Naming Your Product – The BugSense Interview

Written on August 4, 2011

Bugsense is a tool for developers which collects and analyzes crash reports from mobile applications on Android and iOS. It provides developers with vital insights on the performance of their application, and has proved hugely successful, gaining thousands of users since they (re)launched in June. The co-founder of BugSense, Panos Papadopoulos, on The Startup Project to share the BugSense story with us.

Tell us the background story on BugSense, how did the project begin? What experience did you have?

It all started last November (2010). Me and Jon (my co-founder) used to work together in two other startups (not ours). Last October we had burned out. We were thinking what to do next and one option was freelancing. I had started using Hoptoad for Rails apps back then. I got the idea of creating a similar service so that I could use it for my Rails & AppEngine projects. I told Jon the idea and he said “we should go after WordPress & Joomla, where the market is huge!”. At that point we knew what we would do next. We started preparing our application for seed funding from OpenFund but 2 months later we were rejected. Then we met with our friends at Niobium Labs (the leading mobile app dev house in Greece) and helped us kickstart the project. We set a goal to present “Sfalma” (the name of the startup at that time) during Google I/O. And we did!

You changed the name of the product early on, from ‘Sfalma’ to ‘BugSense’ – Can you explain your reasoning behind the decision? Practically, what problems did a product-wide name change create?

Sfalma in greek means error. It is popularized as σ in maths that stands for sfalma (σφάλμα). We thought it was cool and geeky and most of the people we talked to (Greeks) liked it. When we were in San Francisco for Google I/O we talked to people and everyone had a hard timing pronouncing it and even harder typing. That led to very low direct traffic. It was a no go. We asked people on Reddit and HN about the name and it was obvious. We HAD to change the name. The name change besides requiring some tedious tasks to be done (change DNS, email, change email wherever we had registered) didn’t have any other serious implications as we had already launched.

Having had that experience, what advice would you offer to fellow entrepreneurs in naming their projects?

I believe there are two different schools for naming your project. Either it should be a new word that becomes a distinctive brand ex. Google, Heroku, Shazam or it should be a bit descriptive about what you do ex. Facebook, GroupMe, Github. I think coming up with your own word can be problematic and needs a lot of thinking. Descriptive names on the other side can be dull but easier to remember (if they are not too long or complicated).

BugSense is a very enterprise or developer-focused application, what advice can you offer to founders targeting that market?

For the time being we focus on the developer but we already talk with enterprises and appstores. Providing services to developers is like selling axes during the Gold Rush. It’s a rock-solid and proven market but you need a lot of effort in order to persuade your fellow developers. You have to give the best solution to a known problem. I think there is less risk in failing in the developer-world market and it’s easier to market your product. I also love talking to developers but they can understand what we are talking and as developers they provide us with great and to-the-point feedback.

What advice can you offer to first-time entrepreneurs launching a new product?

There are many stereotypical answers to this question and I won’t be any exception. I advise them to build something they love not something that is just hot so that they can pour theirselves into it. I also advise them to solve a real problem and not just ride the cool wave. I also advise entrepreneurs outside US and the Valley either to think global or stay local but solve a problem that can generate income on day 1.