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If SXSW Interactive is any indication, and it usually is, then this is the age of the startup. It also means this is the age of the unfortunately named startup. We've all come across a company's name that's missing all its vowels, has superfluous "Z"s tacked on, or is so many words hacked together that its meaning is completely lost.

Gary Backaus, chief creative officer, and Justin Dobbs, associate creative director at Memphis-based ad agency archer>malmo gave a presentation on Monday at SXSW with five simple rules for naming your startup: 

1. You're not naming a startup, you're naming a brand.
According to Backaus, the biggest mistake you can make naming your new startup happens at the very beginning. If you have a name already in mind, while it may be your first instict to see if the domain name is taken, that's the last thing you should do. More than likely it won't be available, and that's when the arbitrary alternate spellings and additional letters start happening for many entrepreneurs. A much better strategy is to think about your brand name in the context of the real world, not among other startups or as a URL. Come at the name from every possible angle, make lists of adjectives and the human qualities you want to emulate.

Related: Creating a Blueprint for Your Brand Strategy

2. Make the right first impression. 
Your name should create a first impression that’s positive, intriguing and clear. "Think of your name as your [brick and mortar] sign," Dobbs encourages. It can either drive traffic to you or drive it away. Your list of potential names should fit within your brand positioning, be unique, and be easy to read. This is where intentional misspellings or extra "Z"s could be a significant hindrance.

3. Don't create conceptual or technical hurdles.
Backaus put it simply: "You don’t need a big idea for your name. You need a name for your big idea." If you have to constantly explain the meaning or the pronunciation of your name to people, especially people that you pitch to, that's a major hurdle. In no way should your name be a disconnect from what you want to accomplish with your brand.

4. When necessary, be descriptive.
Descriptive doesn't mean boring, especially if your startup is in a niche or technical field. Another big reason to avoid the early pitfalls of checking domain name registries is because a company name you've invented that's unavailable could be paired with a simple descriptive word to create your final, custom, website name.

5. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Let's say you already have a startup name, but a shift in your company's focus arises and you feel the name should change. This is ultimately a judgement call, but if your current company name is not tied to an individual product, and your overall brand identity and values have not changed, your current name may be just fine.

"Naming is hard," Backaus said. It's not an exact science, and there's no perfect how-to guide that will work for every startup. If you spend time at the beginning thinking about the one thing you want your company to do, who your audience will be, and your competitors' names, you're on the right track. When you have your final candidates for a name, just be sure to Google them and check what Google Images comes up with. It's always a possibility someone else came up with your name first and it's tied to vulgar slang or images online.

What have been your experiences with naming your company?

Related: The 3 Coolest Things I've Seen at SXSW Interactive 2013

image credit: on.aol.com

It's shaping up to be a banner year for Slava Rubin, the co-founder and CEO of Indiegogo, one of the most popular crowdfunding sites on the web. One statistic backing up this claim: $3 million in funds crowdsourced through Indiegogo helped bring startups, films and bands to this year's South by Southwest Festival in Austin.

This isn't theoretical funding, but real people with real products who are presenting their unique visions to the SXSW masses.

Empowerment is a philosophy for Rubin and Indiegogo. In his view, anyone can be an entrepreneur, and no project is too small. At SXSW Interactive, Rubin offered his top 10 list of entrepreneurship myths, based on data from thousands of the site's successful (and unsuccessful) projects.

1. There is a "right time" to start a business.
The reality is there is no "right time," except when you're ready to. Indiegogo was founded in 2008, during the biggest economic crisis in recent memory, but has hosted more than 100,000 funded campaigns.

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If you’ve ever clicked on a link to see a picture posted on a site like reddit, Twitter or Facebook, more than likely it was hosted on imgur (pronounced "image-er"), one of the most popular image-hosting services on the web. At SXSW Interactive, founder and CEO Alan Schaaf and COO Matt Strader presented the San Francisco-based company as a case study for how to successfully bootstrap a startup.

Here are Schaaf and Strader's five tips for launching a tech company without seeking outside investors:

1. Leverage a community you’re already involved in.
Schaaf created imgur in 2009 out of his college dorm room because he was active on reddit and thought there wasn’t a good way to share pictures. He decided to create an image host that "didn’t suck," he said -- one where a user could anonymously and simply upload an image, and be able to share a link to any web platform. It publicly launched as a post on reddit, and for the first six months imgur was able to operate on user donations alone.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk has outrageous dreams. The PayPal co-founder and serial technology entrepreneur was interviewed in Austin, Texas, today at a packed SXSW Interactive keynote session by former longtime Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, who described Musk’s life as "insane." To which Musk replied matter-of-factly, "my life is very busy."

That might be an understatement. Musk's resume speaks for itself.

In 2002, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), where he is CTO and CEO. SpaceX is a Hawthorne, Calif.-based private space transportation company with the goal of a manned mission to Mars within Musk’s lifetime. Musk said he aspires to set foot on Mars and not die on impact.

To kick off the 20th year of SXSW Interactive, Bre Pettis, the co-founder of MakerBot (one of the leading companies in desktop 3-D printing), was selected to give the opening remarks. To call Pettis’s success the past few years as “extraordinary” would be an understatement, second only to calling 3-D printing’s potential “revolutionary.” The word “revolution” is one that Pettis himself is comfortable with, describing 3-D printing (and specifically MakerBot) as the “next industrial revolution.” When SXSW Interactive’s director, Hugh Forrest, introduced Pettis, he called him “the next industrial revolution’s commander in chief.”

That’s a long way from four short years ago, when MakerBot was a brand-new startup comprised of Pettis, Adam Mayer and Zach Smith, who simply wanted to make a 3-D printer because they “really wanted one”. When Pettis came to 2009’s SXSW with the very first MakerBot prototype, he went into random bars and printed out thimble-size shot glasses to the delight of patrons. Today, Pettis believes MakerBot can fundamentally disrupt global manufacturing, which, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, is a $1.8 trillion industry in the U.S. alone.

Is 3-D printing a niche technology, or is it on par with the cultural magnitude of the television or the personal computer? According to Pettis, MakerBot’s current biggest customer is NASA, which uses their printers for early prototyping models. MakerBot has the rocket scientists, but what about the rest of the market? Pettis sees MakerBot as a “force of goodness” for the world.

Related: The Innovators: MakerBot's Bre Pettis (Video)

Therein lies MakerBot’s biggest challenge and its biggest asset. The key to MakerBot’s success, according to Pettis, is its community of users and creators. Since its inception, early adopters, many of which are at-home enthusiasts, have flooded the MakerBot-owned website Thingiverse with 40,000 designs, everything from jewelry to juicers. All of these items were designed by people through trial and error, and available to anyone to download, for free.

MakerBot’s biggest challenge is the technology itself and the way users design objects. Even MakerBot’s flagship product, the MakerBot Replicator 2, is limited to printing multicolored, rigid pieces of plastic. MakerBot is investing heavily in the material sciences to expand on this, but there’s no timeframe for new materials to come to market. The technology is just not there yet. The Replicator 2 also retails for $2200.

But MakerBot is making big advances on user design. They’ve partnered with AutoDesk  to make more friendly interface applications, like 123D Creature, to introduce younger audiences to the world of 3-D printing. Pettis also unveiled MakerBot’s newest product at SXSW, the Digitizer. Only a prototype, the Digitizer is a desktop 3-D scanner that can scan any small to medium size object (up to 8 inches), save all the data into the Makerbot printer, and print new copies of the scanned item. It’s another way for a wider audience to understand and apply 3-D printing, without the thorough knowledge of complex rendering programs. It's supposed to commercially launch Fall of 2013.

3-D printing is still in its infancy, but Pettis firmly believes in MakerBot’s global significance. It can replace “two centuries of mass production” by giving individuals the tools to design and fabricate their own products, essentially making anyone an entrepreneur. It can be a “new medium” for artists. It can be a vital educational tool for schools. Basically, whatever people can imagine. Pettis doesn’t even stop with Earth, stating that his biggest goal is to have a “MakerBot on the moon." Those are huge goals, but Pettis did have some well-grounded advice for entrepreneurs. “Believe that it’s possible, get started and throw yourself into it, and build momentum.”

How revolutionary will 3-D printing become, for the world and for business?

Related: MakerBot: Building a Cult Following for 3-D Printer Kits

image credit: Note Anytime

Writing notes out by hand hasn't become extinct -- it's just gone digital. A new generation of apps and devices that capture your handwriting are altering how businesses manage what they write.

The Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy tablet and touch-based Microsoft Windows 8 PCs all offer handwriting-based tools that enable a full range of functions from simple note taking to email management to sophisticated sketching and photo manipulation.

If your business could benefit from digitally capturing handwritten notes, consider these suggestions for finding the right app and for using a stylus:

image credit: Shutterstock

As an entrepreneur focused on how to grow your business, taking the time to develop a sleep routine is probably the last thing on your mind. But some sleep advice simply can't be ignored without paying the price in productivity. Deprive yourself of quality sleep long enough and you’ll wind up chipping away at your business and health.

Here are three bad habits you'll need to break, if you want to improve the quality of your sleep: 

Bad Habit #1: You pull all-nighters then oversleep on weekends.
You've likely heard you should go to bed and get up at the same time every day to help optimize your sleep. It is advice entrepreneurs often ignore because they're busy burning the midnight oil and think they can compensate later. Think again. Experts say it's critical to keep a target sleep time in mind -- even if it's midnight -- then meet it consistently.

image credit: Facebook

Facebook recently rolled out a new feature called "conversion measurement," which allows anyone using Facebook ads to measure exactly which ads result in conversions, and marketers and advertisers to track the return on investment for individual ads in a much more sophisticated way.

So, if you use Facebook ads and run an e-commerce site, or rely on list-building and other online tools to gather and track leads, conversion measurement can help you spend your ad dollars more strategically.

To get started, you plug a little snippet of code called an "Offsite Pixel" onto pages of your website -- such as the page users see after registering for your list, or a product page. Facebook can then report on the behaviors users take after clicking on your ad. 

image credit: Atlanta Blackstar

Every love story is different, but there is one thing office romances have in common: From inappropriate displays of affection to concerns about sexual harassment, they can be a headache for employers.

But banning romantic relationships could be more trouble than it's worth -- and ineffective, too, says workplace expert Di Ann Sanchez, founder of Hurst, Texas-based DAS HR Consulting, LLC. "You used to be able to just say 'No office romances' but today, they'll just go underground. Then, if you find out, you're forced to fire them because they violated your no-romance policy," she says.

Instead, she advocates implementing an effective office romance policy, which includes these five essential elements. 

Related: How to Handle Emotional Outbursts at Work

image credit: Shutterstock

Small-business owners are among those taking an opportunity to give their two cents to federal agencies writing the regulations that will govern how various aspects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will be implemented.

Regulations.gov, a government web portal, gives Americans a fairly simple platform for making their opinions known on all manner of proposed rules and guidelines.

Interested?

You can go straight to the portal and start searching for relevant proposals, or stop first by the website of the House Small Business Committee, which has a page dedicated to helping entrepreneurs track and comment on proposed federal regulations that could affect small business.

image credit: Shutterstock

The secret to a more creative, productive workplace may be the one emotion that business leaders rarely encourage at the office: love.

Forget the kind of love you see in greeting cards and Valentines. According to emotion researcher Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (Hudson Street, 2013), love is much more ordinary.

"Love is any positive emotion that we share with another person in real time," Fredrickson says. "It could be shared serenity, pride, or compassion, but the minute that it becomes shared, it is converted to an experience of love."

Love changes the way your brain works. "It allows us to see the big picture and connect the dots," Fredrickson says, adding that positive emotions help people become more creative, productive, and resilient. "These micromoments of connection are the key to unlocking more generative capacity."

image credit: Shutterstock

Social media managers, rejoice.

You no longer have to grapple with sizing issues for social networks such as Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Now you can create Facebook Timeline images, LinkedIn cover photos, and more without worrying whether your pictures will fit the dimensions required by each platform.

Bookmark (or print out) this infographic from LunaMetrics -- your company’s graphic designer will thank you.  

We're all busy, but how do the super successful mange to fit everything in? How does a thought leader grow a website subscriber base to nearly one million? How does a serial entrepreneur juggle yet another business?

We caught up with three high profile entrepreneurs and asked them for their secrets of time management. Each had a method for getting more out of each day. Here’s their advice for small-business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone else who wants to increase their productivity:

Amanda Steinberg: Delegate the Small Stuff
Amanda Steinberg is the founder of the popular financial website DailyWorth. A driven and dedicated business owner, she launched her venture-backed company in 2009 on the same week she gave birth to her daughter. Steinberg's method for managing it all is delegation.

"My secret weapon is my personal assistant, who I hired through thebacanaplan.com," she says. Bacana Plan is a company that provides business services such as personal assistants, bookkeepers and tech support. "Having the right people around me has been my key to productivity," Steinberg says. 

Related: 4 Strategies Used by Superstar Athletes to Become Super Focused

If President Barack Obama were delivering his annual State of the Union address to a room of small-business owners, instead of the constitutionally mandated Congress, it would be a tough crowd. A lot of entrepreneurs are fed up with the gridlock in Washington and their resulting inability to plan for the future of their businesses.

As his second term gets underway, President Obama is expected to lay out his agenda for the coming four years to improve the economy and create jobs for the middle class. In a speech about improving the economy, small-business owners want recognition for their role as the nation’s engine of job growth. Pamela Springer, the CEO of Manta, an online small-business community, says that small businesses were a primary theme for both the Democrats and Republicans in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. “What I found unbelievably surprising is after November’s elections, I have heard zero about small businesses,” says Springer.

image credit: Charleston Business

Karen Mills, the head of the Small Business Administration, has told President Obama that she will be leaving her position.

Who will replace Mills remains unknown. The White House is making no personnel announcements today, according to an email from White House spokesperson Inouye Shin. Mills said in a letter to staff that she will stay on until the White House has named a replacement.

Mills served as the 23rd head of the government agency that is charged with representing small business interests in Washington. She was sworn into her position in April 2009.

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