Step 1: Choose the company name

Company name

For open core companies, it’s important to have the same name as the underlying open source project. From our experience, the lack of awareness of a new company name is often why the business fails to gain traction quickly in the market. A large number of resources are required to build a new brand, which is a marketing investment that detracts from product development in the early days.
The second best option for an open core company name is to use a name associated with the open source project. For example, Mermaid Chart Inc. for the Mermaid open source project.
If neither the exact name nor an associated name is an option (for instance, a foundation has the intellectual property rights to the open source project name), founders will choose a company name from OCV’s name reserve.
We recognize that naming the company after the open source project name may face trademark application hurdles.
In the event that the company is able to obtain trademark registration rights (to the open source project name), the company will extend a forever, royalty-free license to the project so the name lives on regardless of the outcome of the commercial company.
Companies that can use the open source project name or a similar derivative should make the commercial website the go-to destination for both project and product information. See the website handbook for information on handling the open source project and commercial company websites.

OCV name reserve

As of December 2022, OCV maintains an inventory of unique company and domain names that have cleared the following search criteria.

OCV company name search criteria

OCV generated company names will not contain specific domain language / keywords (for example, “Apple” or “Amazon”). Otherwise, it would be more difficult to differentiate from competitors and/or pivot the business in the future. These will also be unique, reasonably short, eligible for trade name registration / a “.com” domain name, and spelled as how you’d pronounce it (avoid misspellings).
We run the following searches for a new OCV company name:
  1. Domain availability - “.com” domains are preferred
    1. Domain purchase budget:
      1. B2B Companies: the name for such companies is not a priority for their customers
        1. B2B Companies: max of USD $5,000
      2. B2C Companies: max of USD $10,000
  1. Google - are there other companies using a similar name in the same or adjacent industry already? Try different sound-a-like spellings too.
  1. USPTO - are there existing trade name applications in the same class (typically, Class 42 - “Non-Downloadable Computer Software”) that could block a new registration? Try a few spelling variations too. Also check WIPO Global Brand Database.
  1. Delaware entity - ensure no conflicts with existing entity names.
  1. Trademark knock-out search by the Legal Team (generally takes ~2 business days).
For companies that require a name from OCV’s reserve, domain name registration will be transferred to the company’s account after incorporation.
See additional Trademark considerations at 1️⃣File for Trademark Protection.

Changing the company name

Only when a name change is deemed absolutely critical, a DBA (”doing business as”) may be considered and a DBA should be used instead of changing corporate entity name legally. A DBA will trigger some additional compliance and tax complications which should be weighed as part of the decision to undergo a change in name, but a legal entity name change will trigger a more significant impact on compliance processes, legal expense, and operational complications which are too burdensome to entertain.
A DBA will need to be filed where a company’s offices are located and where a company intends to do business. As a company expands where it is doing business, a DBA registration will need to take place in those additional locations as well.
For OCV companies seeking to do business under a new name through a DBA (not a legal entity name change), Fictitious Business Name Statements will need to be filed in San Francisco and in Santa Clara counties. The legal team will require physical, wet-signed copies of those statements and a copy of the company’s tax registration certificate in San Francisco. For Santa Clara County, a publication of the new business name will be needed in a local newspaper which the legal team will be able to help facilitate. To obtain a tax registration certificate in San Francisco, the company will first need to solicit a business registration certificate. Given the requirements for obtaining physical copies and sequential steps, the timeline for completing a DBA may take one to three months.
As a policy, OCV (when serving as the single member of the board of directors) will not approve legal name change requests.