TL;DR: We changed our name to TimeChi — yes, like Tai Chi but with Time.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
One of the big mistakes an early entrepreneur makes — one I’d learned the hard way — was to put too much time and emphasis in figuring out the name of the business. I mean, if you don’t have a name what will people call you? How do register an LLC (well a Pty. Ltd. because we’re in Australia)? Register a domain? And most importantly, what would I put on my business cards?!
But then how do we tell people who we are?
I learned that business strategy and process come first, then name.
Once I started the business, it was hard not having a name for the product. Not only do I not know what to put down when it says “Company” in forms and registrations but it became hard to tell people what we were doing. Plus, being a hardware startup we realized the importance of creating a “brand” as we could easily be copied (badly) by, you know, that place that copies hardware. Even though most of our IP is in hard-to-copy software, we still need to sell the brand to make sure we show quality in what we do. There is plenty of research in the market showing how the majority of people make decisions based on branding (Yay Apple) — if you don’t believe me, Google it.
You gotta sell a brand!
We brainstormed names over and over and realized that almost any name you can think of doesn’t have a .COM domain available. If the domain hadn’t been taken up by a company then it was someone squatting on the domain hoping to sell it for a profit. I remember Matt Barrie (Freelancer.com) giving a talk on how he was in long negotiations with the owner of the domain “Freelancer.com” — it was only after years of discussions that Matt managed to buy it for an undisclosed sum, but it is estimated that it was a “six figure sum”.
Somehow, we landed on “shift” — a positive word as we were an IoT startup, wanting to shift the way things were done. Looking through domain names, almost anything .COM with “Shift” was taken, so we decided to try out other TLDs (top level domains) and thought the .IO domain was cool, especially for a tech startup. We found two choices “Doshift.io” or “GetShift.io” and decided on GetShift, so our little startup was born!
Our first product was going to be a programmable light switch for smart homes, and I sure as heck didn’t want to have to think of a new product brand name! We kept on making jokes of Get This, Get That, so as you can tell I am certainly not a branding expert. So we decided to call it GetSwitch, to keep in the theme going.
Along the way we realized as a small startup we needed to figure out ways to be productive, so we ended up creating a small device to help keep us productive. We created a little button for ourselves that put us into “time boxing”, where we would work focused for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Then after 4 of these cycles, we would take a “longer break”. Some of you may have heard of this method called the “Pomodoro Technique”. But we let it do so much more. Using the tech we already created, we used the IoT connectivity to connect to our computer and smartphones to block notifications, but realized that as it is a physical timer with a visual indicator it also worked as a traffic light that stopped people from asking you “if you had a minute” while you were trying to focus. Then after trying it we thought that 25 minutes was too short so we introduced the flexibility to change your time periods to something that suited each individual. We called it GetTime. When people heard about it, they were immediately interested in the product and started asking us if we could make them one, too — so we decided to pivot our first product to the new GetTime!
We wanted to help people “GetShift Done” — haha
However, we were then faced with some confusion: were we GetTime or were we GetShift? If we’re one product, what do we promote? Do we push out the GetTime product, or GetShift brand? I mean, Google has products right? But when they started they were just Google, not google search? This was all too confusing. We discussed this at length internally and decided we didn’t know what the right answer was. On top of that, Matt, our industrial designer and the creator of the Tiny Tower Laptop stand (which I love), commented that he didn’t like the logo — and well, he knows his design. Even worse, the name GetShift didn’t really describe what we were doing.
Possibly the final straw was when we realized that our company name “GetShift” was only one letter difference to another company that was getting into the media for all the wrong reasons.
We were getting a lot of people saying they “heard of us” in the papers, so we realized we needed to get away.
Back to the drawing board. Had even more terrible name ideas — chairtable and glassplants… urrgh nothing good.
Then, a eureka moment: James (my co-founder) came up with TimeChi — just like Tai Chi, but with time. I thought “hey that may work”. Thoughts of meditation? Flow? It also reminds me of growing up in Hong Kong seeing people in the early morning practicing Tai Chi, a calm meditative exercise of precise movements to align the mind and body. TimeChi was a perfect fit as we want to help you align your focus and be the most productive person you can be. Best of all, we did a search on the name and…no hits! We were able to get away from the GetSwift problem. We can now create our own brand and SEO. Even better, when we checked the domain TimeChi.com was available — I REPEAT, TIMECHI.COM WAS AVAILABLE!! — this for us, was the branding equivalent to finding a unicorn, and all stars aligning. We snapped up the domain and decided that it was time to execute on the name change.
So, without further adieu, I’d like to introduce you to our new company name: TimeChi
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