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When Bad Names Happen To Great Startups: Corpora And More NSFW

We were in Chattanooga Tennessee this past week covering GigTank’s demo day.  GigTank is a three month accelerator that was centered around building startups that utilized Chattanooga’s 1gb city wide fiber optic network. Chattanooga’s 1gb fiber optic network launched a year before Kansas City’s, Google backed 1gb network.

The first team that presented was a startup from Asheville, North Carolina called Corpora. Corpora is a platform that uses social media to aggregate and crowdsource things on a grand scale. For the purposes of the competition they showed off how the service could be used to track medical conditions like allergy clusters. Corpora could also be used to source clusters of other conditions like a food poisoning outbreak or  conditions with widespread results.

One of the judges quickly shot the idea down by suggesting that they wouldn’t tweet about “a rash”. Aside from that, and if you can look past the medical vertical, there is a lot of data that could come out of something like Corpora. Although they didn’t win the grand prize of $100,000 they definitely have an idea worth continuing on now that the accelerator program is over.

So why is Corpora in the headline?

Well Thursday morning while sitting at the press table on the second row at the demo day presentations, I discovered something quite disturbing about Corpora.  I had just finished video taping their pitch and began to compile this story about Corpora. After writing a short summary of their presentation, and uploading the video to YouTube, I began to hunt for a logo for the startup. Like most people the first thing I did was a Google images search.

I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone reading this who was seated behind me and had their eyes on my monitor instead of the actual presentations. You see Corpora yielded a search for Corpora Cavvernosa. The first page of Google images results yielded over 25 pictures of penises. Some of the penises were pierced, some cut open, some were just medical illustrations. You see Corpora Cavernosa is the tissue part that runs on top of the urethra and fills with blood and expands as a result of nitric oxide during arousal. Yes Corpora Cavernosa is the actual part of the penis that “gets hard” during an erection.

In a half joking manner and in a half “WTF why didn’t these entrepreneurs vet this out better” manner, I texted a few of my colleagues who were sitting a few rows back (sorry Eric and Patrick) and of course they too saw the disturbing pictures that undoubtedly you’ve gone and Googled now as well.

Some may say that this is a minor thing, on the contrary it’s something that’s minor but could have been dealt with early on. They don’t actually have any significant brand presence at the moment.

We’re not totally in the clear either, however we knew about our issue early on and decided not to worry about it. There is an Urban Dictionary definition of niblets (with an s) that means something that may be a bit on the NSFW side (I’m sure you’ve Googled it now as well).

Our situation is a bit different, that colleague of mine I mentioned above Patrick Woods is a director at archer>malmo’s a>m ventures group. They specialize in branding, brand identity, advertising, and PR. Woods would love for us to change our name. When he thinks nibletz he thinks snacks, and now of course the UD definition we told him about.

Our name came about because we actually came out with our original tag line before the name itself, which was: “Small crunchy bytes from the tech and startup scene”. As a compliment to our huge Android site (which was sold in April) we came up with Nibletz last year. Our original plan was to do a capsulated version of tech and startups similar to what you would find on TechCrunch. We pivoted in January to “the voice of startups everywhere else” and kept the name.

Unlike Corpora we have an established brand presence so for now the name is the same.

a>m ventures has submitted a suggestion for a SXSWi panel/talk in 2013 called “When Bad Names Happen To Great Startups”. If selected archer>malmo’s Chief Creative Officer Gary Backaus along with their Senior Copy Writer will host and moderate a discussion on the importance of naming and having a great name that you can build an even greater brand identity with.

They’ll highlight some of the companies that have changed their names under archer>malmo’s direction and done very well.

Name changes happen for many reasons, but it’s much easier and a lot less costly when little nuances like your name being part of the word for erection, come up early on in the startup process. Even major corporations sometimes go through name changes. Phillip Morris Companies, the manufacturers of Marlboro cigarettes and one time owner of Kraft foods recently went through a name change to Altria. Of course for Altria many will always refer to them as Phillip Morris.

The Haloid Company was the first name for Xerox.  Lucky Goldstar, the Korean company that became LG, changed their name for better global adaption. Under the Lucky Goldstar name they released a number of very low end electronics, this may have had to do with the shift when they started shipping flat screens, and smartphones worldwide. Now with the shortened name they’ve adapted the slogan Life’s Good.

Many don’t realize that when they fly AirTran they are traveling on the same carrier once known as ValueJet Airlines. ValueJet quickly made a name for themselves in the early to mid 90’s until 1996 when a crash in the Everglades caused them to change their name permanently. Now, most people have forgotten (or didn’t know) that Airtran is ValueJet and just associate AirTran (a unit of Southwest) as a value carrier.

Our own word?

One thing we like about nibletz is that we’ve made it our own by swapping the S for the Z. Do we think we’re the next Google? No of course not but made up words can be fun. The downside to made up words is when you invert a letter like we did or use some other creative spelling that’s hard to articulate in speaking. We are forced to use some SEO ninja skills to help direct people who may be looking for us with an “s” and not a “z”.

We’ve also had a problem with good ole Heather who holds the Twitter name “nibletz” she used the name nibletz as her gamer name for many years and has tried to hold the Twitter handle hostage hoping we’ll pay her thousands of dollars to use it. Sorry we’re doing just fine wtih @startuptechguy my personal Twitter and @nibletztweets.

We’re hoping that the team behind Corpora will do something with the name (or flood the net with pictures to push down all those pictures of penises). We’re also hoping that archer>malmo will win a spot at SXSW for their valuable talk.