Startup Bootcamp Inspires Company Rebrand

By Matt Watkajtys, Incubator Member and Founder of Izkara (formerly Culture Crate)

I walked into the CDAS (Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard) Startup Boot Camp as the Founder of Culture Crate, a pretty rad music bundling startup. 120 minutes later I walked out of the boot camp as the Founder of a company that had a very big problem.

Startups are hard. They’re scary. And there is always a problem that needs to be addressed. Some of those problems you’re not even aware of.

I expected to learn about which legal structure is best for your company, the difference between a W2 employee and an independent contractor, how to structure deals between co-founders, and more. I did learn about all of these things. But what caused us concern was a discussion on trademarks.

Months ago, when I decided to quit my job and launch a new venture; I did the standard due-diligence one does when trying to lock down a name that works. There was no trademark on Culture Crate (at the time). I bought a domain name, locked down a twitter handle, hired a designer to produce a logo, and even printed out business cards. We had a brand. Now we could focus on the important things: designing contracts that are fair for artists, tweaking our business model, finding amazing talent, building the tech behind the platform, researching the best companies to use to press vinyl, and staying sane throughout the process.

In September, I became aware of an ‘Intent To Use’ trademark filing on Culture Crate. I didn’t think much of it. “We’re in a different space, there won’t be a conflict. We’re fine.”

Lawyers are paid very well to think of all of the worst-case scenarios for you. I learned that in the US, first to file a trademark wins. You don’t even have to have the mark used in commerce. There’s a three-year holding period for marks filed under an ‘intent to use’. Further, turns out online retail operations all fall into the same class (generally). What does all of this mean? Someone has the legal right to the name we chose to operate under and they can shut us down one day if they felt so inclined.

What is a founder to do? In this case, re-brand. We didn’t have much of an option. Do we continue to run with a name that we have no legal right to use and hope for the best? Or do we come up with a plan?

I hold a trademark for a failed film distribution company called Izkara, LLC. It was my first company and my first big failure. The name is based on the Sumerian word meaning ‘to speak to’ so we’re not entirely off base. At least we can legally use the name. But how?

A few meetings, a lot of thinking, and suddenly things start to make a bit of sense. Let’s do what cool Silicon Valley startups do and misspell something in our name. ‘Culture’ becomes ‘Kulture’. ‘Crate’ changes to ‘box’. ‘Kulture Box’? That doesn’t sound terrible.

Old Logo

Old Logo

Thankfully Izkara has a ‘K’ as its third letter. Drop the ‘ulture’ part of ‘kulture’ and the ‘ara’ from ‘Izkara’. Now we have ‘IZKbox’. This isn’t looking that half bad. Izkara KBox – IzKBox. The domains are available. Change the C in our small logo to a K. Bring back the old Izkara logo and we have a company again. Really I’m only out a few hundred dollars we paid for business cards.

New Logo

New Logo

Lawyers tell you things that you’re afraid to hear. Rebranding a company that doesn’t exist yet is a lot easier than rebranding a company that’s been around for a few years. Being aware of potential issues is half the battle. We put this small fire out. But there is probably something else burning somewhere. Such is life in the startup world.

Matt Watkajtys is the founder of the KBox from Izkara. Get five amazing albums from up and coming musicians in the KBox. Pay what you can above the minimum. Pay above a premium level and get a vinyl mix tape featuring each artist plus another vinyl to share with a friend. What’s there not to love?