What’s in a Name? 10 French startup name-changes, for better or worse

Aug 14, 2013
Vote on Hacker News

Hello, my name is

Whether it’s dropping the “the” (TheFacebook –> Facebook) because Justin Timberlake told you so, or changing your name to “HighTail” (YouSendIt –> HighTail) because… well, sometimes there’s no good reason for a name change, but we notice them anyway. A name can be a pretty powerful thing – it’s your brand, your identity, your id – however, it is also just a name, and we might be using Facebook even if it had been called AppleFarts. Nonetheless, we can’t help but make judgments when they happen, and, with a little hindsight, applaud those who have ‘successfully’ changed their names (i.e: changed their names, and subsequently been successful).

While we may be fascinated by ZimRide’s smooth change to Lyft, or Instagram’s evolution from Bourbon, I thought we’d look at a few French startups who’ve changed their names – some you may know, some you may not.

Deezer, originally Blogmusik

Blogmusik Logo

Founded in 2006 by Daniel Marhely, Deezer’s first iteration came in the form of Blogmusik, which was shut down for its less-than-legal ways of allowing individuals to share music. The site was relaunched in August 2007 as Deezer after just four months of being shut down, though the original name still remains the parent company of Deezer, Blogmusik SAS.

Viadeo, originally, Viaduc, originally Agrégator

viadeo2

This story was shared to me by Jerome Masurel – Viadeo was originally the digital project of an French Entrepreneurs club called Agrégator, created by Viadeo founder Dan Serfaty. When the joint project between Agrégator and FCPR Galapagos (seen here) launched in 2004, it was called Viaduc, In 2006, as the company began attacking the international market, it changed its name to Viadeo (here is a blog post on the story) in order to have a more internationally recognizable brand name.

Blablacar, originally CoVoiturage/Comuto

Blablacar“CoVoiturage.fr”, French for ‘ride-sharing’, is a pretty good URL to have, unless of course you’re building Europe’s largest ridesharing marketplace. As Blablacar began to expand, they tried different names – “Comuto” was used in Spain & the UK for their expansion; however, ultimately, having one brand-name was key, and they chose BlaBlaCar, playing off of one of the profile features of the service, which allows drivers and passengers to declare how much talking they prefer: Bla, Blabla, or Blablabla.

Today, the company has changed its logo & name to Blablacar on all sites, including the French site; however, they still leave a notice on Blablacar.fr explaining to users why the name changed.

Blablacar will be recruiting at the Paris Startup Job Fair on September 14th!

Alloresto, originally EatOnline

alloresto_logoFounded in 1998, Alloresto, an online service that allows you to order take-out from a variety of local restaurants, was originally called EatOnline; however, as seen in this Strategies.fr article from 2000, the startup quickly changed its name in order to grow their “19,000” users. At the time of the name-change, founder Sebastien Forest was quoted as saying that the company was looking to grow by adding telephone and Minitel service in addition to the existing Internet service. My how times have changed.

Alloresto is a sponsor for our upcoming Code in the Dark developer party on September 27th!

Drivy, originally VoitureLib

Drivy_A_sm.png  600×154After raising funds from Index Ventures & Alven Capital last year, Voiturelib.com quickly became Drivy at the beginning of this year (company blog post in French), presumably in order to attack an international market; however, despite the name change, the startup’s Pink car remained in the logo – some things never change.

Still no word on the company’s international plans.

Ouicar, originally ZilokAuto

ufrhrzvvcted3vziw0fxAlong the same lines, Drivy competitor ZilokAuto changed its name to OuiCar within months of the VoitureLib->Drivy name-change, though the two seemed to have independently come to the same conclusion to create less French names. In the case of ZilokAuto, a spin-off of P2P marketplace Zilok, the name-change also permitted the service to distance itself from its sister-brand.

OuiCar will be recruiting at our upcoming Paris Startup Job Fair

LeWeb, originally Les Blogs

slide-7-638

The quite popular LeWeb Conference, run by Loic & Geraldine Le Meur & sold off to Reed MIDEM last December, didn’t always go by its catchy Franglais name. Back in 2005 when Loic first organized the conference, it went by the name Les Blogs 2.0 – the image above is couresty of Maarten Schenk’s “Brief History of LeWeb” presentation that he gave last December at LeWeb Paris.

Le Meur had just previously sold his hosting company Ublog to Six Apart (seen above as a Sponsor) when he began organizing this event on the theme of Blogs, and as the event took form and grew, he changed it to LeWeb in 2006. The first edition saw Nicolas Sarkozy attend.

Lima, originally Plug

lima

This one is fresh in the history books – Kickstarter campaign Plug recently changed its name to Lima after a certain company urged them to do so due to conflict in name. While naming your product after the capital of Peru isn’t the worst or best idea, it’s interesting to note that, at least in the hardware/cloud storage business, a Google search for Plug doesn’t turn up any dominant player.

What’s in a Name?

A few other interesting name-changes:

  • Vestiaire Collective, originally Vestiaire de copines
  • MixoTV, originally JoliTV, originally TumbUp
  • Pili Pop, originally Babble Planet, originally Teeniz

The result is always the same – in the end, if you like a product you’ll remember its name, and if you like it a lot, you’ll remember its new name. Sometimes companies change names for the worse – lucky for Rude Baguette, all tech blog names are god awful, so there’s no pressure to change anytime soon.

Any other Name-changes we left off?