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About the name 'Blekko'

In 1988 I was in college and desperately wanted to run some kind of multitasking OS on my own hardware. These were the dark days before Linux and FreeBSD. I had an account on the university Vax system but it was slow and I didn't have any privs to speak of. My first hope was for a Microvax but they were $15k. I ended up scrounging up a 286 system and installing SCO Xenix on it.

Xenix was a 16 bit port of AT&T's Unix and did the job. I loaded up my box with memory, serial ports, two modems and a serial terminal. I was in heaven.

I wanted to connect to the campus network via uucp and so my computer needed a name. I christened it 'blekko', how I came up with this I have no idea but I liked the sound of it. Thus was born my first "net" address, blekko.uucp.

So 'blekko', while it may sound like a weird Web 2.0 name actually pre-dates the existence of the web. :-)

Now when Mike and I were setting up the new company we got to a point with the lawyers where they needed a name to proceed with the incorporation of the company. I didn't want to pick a name then, names are a big deal and you should put a lot of thought into them. So to put off the decision we decided to call the company "BX10.net". This was an inside joke based on one of our colo server names. But the main idea was that there was no way we'd ever launch with that, so it would usefully serve as a placeholder name but force us to change it later.

Well the state of California rejected our incorp under that name. Apparently there is a BX11, Inc. and they said "BX10" was too close. So in the interest of forging ahead with the company creation I fished out all the names I had in my domain account and sent them over to Mike.

Mike orderded the list by the ones he thought were funniest and sent them off to the lawyers to try, in order, until one worked. Blekko was the first name and went through.

Now I still think that it's important to put more than five minutes of thought into a company name. Especially if the five minute's worth of thought yields "I would never use that name, are you insane?" But the reactions we've had have been ... interesting. Folks definitely love it or hate it. I actually score hate ahead of indifference; provoking a strong emotional response, even a negative one, helps the name stick in people's heads. :-)

One vendor we were talking to earnestly told us the name was fantastic and we must never change it. I'm not sure if he was pulling my leg though.

We've actually spoken to some naming/branding firms... I had always figured that investing more than $14.95 in a corporate identity made sense for a multimillion dollar startup effort... I mean you put millions of dollars into your coders and your ops, but you're going to settle for some name that happened to be free on Go Daddy?

The naming experts have had some interesting comments. They said phonetically 'blekko' wasn't bad. It's unique, staccato, memorable, and short. It does have some unpleasant phonetic associations. But they said mainly it was an "empty vessel" name. Meaning simply that the name doesn't suggest any idea in the mind of the person hearing it. It's an empty vessel that marketing would have to fill with a particular brand meaning.

We're still undecided on whether 'blekko' will actually be the launch name or if we will come up with something else. But I have to say the TechCrunch/Techmeme/Digg press and reaction have provided some fascinating test-marketing feedback. You can't pay for this stuff... and since it will be a little while before we launch anything, if we go with a different name later, it won't be a big deal to change it then.

I wonder what the name inspector would make of 'blekko'...

Update:

The Name Inspector reviews 'blekko'. He doesn't seem to like it. Although there is this curious comment at the end of the article:

But you’re in stealth mode. The Name Inspector believes you have no intention of launching as Blekko. Though he hopes he’s wrong.

Does that mean that he does want us to launch as 'blekko'? Hmmm....

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When you work at a company named Blekko, you understand the importance of choosing a good name. There are plenty of folks who know more about naming than I do - and while I do subscribe to many of Rich's... [Read More]

Comments (8)

John:

Bleak is the first word that comes to mind when I hear "blekko."

Just a thought.

"Total ass-kicking mega-tronic thunder god of doom" is what first came to my mind when I heard "Blekko". But that could just be the Vicodin.

When I ponder the "...free on GoDaddy" concept, the first thing I think of is how GoDaddy itself probably could have found its own name "free on GoDaddy". :)

For what it is worth, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw Blekko was

"Bletch"

No, seriously.

I'm not suggesting the name actually makes me want to vomit -- but the first syllable does have a negative connotation, that you need to be concerned about.

Blekko evokes "blech", that hacking sound you can get with a virus. Appropriate, no? It also kind of goes with Techno which denotes coolness. I like the puppet on the website, by the way.

Ah, the irony of a Blekko taking on a Google. It's like babble-talk. Still, if anyone can take on the googolplexed monopoly that is Google, then you can. A Blekko by any other name can still kick butt.

Like it or not, Blekko sounds vogue to me and fit right in the cyber crowd and culuture! Good luck to you and hope soon I can submit my link to your site for indexing! Cheers! David Lim, +64212640000, Auckland, New Zealand.

It's different and cool! and it promotes comment and debate! That's what you want.Stick with it.;-)

Marina S. :

Something else to consider is whether the name can easily be converted to a verb. We're all familiar with the verbing of Google, and the cringe of word nerds when people "twitter" instead of tweet. And to Tom's point, Bing got a lot of memorable chatter when users were asking how to "bang" for results. Blekko is harder - do you Blech? Bleh? Or maybe you KO?

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