How to find the right start-up name (and yes we’re scared of IBM)

So what’s in a name? The LearningStone crew can tell all about it! A lot of fun, endless brainstorms, a more than endless search for free or affordable domains, bidding on domain names, name testing with an international panel (friends and kind relations across the globe), a couple of bad ideas and then: on a very very happy day: we had it corned and found the name, the perfect name: LearningStone (we hope you agree!)


You might as well give up…

Start-ups have a rough time these days as online services have an international focus and need to have a name that works across the globe. We preferred a .com but fact is that there are already 150.000.000 domains .com registered. That is a crazy amount! There are not even 171.000 words in the Oxford dictionary so you might as well give up…


Our checklist

So this is what we wanted. A name that…

  1. sounds good.
  2. isn’t too hard to remember.
  3. sounds like something in the learning/training business.
  4. make’s us proud (we’re a start-up… we need to be proud).
  5. isn’t an embarrassment in another language.
  6. is Googleble.
  7. won’t make IBM sue us.


We had some specific wishes: we didn’t want the word Education, schools, etc. in it as our solution is aimed at training professionals not school teachers. We wanted it to sound great in English and pretty ok in as many European languages as possible.


The weird name thing

What we didn’t want is the weird name thing. In the past few years names like Mibblio, Kaggle, Shodogg, Zaarly have been on the rise. The founder of Kaggle actually wrote an algorithm to spot free domains generated from combinations of letters. It can be fun to have a crazy name (and hey Google, Flickr, YouTube are all pretty weird… so it can work) but we’ve been around for a while and even though wacky names might be Googleble, we are simply are a bit bored with it. Yes, taste also matters.


We are not in the railroad business

As we are in the professional training business, we spent a lot of time trying to find a great name with Train in it, only to hear from trainers that they hated it and to hear from others that it sounded like we were in the railroad business. Back to the drawing board, kill your darlings and all that.

If you have the money: go for less syllables but we decided to go for a good sound as it simply wasn’t doable to find a short .com domain (Our branding department just didn’t have the spare 100K).


A disease spelt backward

We don’t remember how the stone came about but we wanted the word Learning in the name after a lot of asking around. The first learning material in history is the Rosetta Stone (and already a great company producing language learning material) so we liked that and the solidness helped. We first considered LearnStone but we couldn’t get it fast enough and our panel just didn’t like it, so we went on to negotiate with the owner of LearningStone and after the price dropped a thousand dollars we were the happiest domain shoppers on the planet for 1200 dollars. One thing that we had learned: you might as well decide on a budget straight away. Paying nothing for a .com domain is hardly an option unless you’re going for a sixteen syllable word that sounds like a disease spelt backward.


Yes, we’re scared of IBM

We actually bought six other domains in the process that were all kicked out by our panel. One of the names (actually the winner of the first round with our panel) turned out to be an IBM trademark (true story). We pictured a very tall building filled with lawyers with nothing better to do than sue us out of existence, and we found a better name while we were at it. LearningStone it was!


A couple of services we used to search for names

Instant domain search:

Real time search and recommendations.

Whois by Domain tools

A good service for searching the Whois database for a domain owner. If it’s a big company it is sometimes impossible to find the legal owner. Just move on.


Domain auction. We noticed that they have a lowest bid at 69 dollars and that there are many automatic bidders going for the lowest bid. We managed to buy one of our domains for 72 dollars.


Domain real estate people. Excellent service if you’re in a hurry. You can call and negotiate.


A very international domain registrar. Quite expensive if you need a lot of domains but they offer more countries than any other registrar making it easy to centralize your domains through one service.


A huge domain market place but also offering a useful ESCROW service so that you can safely buy a domain from a stranger.


Disclaimer: The brand IBM and it’s logo are owned by International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) . LearningStone is no way affiliated with IBM. And please don’t sue us, we’re just kidding 🙂


A new era in (scalable) technology (a blog for the ‘rest of us’ about Erlang and other things)

When I started my new company Maximonster Interactive Things, I was as excited as anyone about the cloud and nearly called my company the Silver lining (as in “every cloud has a silver lining’’). We were setting out to build some new technology (starting off with MaxClass) and everything would be in the cloud and for the cloud. Now two years on, we have achieved just that: we’re very distributed (I just got out of a video conference with developers in the US, Estonia and the Netherlands) and we’re using a totally new category of tooling. It really feels like a new era! Developers are giving and getting open source solutions freely across the borders of corporations, start-ups are building amazing applications without getting tangled in corporate licenses and development is funner than ever. May I call this a paradigm shift?

Michiel Klønhammer – Maximonster interactive Things

Thanks for comments (all mistakes remain mine :-): Arjan Scherpeniss, Marc Worrell, George Serbanut


I’m not a developer (those would be Marc Worrell and Arjan Scherpenisse and others in in the Erlang Talent Community – thank you everyone) and have noticed how little easy-to-read information there is out there for ‘the rest of us’. So I thought I would describe some of the tools we use, using slightly-less-tech-jargon.  Key is scalability: affordable, well managed growth with little redesign of web applications.



Erlang is a programming language that is extremely good for building sites and systems that need to be extremely scalable, extremely stable, are distributed across many servers (so it doesn’t matter if a few break down) and can do many things at the same time. Erlang is used for a growing number of websites, many chat-like systems like Facebook chat, IMVU and Jabber and for building tools that need to be fast too (see some of the tools below). Erlang is (depending on who you ask) both a reference to the Danish mathematician Agner Erlang and an abriviation of Ericsson Language as it was originally developed at Ericsson. Thank you Ericsson!

Note: You might have heard of Erlang/OTP. OTP is simply a set of development libraries for Erlang.

More info:


RiakRiak  (written in Erlang) is a datastore which is particularly useful for storing massive amounts of data distributed across many servers without any one of the servers being the ‘master’ (basically all servers are equal making it very scalable) . Riak is open source but is mainly developed by Basho, a company which sells support and offers products like Riak search and Riak CS.  Riak and other NoSQL solutions like MongoDB and CouchDB have disadvantages too: no standard consistency like SQL databases like Postgres, MySQL and MS SQL can have, no standard indexing to make search easy and limited support for ad-hoc queries. So for typical business solutions it isn’t always the best solution but for situations where data is ‘big’ and less structured (no tables), NoSQL solutions can be useful.

Riak was partly based on research done at Amazon. Users include: GitHub, Ask, Mozilla and Conduit

More info:


ZotonicA framework for building Erlang based web applications. Zotonic helps developers build super-fast websites or mobile applications by providing standard functionalities, an integrated webserver and a way of building the front-end of a site, which typical Erlang developer find difficult. Zotonic also provides a standard back-end for things like managing content and adding functions to a site. Though Zotonic has been dubbed a content management system, I prefer calling it a framework as it’s suitable for a wide range of (very fast) applications. Examples are:,, Women on Waves. Alternatives are: Chicago Boss and Nitrogen (which Zotonic was originally based on).

Warning: I am involved with the Zotonic open source team as a non-developer contributor so don’t believe anything I say – have a look yourself.

More info:


RabbitmqRabbitMQ is an application (written in Erlang) used for passing messages between parts of large systems. MQ stands for Message Queues. You might think of it as an API with an advanced way of dealing with queues. For example: big banking systems need to pass information from one part of their system to the next and do this very very quickly. They would use RabbitMQ or other message queuing systems like the hosted Amazon SQS. RabbitMQ is an built on top of the AMQP protocol, a standard for messaging.
RabbitMQ is part of SpringSource, recently acquired by VMWare.

More info:


Scalable applications mean scalable search. Elasticsearch is an application built on top of the existing Apache Lucene search. Elasticsearch makes it possible to build one or many indexes (searchable lists) based on content in a data store and then distribute the index across servers. Again: for stability and speed.

Another open source search solution is IndexTank, open sourced by LinkedIn. There is a wave of start-ups stepping up to provide hosted services based on both Elasticsearch and IndexTank.
Users include: Mozilla, StumbleUpon, Klout.

More info:


Scalable applications need a ‘webserver’ (the actual software serving the content) that is easy to use across lots of webservers and doesn’t  slow anything down. MochiWeb is a set of tools that form the webserver originally written (in Erlang) by developers from MochiMedia, a games company. Zotonic (above) has MochiWeb integrated into it. Other popular erlang-based webservers are Cowboy and Yaws.

More info:


The list of open source tools above could go on for quite a bit, and for an average scalable application it does. Nearly all open source ‘projects’ or tools (certainly the Erlang related ones) are hosted on Github, a website which hosts code, making it possible to work together on code, add comments and manage versions. “Git” is one of the popular systems for storing- and managing versions of code. Alternatives are Google Code and Bitbucket, but Github is by far the most popular one. Github is a company with a huge following. An active Github profile has become essential for the CV of open source developers.

More info:


RackspaceNot long ago I was struggling with complicated contracts for hosting web applications. It could be scary at times as tiny errors in judgment could turn out to be fatal (or at least shockingly expensive when a site got busy). Now developers (certainly at ambitious start-ups)are turning to services by Amazon or – in our case – Rackspace, two category-killer-companies that are offering (low) pricing by the hour and unlimited amounts of servers that are ready to use within minutes. A new contender in this area is Joyent, focusing on hosting Riak, MongoDB (another noSQL datastore) and other new technologies.
More info:

Interested in the new era in technology too?  Need a speaker? Need a development team? Need a job? Please check us out at

Alles “in the cloud”

Wie mij volgt, weet dat ik onlangs de transitie heb gemaakt van een goed georganiseerd internet bureau met flink wat personeel naar een fonkel nieuwe start-up. Het is niet mis wat je dan allemaal niet meer hebt. Geen systeembeheer, geen inhuis administratie, geen inkoop van lunch. Gelukkig kon ik vandaag met mijn ex- collega’s (ze zitten in het gebouw) vandaar nog wel WK kijken, want zelfs een megagroot flatscreen heb ik niet. Wat een armoede.
Nu heb ieder nadeel een voordeel – om in voetbal-termen te blijven praten (waarom keek Cruyff eigenlijk zo zorgelijk  tijdens Nederland-Denemarken?). Nu dat ik weer klein moet beginnen, moet ik ook slim zijn. Ik formuleer voor de nieuwe groei een aantal strategische principes. Een van de belangrijke daarvan is Everything in the cloud.
Dus (op een espresso-apparaat na) niets meer fysiek op kantoor. En alles moet elders worden gehost. Bij iedere beslissing wordt de cloud-lat streng gehanteerd.
Hier even de oplossing tot nu toe op een rij:
E-mail in the cloud: geen Exchange meer maar Google Apps. Voor 40 Euro per gebruiker/per maand biedt Google een exchange-vervanger die het ook nog prima doet samen met Outlook. Onderschat niet dat je veel werk in de instellingen en configuratie moet investeren (en Exchange heeft ook wel tal van voordelen), maar je kunt het als je een beetje handig bent zelf doen. In the cloud.
Telefoon in the cloud: Vergeet die lompe en dure centrale maar neem een virutele VOIP centrale. Kost 14 euro + tikken per toestel per maand bij BelCentrale. En de nerd in mij wordt aangesproken door met zo’n degelijk Cisco toestel te bellen.
Domeinregistraties in the cloud: geen eigen DNS meer (ieder Internet bedrijf moet de volledige controle over domein instellingen hebben), maar een hosted partij. Ik ben uitgekomen bij EuroDNS, een Luxemburgse partij die in tegenstelling tot partijen zoals ENOM of GoDaddy ook Nederlandse domeinen host. OXXA – een Nederlandse partij viel af wegens technische fouten.
File sharing & backup in the cloud: zoals velen van jullie heb ik op korte termijn daarvoor DropBox ontdekt. Dropbox biedt een onwaarschijnlijk stabiele oplossing. Google Apps (waar ik dus al voor betaal) biedt wel 25 Gb ruimte per persoon I (ik gebruik nu 3%) maar daar heb je weer zoiets als MemeoConnet  voor nodig  – het werd mij te veel gedoe. Als code-repository gebruiken we BitBucket. Mooi spul.
Code Distribution in the cloud: voor het verspreiden van de code die wij teruggeven aan de community gebruiken wij Google Code.
Remote beheer in the cloud: ik gebruikte al jaren LogMeIn voor het remote beheer van de computers van mijn ouders. Voor 5 gebruikers is dat gratis. Werkt ongeloofelijk goed.
VPN in the cloud – ik heb ontdekt dat LogMeIn (die mij dus al iets gratis gaven) ook virtuele VPN biedt. Dus veilige netwerken zonder de technische complexiteit. Ik heb er nog geen ervaring mee dus laat weten als je het gebruikt.
Administratie in the cloud:  ik heb met mijn administratiekantoor afgesproken dat we dit eind dit jaar rond hebben. Zij gebruiken het Multivers maar ook Multivers biedt nu een hosted versie zodat ondernemingen betere toegang hebben tot de diensten van hun administratiekantoren. Er zijn al tal van goede concurrenten zoals Reeleezee van internetpionier Jan Jacobs.
Kantoor in the cloud: ik heb nu het geluk om een kantoor te gebruiken dat plug&play is op een geweldige locatie in het centrum van Amsterdam. Met alles in de cloud heb ik bijna geen ruimte meer nodig.
Hosting in the cloud: dit heet eigenlijk virtualisatie. Dit zette ik al eerder in voor een datacentrum via Uniserver – en was daar zo tevreden mee dat zij een portret maakte over mijn nieuwe nachtrust.
Papier in the cloud:  ik ben nog niet zo ver maar een ex-collega gooit met gemak ieder stuk papier in een lowcost HP scanner die direct naar PDF scant. Weg mappen en gedoe. Bij een bedrijf zoals Stork hebben zij een service centrum waar twee man full time alles inscannen zodat alles in de cloud beschikbaar wordt.
Ja – het begint er een beetje op te lijken. En wat gaan wij dan doen met dit alles? Wij maken KLAS.NL. En ja, KLAS.NL wordt aangeboden in the cloud. Zoals het hoort.
En wat kost eigenlijk zo’n megagroot flatscreen? Nu dat alles in de cloud staat heb ik nog wel een plekje over 🙂

If apple would make espresso machines…. (en we zoeken collega’s)


If apple would make espresso machines this would be it.

En nu dat wij de koffie goed hebben geregeld, zoeken we mensen. Om te beginnen met een Front-end developer maar ook een aantal stagiairs (zowel programmeurs als marketing).  Laat je niet afschrikken door de Engelse advertenties. Het is gewoon in Amsterdam – maar als je toevallig geen Nederlands spreekt, is dat OK.


Maximonster Interactive Things van start met KLAS.NL

Na een maand voorbereiding is vandaag officieel Maximonster Interactive Things van start gegaan.
Maximonster is een nieuw bedrijf dat zich bezig zal houden met de ontwikkeling van een web 2.0 toepassing voor het onderwijs: KLAS.NL
Wat gaan wij doen? Blijf op de hoogte door in te schrijven op de nieuwsbrief op
Interesse in ons initiatief? Neem contact met ons op.
Waarom heten wij zo? Lees dat hier.
Op zoek naar stages of werk? Misschien is het dan leuk om een kop koffie uit ons nieuwe espresso apparaat te komen drinken.