The Stories Behind 7 Startup Names

How these startups (including ours) got their names

Mad Men is back, have you heard? In the spirit of all things branding, we thought we’d take a peek at the story behind some well known names. Oh and by the way, the “Mad” in Mad Men stands for Madison Avenue, which is where all the ad agencies were located in New York City in the 1960s (and where many still are today).

33 Across

33 Across is a reference to solving the hardest crossword puzzles, by figuring out what the large horizontal word is in the middle of the puzzle, usually 32 or 33 across. Neat.


Warby Parker

This one comes straight from Mr. Jack Kerouac himself, as a mashup of two of his early characters, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. (It’s also completely addicting to say out loud.)



Originally called AirBed and Breakfast as a simple, inflatable riff on bed and breakfast; AirBnB was the logical nickname that stuck.



Co-founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon came up with Spotify through a miscommunication. They were brainstorming names from different rooms, shouting contenders back and forth, and Lorentzon shouted something that sounded like Spotify to Ek, and the rest was history. The official “afterconstruction” story is that Spotify combines spot and identify.


Lot 18

A “lot” is a wine auction term. In an auction you would bid for a “lot” of wine. And the 18 — according to co-founder Philip James 18 is a lucky number in Cantonese.



The name refers both to the shape of the Square device, and the phrase commonly used in financial transactions “Are we square?.” (In early development, the team was using ‘Squirrel’ as the working name – uh, we’re glad Square won out.)


And what about us? What’s behind Wakefield?

Our name comes from a character in the Tom Swift novels, Wakefield Damon. He is an eccentric innovator who says things like “Bless my dynamite cartridge!”.

Now go forth (and name something!).