Don’t name your startup “Better”
Week 32 of Founding Typogram
Thanks for reading my newsletter. Subscribe for free to get weekly updates about my start-up journey!
As the title suggests, in this post I will go out on a limb and attack an alarming trend I see in startup brand names — a single common word. I want to advise founders not to name their startups with these words, namely (aha!) “Better.”
To back up a little, I recently joined a startup group chat where I finally get my healthy dose of startup kool-aid — news, I mean startup news. I noticed a pattern of the startup names that frequently appeared in the discussion. I began to jot them down:
This list is heavily skewed with VC-backed FinTech startups because I took notes of them from a prolonged discussion ignited by the recent downfall of Fast — a payment startup. Aside from this list, I also found a few more brand names that fit this naming trend:
These are successful startups (aside from Fast), and I hope Typogram can reach their levels of success at later stages. But as a branding expert, I wish they didn’t waste their money and energy by naming their startup with these names.
What is the problem I see in these names? The same reason I felt the need to reconstruct my writing a few times from:
discussion ignited by fast’s recent downfall.
discussion ignited by the recent downfall of Fast — a payment startup.
These names are too simple and common, lacking the basic ability to be recognized as a brand name at first glance. In my sentence, do I mean “fast” as the adjective or Fast as the company?
Furthermore, if I mean the company, which company? When you search “fast,” aside from fast.co, there are also fast.com and fastcompany.com in the Google search results. Most of these companies in the list don’t rank first on Google when you search for their exact brand name, and when they do rank first, I can only imagine the uphill battle their SEO team has to fight to get them there.
Lastly, these common word brand name doesn’t leave a strong impression. I had personal experiences to demonstrate that.
“Shape” is an icon app developed by Meng To, a designer whose career I have followed for years. I had used Shape and tweeted about how awesome it was when it first launched. I remembered guessing how much revenue it generated and daydreaming I could build a business like that one day. I mentioned all these details to say that Shape is not an app I just saw once and forgot about — I had a lengthy history with it. However, when I tried to mention it in this article, I couldn’t recall its name. Eventually, I had to find the name by going through Meng To’s tweets. I remembered having this exact same process to find its name multiple times previously when I was trying to use it.
I had the same experience with Better, a service I encountered when researching home mortgages online last year. When it was mentioned again in the group chat, in the context of its recent layoff over zoom meeting, I didn’t know what the company was and had to search. After finding out it is a mortgage company, my memory did come back to me at last — imagine spending all the marketing budgets to leave an impression with their interest rate, but zero traces of brand recognition whatsoever! What a missed opportunity!
To sum it up, don’t name your startup with a single common word because:
It will cause confusion with the actual word itself when mentioned in a sentence. There is a constant need for your customers and fans to relay your name with specification, like Fast the checkout startup, Better the mortgage company, Shape the icon app, to the point that you might well just name your company with the longer phrase. The domain would be cheaper!
It is hard to rank first in the search results. Google might even show a dictionary entry of that word before they show your company’s website, and that is after your SEO team fought the blood bath to get you to that second place. For a common word, there are often multiple legitimate businesses fighting for that search term because their names include it. What company pops into your mind when I say Circle? The community platform or the payment infrastructure?
It is easily forgettable, even when your customer has a deep relationship with your brand! Granted, a common word is easy to memorize its spelling and easy for people to pronounce correctly, but all at a great cost of not sticking out in their memory as a distinctive brand name. It is so mundane and every day, it could slip off your hardcore fan’s mind as “Shape” slipped off mine.
I haven’t mentioned the cost of the domain names. A domain like better.com could run your wallet for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. I didn’t put it in the reason list because I think the price tag will speak for itself and scare off most founders who are contemplating. It is more convincing than all my words combined. But if you are a lucky founder who is blessed with excessive funding, or like shape.so, who most likely stumbled upon a domain deal too good to pass, buy the domain — but don’t name your startup with that. typography.com doesn’t lead to a company named “Typography”!
Do you find my opinions agreeable or controversial? Would you name your company with a common word if you can afford it? Share your thoughts!
See you next week! If you have friends who are interested in founding startups, please consider sharing my newsletter with them!