What’s in a name?

In early September I was taking a class, Small Business Development, where I shared the concept behind my “hobby” business / product called ConferenSpy.  ConferenSpy has been in use for over 5 years and as you can imagine has grown to become quite a robust application.  I never marketed it, and it only boasted of 4 clients, however each of those clients came to be through word of mouth.  Over the years, it grew from simply a hard-coded mobile application for attendees to use at a conference, into a fully featured conference management system with room scheduling, customized registration forms, evaluations, conference website, and live updates to the mobile app.

As just mentioned, the product started out as only a mobile application and was named ConferenSpy, because with it you could “spy” into the conference. My professor challenged this name, asking if it was a security product  and didn’t understand the concept behind name.  I had been wrestling with renaming it for almost a year mainly because even if you understand my original name, it didn’t apply anymore because this was so much more than a mobile application. Tack on that everyone called it “Conference Spy”, which unlike ConferenSpy, does not roll off your tongue.

Naming a product is almost as challenging as naming your child, I actually think the later is easier.  I had almost 200 possible names, combinations, synonyms, definitions, concepts, words and phrases to describe everything about this product.  These were contained in an Evernote, a Wunderlist “todo” list, a paper notebook, and scraps of paper.  For this class, I combined them all into a new Evernote and seriously started vetting them to come up with a new name.

Before I get too far in to this, I partnered up with another adult student in class, Brian Evans, who also brought new names, ideas, and concepts to this growing list of pain. When I say pain, I really mean it.  I’ve named just about every project I’ve ever worked on, as a developer, that’s a lot. I like to think I’ve come up with some great names too.  My best being CrowdShark – a crowdfunding platform I built for Messiah College for the office of Development. I digress, but know I’m good a this, and this particular name was eluding me.  When I say I toiled over this, it is no joke, it was constantly on my mind.  If I were driving somewhere, names would flow through my brain, if I woke up in the middle of the night, I would be parsing names, when I was getting ready for work… names.  It was a sickness and got quite out of hand.

Eventually we pitched our favorite 3 or 4 ideas to the professor… she wasn’t impressed.  That evening we had been talking about Stripe and how their name referenced the stripe on a credit card; a piece of object that helps define their product.  She challenged us to find some word or words that encompassed our product and try to form a name from them.  She wanted something that made total sense when you said it, almost making you envision the product itself.  Now this is software, so until you see the product, it may be tough to visualize, however, we understood what she meant.

That evening I spent at least an hour pouring over Conference and Event Planning glossaries.  I dug deep into a few SOPs for event planning, mining for that word that would define our system.  I wrote down, 3 or 4 that maybe with a reach would define our software.  One of those was the word venue.

Conferences are held at a venue.  In our system, it is the first thing you configure.  Sessions are held in rooms in that venue, and all activity during the conference happens there.  It seems like a good word – venue. But on its own, it is an SEO nightmare. This is where my Evernote notes comes into play.  I had multiple columns of names listed.  I had a column for one word names, two word names, three word names, one syllable names, two syllable names … you get the idea.  So I started pouring over this list putting Venue in front of various words and phrases.

I came to Desk.  A desk is a place you sit to plan and organize and conduct business.  It is a place you probably Skype friends and colleagues from.  It is a place to coordinate and write from. It is a central location where you may have an inbox, an outbox, a workflow where you can focus on one task.  Your phone may blink if you have messages or something urgent you need to tend to.  It made sense, and if I’m honest, I got all goose-bumpy. I think I found it.

VenueDesk. That sounds good.  It rolls off the tongue, easy to say. Encompasses the concept of conference information collection and organization.  All the information for the conference is organized on your desk with ways to connect, delegate, and run your team from that central location.

It. Was. Perfect. almost.  I wasn’t fond of the entire two words pushed together – VenueDesk, I’m not sure why but I didn’t like it, so I did what any good developer who names things does, I dropped the middle ‘e’.  There were too many of them anyway. VenuDesk – I liked this more, but it still wasn’t right.  I had recently written a paper on Lara Merriken, creator of LäraBar and in an interview she mentioned she added the umlaut over the a to make it look more interesting.  As far as language and pronunciation goes, it is useless.  But as far as the coolness factor goes, she knocked it out of the park.  It stands out more than LaraBar does. It takes an ordinary work and makes it extraordinary.  I took her lead (Thank you Lara) and tossed an umlaut over the u and ended up with VenüDesk. SOLD.

I had a name.  Not only that, but the professor loved it.  She “got it” right away and related to all of the attributes I mentioned above about a desk.  It was perfect.

Fun fact, the class started in early September 2018.  November 26th I decided was when VenüDesk formed in my mind.  I was at home and decided to look to see what kind of crazy domain we’d end up with.  I was thinking – getvenudesk.com, or venudeskapp.com  or some form of that. was amazed to find the domain venudesk.com still available.  I never grabbed a domain so fast in my life. I sent a text to Brian (my class partner) and told him I landed on VenüDesk.   Then I spent time scouring the internet for a logo designer.  The next day, 27th, I commissioned a logo which was ready by December 1st.  While I was waiting, I spun up a server and started working on the marketing website.  On the December 5th setup a twitter account, and a LinkedIn profile on the 14th.  In 3 months time, we decided to rebrand, found a name, had a logo designed and started putting all the marketing pieces together.

After 5 years, I felt like this thing was actually moving.  It had a purpose again. There is still a lot to do but its all happening.  Just wait and see.