When I decided to start a company in 2020, like any reasonable programmer, the first thing I did was shop for domain names.
I found one that was amusing, but it was owned by a domain squatter. I struck up a conversation with this person and luckily arrived at a reasonable price. The transfer happened in a couple of days.
The story should have ended there.
But turns out there's a different kind of squatting you can do - Trademark squatting. This is where you purchase the rights to a brand name and charge exorbitant amounts to let others use it. Someone had registered a trademark for this domain name that I now owned, which meant I couldn't run a business under that name in some countries that I intended to serve.
Unfortunately the negotiations with the lawyers did not go favorably, and this led to a hard couple of days. I had grown very fond of the name, and I felt like a parent who was having to rename their kid because of reasons that made little sense.
My wife was the one who helped me out of this rut by coming up with a set of alternate names. Out of all her suggestions, the one which struck a chord was "ente" - which means "mine" in my mother tongue (Malayalam).
What was even better was that the domain "ente.io" was available, with no squatters to deal with for the domain or the brand.
Our baby had a name - Ente.
A couple of weeks later, an Internet stranger wrote to me saying that "ente" meant "duck" in German.
When I excitedly shared this discovery with my wife she scowled because she had apparently intended the innuendo. Anyway, given my obsession with rubber ducks, this was double whammy.
So when I took out Ente's first internal release to be shared with friends, I embraced the serendipity and the Ducky.
One of my friends, who was assisting with the beta-test, felt that the icon was a bit too playful and that Ente's brand should be more serious to be worthy of trust. Since I did not have any examples to counter, I erred on the side of caution and sent off the ducky to hibernate.
A few months later, in a casual conversation with Rahul - our illustrator since day zero, I mentioned how I had chickened out of using the duck in our logo. It was him who convinced me that we should embrace the playfulness within the team and explore a brand persona that will work for us.
So the explorations started...
This was the first Ducky that Rahul doodled.
He then felt that since the existing illustrations were in 3D, we should explore that style first. So the week I had a baby girl, he sent me this.
The explorations in 3D continued.
Some were promising.
Some others, not so much.
The more we iterated, the more we realized that rendering a mascot in 3D is not as easy as we'd like it to be. So one night while jamming over our designs for our merch, Rahul decided to give 2D another go and doodled this.
We loved this guy and so did every friend we showed him to!
To make sure he passed the vibe check, we stuck him on a Mug and put him up for sale. The response from our community was overwhelmingly positive. We had found the one!
This was just the beginning. Rahul had to place him in different scenarios to understand the level of detailing that would be necessary to pull off the character.
Things became more concrete as we started working on a fresh design for the website. We launched it despite the minor inconsistencies in style because we had achieved something important - clarity in the art's direction.
Now will this be our little Ducky's final form? Nobody knows.
We're living in his multiverse and we'll let him be whoever he wants to be.