Making Up and Choosing Names

Naming and describing things is one of the joys and burdens of inventing and product development. This thought came to me yesterday as once again I'm deeply engaged in creating a thing that needs names. In this case the thing I'm naming and describing can, with equal accuracy, be called an algorithm (sounds tech and cool), analysis tool (sounds valuable) or spreadsheet (boring). The thing is something Invention City uses to review invention ideas and determine their likelihood of commercial success. I've been calling it the "Inventicator" for a while now and the name is sticking. I notice that people smile when I say it. Some have even said, unsolicited, that it's "cool."

The Inventicator asks questions about an invention's attributes and scores the answers. The final score could be called the "Inventicator Score", but that's awkward, long and forgettable. Then yesterday, drinking morning coffee at my kitchen table and staring out the window at the bird feeder in an April snowstorm, I thought up the concept of Invention Commercialization Quotient with the initials ICQ. ICQ sounds like a real thing, doesn't it? My partners and (even more importantly) my wife think so. A number is just a number unless it has a label. Now we have a worthy label.

One of the best names I ever came up with was "Gator-Grip." We had a final design for a universal socket and were talking to production companies about launching a 2-minute DRTV spot in a few months. Names like "uni-socket" and "all-gripper" had been proposed, but nothing was sticking. On a trip to Las Vegas I offered my brother-in-law $500 for a name. Nothing. Then, later on that same trip, by the pool at the Mirage, maybe thinking of sharks at the casinos got me to thinking of sharks in the water... "Shark Bite"..."Gator-Bite"... "Gator-Grip!"

Then there's the story of 88Radio. Watching commercials during Superbowl XXXIV at the height of the .com bubble I came up with the idea of an internet radio network, a group of websites that would be branded with a prefix. The prefix I came up with was 88. 88 means prosperity in Chinese culture, it's the number of keys on a piano and it means hugs and kisses in morse code. All good! So I went out and bought 100+ domain names for everything from 88acapella to 88sports to 88zydeco. We came up with a concept very much like Pandora, wrote half a dozen patents and a business plan and started knocking on doors for money. Just a year earlier Mark Cuban and his partners had sold for $5.7 billion. Anything was possible. But as we were getting rolling traditional radio and music companies woke up to the Internet and began asserting copyright laws. The Internet radio bandwagon collapsed and 88radio never got off the ground. The final nail in the coffin was learning another meaning for 88. The number 8, you see, corresponds to the letter "H" and in Germany from 1933-1945 Nazis had an HH phrase they liked to use when greeting each other. That tradition is still alive and today "88" is often used by white supremacists to begin and end messages. Oops. Another mistake to added to my Experience Resume.

Mike Marks
Invention City

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