Founded in 2005, Palo Alto–based Obopay was the first U.S. company to allow cellphone users to transfer funds “mobile to mobile” and to pay for goods and services at retail outlets. Its original name, UltralightFS (Financial Services), failed to communicate the money-transfer concept and, according to founder and original CEO Carol Realini, lacked the “cool factor” essential for marketing to the company’s initial audience: U.S. college students. Internal naming efforts had reached a dead end.
Wordworking directed an independent name search that resulted in a list of trademarkable names with available domains. Among them were names based on monetary units, including “obol,” an ancient Greek coin. Truncating “obol” and blending it with a descriptive suffix led to Obopay.
The name combines history with a bit of whimsy; the two plosive consonants, B and P, make it fun to say. The sound of “obo” suggests “mobile,” and “pay” conveys a benefit.
The company embraced the name and the story behind it. “You could say that yesterday’s coins have become today’s mobile,” the company said in a 2008 blog post about the Obopay name.