Ex-Atlas Venture tech team picks new name from 16,000 suggestions: Accomplice

Accomplice partners Ryan Moore, Jeff Fagnan, Chris Lynch, and Jon Karlen (L-R)
Accomplice partners Ryan Moore, Jeff Fagnan, Chris Lynch, and Jon Karlen (L-R)

Last year, after splitting from their partners who bankroll life sciences companies, the technology investors formerly with Cambridge-based Atlas Venture started hunting for a new name.

Instead of writing a big check to a marketing consultant, the newly independent firm turned to a place it knows well — the Internet — with a contest that anyone could enter. The winner would get a stake in the venture fund.

Today, after sorting through some 16,000 submissions, the firm has a new name: Accomplice. The firm, which had been going by the interim name FKA Atlas, already has raised $200 million for its inaugural independent fund.

The initial cull of submitted names was tackled by Sarah Downey, who works in marketing at Accomplice, and Zoe Anetakis, the executive director of TUGG, a tech-industry charity affiliated with the firm.

“We definitely went to hotel bar with this spreadsheet of 16,000 names and said, ‘OK, you take 8,000 and I’ll take 8,000,’ and got a glass of wine,” Downey said.

Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of cringeworthy ideas. Some suggested names appeared to be random combinations of words, such as Horn OK Please or Cranky Neon Halal Frogmen.

There were also plenty of jokes about the fact that three of the firm’s four partners have bald heads: BigBaldBold, D.O.M.E. (Development Of Marketable Endeavors), and Better than Average Liquidity Divestment (BALD).

Some entrants toyed with the the peculiar jargon of the business world, including CollabTronik, Synergy Dynamics Inc., and Incredivest Ventures. Others highlighted the much-lamented lack of diversity in the tech sector, including Boring White Men and The Old Boys’ Club.

And, of course, there were Boston-themed ideas: Tom Brady Capital, Good Tech Hunting, Chowderhead Ventures.

After getting down to 16 finalists, Downey checked for trademark conflicts and any unwanted associations with unsavory slang terms or obscenities in other languages, and the whole company voted to choose a winner.

In the end, the firm still chose a name that carries a whiff of criminal activity — accomplices, after all, are more often found in the courtroom than the boardroom. But it certainly stands out in an industry where competitors are still stenciling their founders’ last names on the office door.

“It was important that in branding, we didn’t go with this hokey crime-spree theme,” Downey said with a laugh. “It’s suggestive of the VC-entrepreneur relationship — they do this thing that everybody talks about, which is the big deal. And we help them.”

The winning name was submitted by Zaqary Whitnack, a Sacramento-based media and technology consultant, who won a $25,000 stake in Accomplice’s first venture fund. Whitnack also won the chance to steer a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit of his choice through TUGG. He chose Youth CITIES, which brings entrepreneurial education programs to middle and high school students.

An online contest fits with larger business trends toward valuing collaboration and cooperation, particularly in the venture investing world, said Dan Hardie, a creative director at Cambridge-based marketing agency Toth + Co.

“The idea of shared success is kind of a cool idea to promote the category,” Hardie said. “The name is only a part of the puzzle, but it sounds like they’re off to a good start.”

Accomplice’s notable previous investments include companies like online investment network AngelList, cash-prize fantasy sports startup DraftKings, and digital security company Bit9. Accomplice says it has made a handful of early investments with its new fund, including the tech-skills education company Startup Institute.