capable of handling them, used big data in its search for a unique domain name.
Kaggle CEO Anthony Goldbloom wrote an algorithm that came up with every pronounceable combination of letters with three syllables or less that hadn't yet been registered as a domain name, The Wall Street Journal reported in July
The algorithm turned up some 700 names, and when it came down to Sumble and Kaggle, Goldbloom opted for the latter. "I was too frugal to want to pay for an [existing] domain name," he told The Wall Street Journal.
CEO: Bill Karpovich
Headquarters: Austin, Texas
Cloud management software vendor Zenoss chose to go with a portmanteau of Zen Buddhism and OSS (open source software).
The significance? Zenoss is "Bringing the Zen of Open Source Software to IT management," a company spokesperson said in an email.
Zenoss CEO and co-founder Bill Karpovich took a long sabbatical before starting Zenoss, during which time he read some 50 books on philosophy, religion and psychology. He also traveled in the Far East and discovered meditation, the spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Dan Mihai Dumitri
Headquarters: San Francisco
Midokura, a network virtualization startup founded in Japan in 2010, got its name from the Japanese term for "green cloud." This was originally the name for a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service the company planned to launch in Japan, CEO Dan Mihai Dumitri said in an email.
"I also thought that cloud computing must be 'green', i.e. eco-friendly, given the power economics of shared infrastructure run at high utilization. So, I put two and two together and out came Midokura," Dumitri told CRN.
CEO: Rami Tamir
Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif., and Ra'anana, Israel
Sometimes, startups get their names in simple ways, and Ravello Systems is a good example.
Ravello Systems, whose founders created the KVM open source hypervisor, got its name when Benny Schnaider, its president and co-founder (pictured), was on vacation in Italy.
"He was inspired by the beauty of the Amalfi coast, particularly the town of Ravello in southern Italy," a spokesperson told CRN.
CEO: Claus Moberg
Headquarters: Madison, Wis.
SnowShoe is developing a mobile authentication platform, currently in beta. CEO Claus Moberg founded the company as a college student, after entering and winning a business plan competition for profitable climate change ideas. "Our original idea was to build a smartphone app that would help people buy more environmentally friendly food items at their grocery store by offering them digital coupons for food items with low carbon footprints," Moberg told CRN. "We chose the name because snowshoes decrease the depth of your footprint." To get the technology working with customers' cash registers, SnowShoe invented coupon redemption authentication product SnowShoe Stamp. "We quickly realized that we had invented something that had a lot of value for a lot of different uses, and soon thereafter, we pivoted the company to solely pursue this new authentication technology. Through all of it, the name stuck," Moberg said.
CEO: Dante Malagrino
Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.
OK, hope you paid attention in high school physics class, because this one's a doozy.
Embrane, a software defined networking startup, chose this name after being inspired by M-theory, which is an extension of string theory, a mathematical model of theoretical physics that tries to explain pretty much everything in the universe.
Central to M-theory is the notion of multidimensional membranes, a company spokesperson said in an email. "One school of thought is what Embrane builds could have similar unifying benefits and characteristics to what the M-theory brings to theoretical physics," the spokesperson said.
Perhaps just as important was that the domain embrane.com was available, the spokesperson said.
CEO: Andres Rodriguez
Headquarters: Natick, Mass.
Nasuni President Rob Mason and CEO Andres Rodriguez, both co-founders of the company, considered a lot of names when they founded the cloud storage startup in 2009, including CloudCover, PasadaDrive and StorGuard. They eventually chose "Nasuni," which is a portmanteau of NAS (network-attached storage) and unity.
Nasuni "represents the combination of the three core attributes of provisioning, protection and portability which we held as central to what we were building," a company spokesperson said in an email.
CEO: Sunil Khandekar
Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.
Nuage Networks, the Alcatel-Lucent software-defined networking (SDN) spin-off that launched in January, gets its name from the French word for cloud.
Here's the rationale behind the name: SDN turns the high level functions of switches and routers into software that can run on commodity hardware. This helps speed cloud application delivery, a company spokesperson said in an email.
Another interesting (albeit unintended) aspect of the name Nuage is that it sounds like "new age" when mispronounced. But since SDN paves the way for a "new age" of networking, Nuage Networks is OK with that.
Co-CEOs: Evan Richman and Todd Schwartz
Cloud vendor SkyKick sells the SkyKick Application Suite, which helps SMB customers migrate to Microsoft Office 365. When the startup was looking for a name prior to its founding in 2011, it looked for something "highly differentiating" that was "bold, and evoked movement to the cloud with simplicity and swiftness," Schwartz said in an email.
CEO: Shai Almog
Codename One, an Israel-based startup that sells a cross-platform software development kit for mobile apps, has another simple back-story.
"To be honest, we just needed a name for our new venture to stick on the slides as we were doing the VC rounds," Shai Almog, co-founder and CEO of Codename One, said in an email. "So, we stuck Codename One as a placeholder, not giving it any thought whatsoever, since we will obviously change that."
It turned out the domain name was available, so Almog bought it. Later, it became apparent that the startup's name did match its technology vision, because it lets developers write code once and have it work across all devices, Almog said.
CEO: Dale Renner
Headquarters: Wellesley Hills, Mass.
Big data vendor RedPoint Global gets its name from a sport-climbing term, CEO Dale Renner said in an email. "RedPoint is a free-climbing term that is used to describe an ascent on a previously attempted route that is accomplished without error -- in other words, flawless execution," he said in the email.
RedPoint Global was founded in 2006 by Renner, a former Accenture veteran who started the company's CRM practice. It's now focused on software that helps companies manage and analyze mountains of data.
CEO: Puneet Pandit
Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.
Big data vendor Glassbeam, whose cloud-based software analyzes machine log data to find patterns that can be leveraged for business value, chose its name because its mission is all about cutting through clutter and giving a clear view of what's happening operationally.
"When you mine machine data to derive meaningful value for business users, the final output (analytics) has to be presented clearly, precisely and with clear focus on making an impact in that business use case," Glassbeam CEO Puneet Pandit said in an email.