In 1997, when I was 24, I started a company called Commerce Studio. After Jeff Macklin joined as my partner in 1998, we decided together that a name change was in order. People often ask me how we arrived at the new name, Furance Labs.
Furnace Labs' was started just as the web was beginning to be used for any sort of commerce or community type stuff. I had come from working at a couple of very large Advertising Agencies turned "Interactive Agencies". Their service offering was broad -- strategy, creative, and now "technology" -- but shallow, particularly on the technology front. I knew that as the web expanded to a platform for commerce, there would be demand for a company that focused on developing internet software, not websites. We provided almost 100% pure technology services. We didn't offer design or creative services, nor did we outsource those services.
The work that we did was often not visually seen by anyone. Customers of our clients saw pretty web pages (usually not developed by us), but as they added stuff to shopping carts, performed complex searches, paid for their merchandise, or participated in online communities -- our software did the work. So, we likened our company to a furnace that sits hidden in the basement, but providing a very valuable service, often unbeknownst to those who reap its benefits.
We likened our collective intellect to the raw material that a furnace burns, and useful, unique software to the heat that a furnace produces. We also made a connection between our passion for software development, "the fire within" to the heat of a furnace.
Finally, we wanted a name that implied that we were on top of leading edge technologies, always exploring what was out there. A name that implied "R&D", not just Production. Hence, the "Labs" part.