Forming a legal entity (part 3): Choosing your company name

Before I could get started with the lawyers in forming my company, I needed to know what name to put on the form. Following the example of several startups I’ve previously been in, I decided to choose a different name for the company and the product. This is very convenient for several reasons:

  1. The product name is really important for marketing, while the company name doesn’t have to be.
  2. If the first product idea washes out, I may want to change the product name.
  3. There are lots of good company names which would suck as product names, so making them different gives me more options to choose from.

I wanted the company name to reflect that it was a technology company, but also reflect the personality I brought to it. In particular, I wanted it to reflect the passion I have for the craft of making software, and my own low-key, quiet nature. It turned out to be really easy. Sitting in my office (i.e., lab) at home, I looked out the window into the beautiful redwood forest which surrounds it. Redwood Labs. Done.

Forming a legal entity (part 2): Finding a lawyer

The first step I took in founding a startup was to find a lawyer. There’s a ton of very picky specific legal decisions to make, and I knew that I wasn’t remotely qualified to do it on my own. In fact, I didn’t even know where to start.

I began my search with a few recommendations from friends who are in startups, but, ultimately, I found someone through my accountant. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about law (nor, really, about startups) to judge professional competence, but there were a few other things I looked for:

  • they’ve worked with founding tech. startups before
  • they were interested in my particular business
  • I felt there was a good personality fit
  • the rates weren’t too outrageous ($300 to $500 / hour)

After talking with a few different options on the phone, I wound up going with Doty, Barlow, Britt & Thieman and have been very happy with them.

One extra lesson I learned the hard way… lawyers bill for absolutely everything (all of them: not just mine). Every minute on the phone, every email answered, every letter they have to respond to will cost you. I’ve had to become very conscious about dropping the polite small talk on the phone, and keeping the email questions down to those I absolutely need an answer to. Every time before I call, I remind myself: it costs you $1 to say “Hello, how are you?”