Where Did “Evolveum” Come From?

Naming things is hard. It is even harder to find good name for a company, especially if a company is built to last. Such as Evolveum. So, how did our company got its name? This is a story of the name, going back a decade, to early 2011.

Ten years ago, we were in a situation when we had to make several decisions. There were technology decisions. We had a bunch of code that needed almost complete re-structuring around a new skeleton. We did that, and in fact it was quite easy. We published the code and midPoint project was born. However, there were organizational and business decisions to make. It is not enough to publish the code. The code has to be maintained and developed. That needs skills and time, provided by people that need to pay their bills. We had to secure funding for our brand new project. That was difficult part of the problem.

We were (and still are) based in Slovakia. Slovakia was not the nicest place for open source projects in 2011. The pain of 2008 crisis was still there, the money was tight. Even though Slovakia had been part of European Union for several years, many things still had a distinct post-communist taste. Corruption was everywhere. There was basically zero chance for us to get European community funding or any other public money without bribery, fraud or unbearable overhead. One thing was quite clear: we were on our own. We had to provide the funding ourselves, without any help.

We had been entertaining the idea of establishing an open source company since early 2011. Many things are needed to establish a company, such as money, plans, paperwork and such boring stuff. However, one thing is needed even before all of that is settled: a name. Good, solid, elegant name. However, when it comes to company names, things get even harder. Company name must be quite unique, unique enough for us to be able to register a .com domain. That was a major obstacle. Whatever name we could think of, the corresponding domain was already taken. Of course, we could use initial letters of our names to get something like “KSRSIF”. That was not a way for us, as that would be quite ugly and extremely boring. Or maybe we could make up a nonsense word such as “Huxamaxa”. That could work. Yet, we wanted better name, a name that would actually mean something. A name that would characterize us.

Then I’ve got an idea. We could automate the search for a name! I sat down and wrote a short and very ugly Perl script. The script started from a list of words that I though would characterize us. The script tried to combine the words, applying prefixes and suffixes, trying several mutations of the words, each time checking for domain name availability. The result was quite a long list of names, most of which ranged from strange to completely ridiculous. However, there were few gems hidden in this heap.

I went through the output of the script, selecting reasonable candidates. I came across “evolveum” entry. I thought: “Oh, this is nice, it sounds like an chemical element of evolution”. Without much further thoughts I have placed in on a shortlist, together with a dozen of other reasonable names. Then we reviewed the shortlist with fellow conspirators. There was no clear consensus at first, but after a couple of iterations the name “Evolveum” emerged.

We went on and registered the domains. However, we were still miles away from formally establishing a company. We had to think about money, business plans, logo, website, business model, partner network and all such things – and I still had my doubts whether this can work at all. Of course, I was wrong, and the plan worked. But more on that later.

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