Vinomofo, Canva and SafetyCulture have become iconic Australian startup names, yet the path to deciding on a great name hasn’t always been simple for their founders: whether its naming their startup or re-branding a product, there have been bumps in the road, setbacks and missteps along the way.
Sharing their experiences in the documentary The New Hustle, these three startups divulged what their companies and products used to be called, and how they changed those names on their path to create thriving, nationally and internationally-recognised companies.
Canva used to be called ‘Canvas Chef’
Since officially launching more than three years ago Canva has become a worldwide startup success story, raising millions of dollars in funding and bringing its graphic-design software to more than 10 million users in 179 countries around the world in 25 different languages.
The startup has recently expanded its digital offerings to physical products with “Canva Print”, but there was a time when the startup struggled to find a name that fit.
“When I first went to San Fransicso we were still calling it Fusion Books,” Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins explained in The New Hustle, referring to the school yearbook design business that preceded Canva.
“We were going to take Fusion Books to the next level — [but] fusion gets used a lot, and books is limiting,” she said.
After a year-long hunt for a new name, Perkins finally settled on “Canvas Chef”, a name she now admits may have missed the mark.
“It’s the most dorky name ever — I even had a little chef icon,” she said.
Canva co-founder Cliff Obrecht was less diplomatic about the early name.
“Canvas chef was a crap name” Obrecht said. “Everyone hated that name, including myself.”
It wasn’t until one of Canva’s French engineers explained that Canvas was pronounced “Canva” in French that the startup’s name was born, Obrecht said.
Vinomofo used to be called ‘Vinomojo’
The story behind how online wine retailer Vinomofo got its name is more dramatic than simply choosing the a name that didn’t fit: the startup had decided on using the name Vinomojo and was two days out from its launch when it received a cease and desist letter.
The letter was from a trademark lawyer representing a public company who had a wine called Mojo, Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier explained in The New Hustle, and it left him and co-founder Justin Dry in a serious predicament.
“We were in our office, it’s 9pm, we’re drinking and feeling pretty fucking desperate and a bit delirious,” Eikmeier said.
Dry said he and Eikmeier were struggling to land on a name that was close enough to Vinomojo that customers who had signed up to the platform wouldn’t be shocked when it launched under a different moniker.
“We continue to drink and throw ideas around, trying to work out how little we can change this so it wouldn’t seem too shocking for people who signed up,” Dry said.
“I said, ‘why don’t we call it Vinomofo for the motherfuckers who are trying to steal our mojo’,” he said.
“What started as a joke got some momentum, and here we are: Vinomofo.”
The key to changing the startup’s name at such short notice was owning the situation and turning it into a great story, according to Eikmeier.
“On the Monday we launched, we switched the logos over without ceremony, and then we put the story on the ‘about’ page,” he said.
Since that launch date in 2011, Vinomofo has become a household name, making the 2015 Smart50 Awards with annual revenue of $28.7 million. More recently, the startup secured a $25 million investment last year — the same year it announced an expansion into Singapore and California.
SafetyCulture’s iAuditor app used to be called ‘iJSA’
Townsville-based startup SafetyCulture has also raised millions in funding, and has the likes of Qantas, Hilton and Coca-Cola using its platform promoting safety and quality control in workplaces.
The startup has driven 30 million site inspections for customers globally, with offices in Australia, the US and UK, and has even been backed by Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar, but SafetyCulture’s well-known iAuditor app wasn’t always so aptly-named.
Back in 2011, the earlier iteration of SafetyCulture’s app was called ‘iJSA’, which stands for “Job Safety Analysis”, a name that founder Luke Anear describes the moniker as “the worst name in the world”. By 2012, SafetyCulture was releasing new versions of its app under the iAuditor name instead.
Anear produced The New Hustle, which had its opening screening at Melbourne’s ACMI theatre last night, as a way to “give back” to the Australian ecosystem in his hopes of inspiring the next wave of startups and entrepreneurs.