Maybe MBAs are good for something – the naming of UserVoice

MBAWhen we were starting UserVoice I felt from the get-go that we’d need a non-technical co-founder who’s sole job would be “business stuff”. (Eventually I realized that was overrated, but we did need someone who was a great evangelist.)

While “dating” folks for this role I spoke to an MBA grad. Everyone technical in Silicon Valley has a very low opinion of MBA grads but I felt inclined to investigate anyway.

He turned out not to be the right guy but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without value. We met at Starbucks (ironically, the one that’s across the street from what’s now our San Francisco HQ). We didn’t really hit it off…but he did drop this gem:

Mr. MBA: “I like what you’re doing but I really don’t like the name.”

Fair enough. Mind you, this was before The Social Network made renaming companies a pop culture reference. At the time, what is now UserVoice was named UserSuggest, which doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue and is extremely literal (as engineers are wont to do when naming things).

Mr. MBA: “I have a better name but unfortunately it’s already owned.”

I was thinking that I wasn't quite sure what good that did us, but what the heck.

Me: “Okay, so what is it?”
Mr. MBA: “UserVoice.”
Me: “Wow, that is much better. Who owns it?”
Mr. MBA: “A Richard White from North Carolina.”
Me: “…”

I was stunned. I wondered who was the bigger idiot between the two of us: him for not realizing that I am “Richard White from North Carolina”, or me for not having checked what domains I already owned before we started the company.

In the waning days of Kiko (online calendar, first YC batch; sold on eBay) I wrote down 4 ideas that I wanted to pursue and apparently bought domains for all of them. 2 years later when we actually started on UserVoice (after completing two of the other ideas I wrote down: ActiveScaffold & SlimTimer) I had totally forgotten about those domains.

I thanked Mr. MBA for his time, went home, and immediately renamed the company.

What do you think? Did we make the right choice or is UserSuggest better?

Photo courtesy of Madaroni.