How We Name Our Startup
Week 31 of Founding Typogram
The startup world recently witnessed the fastest downfall of a stardust-covered company named Fast, a one-click checkout startup. It was quite a startup saga, from hiring new engineers in March, burning presumably the last bit of its 120 million VC funding, to officially shutting down in April, days after failing to raise the next round or find a buyer.
I was usually very behind on the fintech startup news — this is my first time hearing about Fast. I quickly fell into this rabbit hole and caught up with some old news on Better, a mortgage startup that recently laid off 900 employees over a Zoom meeting. Something about these startups caught my attention — the name trends between these startups — Better (better.com), Fast (fast.co), Make (make.com), Found (found.com), Bolt (bolt.com), Cash (cash.app), to name a few. What should I think of these straightforward, everyday, one-word English brand names with presumably costly domains?
Not every startup can afford to name themselves with a common English word and get the corresponding domain with no word hack — not dropping a vowel, nor spelling a C with a K. These names, “Better,” for example, is not very “ownable.” I would imagine it is hard to rank first on Google search for “better” or “fast,” given how common these words are:
The first step in building a successful brand is choosing a brand name. It impacts everything that follows, like designing a logo and brand guidelines. While Typogram is focused on solving the logo design problem, I thought it would be helpful to provide some advice on choosing a brand name, both from a fellow startup founder’s perspective and a brand expert’s perspective.
How we came up with our brand name Typogram
We struggled a lot with brand name, just like everybody else. Here is a list of names we brainstormed:
Typographer app (typographerapp.com, typographer.app)
Typeplay (typeplay.com $2995)
Type adjust (typeadjust.com)
StyleType (styletype.com $2000)
Font-style (fontstyle.com $3595)
Font Membrane (fontmembrane.com)
Pettie caps (pettiecaps.com)
Notice that we have researched the domain options for most of these names and marked the price for the expensive ones — yes, $2000 is out of our budget for the domain! I am a domain hoarder who bought many domains over the years and am familiar with the process; making sure our brand name can pair up with an affordable domain was among our top priorities.
Our expertise is typography, and we want to build a brand around this special sauce of ours — Type / Font. Logo design is the first idea we want to tackle, but our brand may expand to other areas in the future, such as landing page design, iconography, and more. We want a brand name that tells the most important story about us — how we are different in tackling these problem sets; we pay extra attention to typographic details, and our solution will always have better typography. We didn’t want to box ourselves in with a brand name too specific to things like logos.
With a rough direction — Typography and Fonts, and a list of name ideas we feel “meh” about, we needed a new source of inspiration. I have a small library of graphic design books, and many of them have a glossary index at the end. It is like a mini-dictionary that contains only the relevant names and terms, which is perfect for us to look for inspiration:
My co-founder and I were flipping through the glossary index of graphic design history books until Hua found something — “How about Typogram” — it clicked!
Typogram means a word written in a form that illustrates what it means; like these examples below:
The term is a combination of “typo,” which stands for typography, and “-gram,” which means a graphic (my understanding), like a diagram, hologram, monogram, sonogram, or even “Instagram.”
Because it is a relatively uncommon word — we were able to scoop the domain “typogram.co” for ten years with less than $100! The word Typogram is not difficult to spell out based on its pronunciation, making it easy to pass on through word of mouth. The term is also rare enough that it is easy to rank first on the Google search.
Now that I have shared my perspective as a fellow founder, what do you think of our brand name Typogram, founder to founder? We came up with it by flipping through Meggs’ History of Graphic Design; do you have an anecdote about how you came up with your startup name?
I have a lot more tips and guidelines to share on how to choose a brand name from a brand expert’s perspective. Stay tuned for the next issue!
See you next week! If you have friends who are interested in founding startups, please consider sharing my newsletter with them!