Why the name “Tribe”

June 23, 2016
Oliver Stahl

When we were in talks with an unnamed university president to roll Tribe out to select groups on campus, he stopped us quickly and said “Thanks guys, but we just can’t have a company called Tribe being used. You guys get it right? I don’t know what it could mean, but it wouldn’t be well received.

We were totally taken aback by this comment because when Henry came up with the name Tribe, it actually didn’t have anything to do with Native Americans or Indians. After thinking about it, we thought it would be good to tell the story of how we came up with the name Tribe. Here’s how Henry came up with the name…

When Sam started Tribe, he didn’t know what to call what he had created so it went unnamed for a little while. Then, he named it Whiteboard Notes (yawn).

Whiteboard Notes-53

When he hired Henry as CEO, his first jobs were to come up with a real name for our company that:

  • Wasn’t Whiteboard Notes
  • That made sense
  • Would make sense when the company scaled.

So, Henry went to the drawing board to come up with what he thought would make sense, he thought about what the product was and what it could be.

  1. It’s a collaboration tool that people use to work together
  2. It’s not a hierarchy driven project management tool where people are given rank and order
  3. Anyone can use it, it’s not exclusive to any sort of group or usage
  4. It’s where people go to get work done

That’s when Henry started taking these thoughts and constructing them into bigger concepts. What do you call a group of people who are just working together in an unstructured way? A tribe. By definition, a tribe is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

Ok, so let’s think about this for a second. When you do things with people you work with you are linked with them, probably have a common culture, have special ways that you communicate with them, and don’t have a given leader but instead someone that is designated by the group as leader. That’s a flexible group in the modern workforce. That’s why Henry named our company Tribe. Not for anything to do with Native Americans, but instead to describe a new way that people are working together in a loose, sometimes unstructured way. In tribe’s, people just get things done and aren’t as worried about the hierarchy and process; they just want to get things done together.

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