I'm creating (again) a Web service which I believe have defined quite well (at least in my and my partner's head). On previous failed projects, we have avoided creating a name for our service and it never took off the garage (many different factors).
We both are software eng. so we tend to jump to super technical stuff. This time we wan't to survey the terrain a bit to see if we find interest among our target clients.
When should we create our service's name? To start building our brand, register a domain, up to registering a trademark. At the moment (early startup stage, we are not far from the designing phase) I'm pushing to find a cool name, but is to soon?
Otherwise people will say, "That's interesting, what are you called?" and you say "We're called nothing! Name coming soon!"
How on earth can they come back to you in 4 months time to see how you are getting on?
Name is important. Do spend a bit of time trying to find a good one. Also it's very important to get the .com domain name as well unless you have very clear defined reasoning as to why not.
Get your name right the first time. Then it's about ten quillion times easier to tell people about what you are doing and gain a following/build interest.
For my startup I made a name, registered a domain, and even built a 'coming soon' page long before I had clearly defined what it was that I was building. I wanted to see if the problem that I was targeting was one that clients were interested in before I spent the time thinking through and building out the solution. This turned out great - I found out that people weren't really that interested. I'm using this piece of information to pivot to a different but related problem. I would definitely recommend getting your ideas in front of potential customers very early, and if a name helps you with that, then go for it.
Tom touches a great deal on why I think you need a name. So, why do you need a name as soon as yesterday?
Conversation. Think about your own name. What would it be like if you didn't have one? How would we talk about you? Get your attention? Attribute things to your efforts?
The sooner you have a name, the sooner people can start having conversations about you and with you. If your company doesn't have a name, we can't discuss what you're doing very effectively, and if we do, we certainly will have a hard time attributing it to anybody in particular.
"These guys I met are making this neat app," is very different than, "These guys at Codify (already a company) are making this neat app".
Now we can talk about what 'Codify' does. The name creates a mental anchor in our psyches that helps us recall information associated with it, as well as all the other great work you've done.
Think of it as a mental niche. If you remain undefined then you go in the 'these guys I met' category, which is astronomically larger. I will forget you by tomorrow if I regularly meet 'other guys I've met'.
Hope this was clear enough and that it helps. Thanks for the question!
P.S. You also need to make a website NOW, and a name for your product NOW.
"Now" would not be too soon.
You should decide on a name early on because it is a small, but significant, decision, and will be interwoven into so many other things. Even in simple conversations, you need a way to refer to your product and company.
So, figure something out quickly, also keeping in mind it is not unheard of for companies to change their name and/or product name after launch if they make the realization that what they do has morphed from the original idea and a new moniker would be more fitting.