SAN JOSE, California – Born of too much brainstorming or not enough sleep, the names come flying out of nowhere — Crocodoc, Yext, Nowmov.

They turn nouns into adverbs (Answerly) or aspire to become brand-new verbs in true “I-just-googled-her” fashion.

And in the process, they drop vowels like a clumsy waiter (Flickr), spell perfectly good words backward (Xobni) and insert punctuation points where they have no business being (Center’d).

It’s the Great Internet Branding Gold Rush. And with tech startups in Silicon Valley and beyond falling over themselves to create cool names with an AdMob’s swagger and a Twitter’s zip, the word-play is getting wild.

To make matters worse, as the supply of good available names dries up, the envelope is being pushed right over the cliff of clever into the canyon of overly cute.

“We were brainstorming for two weeks, but all the names we came up with were taken,” said Mo Al Adham, 25, who co-founded his video-sharing service while tethered to a tight budget. “We were still poor students, looking for a $10 domain name. My business partner used to love 7-Eleven lime slushies, so he said, ‘How about EatLime?’ If we’d had a hundred grand, we probably could have come up with a much better name.”

With the low-hanging fruit pretty much picked over, name-hungry entrepreneurs are in a branding frenzy.

Whether they’re compiling kitchen-table lists or paying professional consultants, the startup crowd is resorting to all sorts of tricks — slapping words together, like Cardpool; lodging inside jokes into their names, like Lolapps; mixing up numbers and letters, like 500Friends.


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