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What Makes A Great Startup Name? We Look At The Latest Trends

Founders prefer a company name that has it all: cool, memorable, original, meaningful and legally safe.

But at the end of the day, a single attribute often makes or breaks success, said Michael Carr, co-founder and self-proclaimed chief naming officer of Austin-based brand consultancy NameStormers.

“Only one thing matters with a name: Can people remember it?” he said.

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While not everyone agrees on this point, it’s undeniably a common way of thinking. Crunchbase data shows that simple names made up of recognizable words have become very popular among startups in surveyed countries that have raised sizeable seed funding rounds in the past year.

Founders increasingly seem to prioritize recognisability over uniqueness. True, we still see names made up of made-up words, like Boopos or Stonks. Today, however, they are conspicuously less common than names made up of common nouns and verbs like Tumble or Power.

New naming preferences largely mirror established success stories, observed David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding, the naming consultancy behind startup nicknames like Impossible Foods, Turo and Lucid Motors.

“In our experience, the only trend in naming is imitation,” he said, as newer startups consciously or unconsciously seek to capture the magic of an existing transformative brand.

So what are the prevailing trends in this rather serious era of startup naming? Based on a Crunchbase survey of hundreds of recently funded startups, we’ve highlighted four trending naming strategies.

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A single dictionary word (especially for fintechs)

Who needs a uniquely unique brand? Certainly not fintech startups that seem to adopt plenty of short, punchy dictionary words as names.

Some of the startups that received seed funding last year include tracking your crypto transactions with Context, issuing credit cards with Power, planning your estate with Wealth, and managing your investments with Fierce. You can even do your bookkeeping with Decimal or create automated investment strategies with Composer—the list goes on.

Imitation can go a long way in explaining what is going on here. Placek posits that the success of Stripe, Block (formerly Square), and Plaid in fintech may have prompted newer companies in the industry to choose simple word names.

Newcomers to other industries also prefer common word names. Examples include Aware, a mobile app for health data, Roam, a cloud hub for dispersed, remote businesses, and Earth, a developer of an eco-friendly alternative to burial and cremation.

Notably, the vast majority of these simple names have been shared by a number of other companies, often including other recently funded startups.

branded biotechs

Biotech companies used to have names reminiscent of prescription drugs. Usually the first word in their name sounded like a life sciences company rather than a tech startup.

That appears to be the case when you look at recently publicly traded biotechs, which include names like Cadrenal Therapeutics, Mineralys Therapeutics, and Lipella Pharmaceuticals. But trends seem to be changing.

If you look at recently seed-funded biotech companies, their names (or at least the first word in their names) might also be tech startup monikers. Examples are Replay, Nested Therapeutics, Surf Bio, Nest Genomics and Systemic Bio.

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Again, imitation could play a role, given the breakthrough success of Moderna, a company whose name, according to Placek, could work in myriad sectors beyond biotechnology.

Nice spelling mistakes

For some startups, the creative misspelling serves to create a name that is both familiar and unique. Replace az with an s or y with an i, and suddenly you have a brand that is pronounced like a familiar word but has a spelling all of its own.

This approach has been a consistent trend in previous startup name stories. The latest survey shows that it is still very popular, as evidenced by startups such as Gynger, Wispr, Rezonate, transferz and Qobra.

Another twist on this theme is to use a number for a group of letters. This is the case, for example, with Rumin8, developer of a feed supplement that reduces methane emissions in livestock farming.

Carr sees both pros and cons in taking a creative approach to naming misspellings.

“When the primary initial exposure is visual or printed, a misspelling can draw attention,” he said. The problem is that there are always people who just hear the name and don’t know how to look for the unusual spelling.

Any random word followed by AI

Given how much money investors are pouring into AI startups, it makes sense that a company would choose to appear as one. So it’s not surprising that many new startups continue to add “AI” to the end of their names.

Among recent seed-funded companies, a common approach has been to choose a common dictionary word and then add the “AI” indicator. Our list includes cybersecurity provider Protect AI, data infrastructure technology company Spice AI, search app Rewind AI, and business lending exchange Lama AI, to name a few.

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Opinions on this approach were mixed among the surveyed naming experts.

“That’s a very short-sighted strategy for me,” Carr said of companies adding AI to their names. He likens it to the dot-com bubble, when companies routinely put .com in their names, only to later remove the suffix.

According to Carr, a particular risk factor with AI is that the technology is not always perceived as a positive force. This carries the risk of being negatively connoted for a company that brands itself with AI.

Placek, on the other hand, is more accepting of this approach. It has the benefit of signaling what a startup is doing. And if the company decides they don’t want AI at the end of the name, there’s an option to omit it.

methodology

The survey looked at startups that were founded in the last three years and raised approximately $500,000 or more in seed or pre-seed funding in the past year. The survey focused primarily, but not exclusively, on English-speaking countries and on names based on English words or words that are similar in English and other languages.

Figure: Dom Guzman

Stay up-to-date on the latest funding rounds, acquisitions and more with Crunchbase Daily.

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