Are these guys innovating a process or just domain squatters exceptionally good at branding themselves?

- January 5, 2015 3 MIN READ

The startup process is an interesting one, first you get an idea, then that idea begins to simmer away in the background until it overwhelms you so much, that you feel the need to start something. Those early stages where you name your business, come up with a logo and work out how you are going to grow a user base and attract money are often the most exciting times in a startup founders life, they can also be the most stressful.

Two UK based gentlemen, Dave Clark and Vince Bridgman, however believe that they have made the ‘naming a business’ and ‘building a brand’ part of the process easier with their new venture, Novanym.

The startup allows users to choose from a list of ‘carefully created, credible, brandable business names, each with a primary .com domain and a choice of three professionally designed logos’ – at the time of publication, the site currently has over 250 business names to choose from.

But why on earth would you want to choose a predetermined brand name for your startup? Isn’t brainstorming to come up with the perfect name, half the fun?

Personally I think it is, but you can not deny the experience that Clark and Bridgman have in this area. The pair have been helping founders build business brands since the 1980’s and started a branding agency called Bond Branding. So they obviously know what they are doing in this space. However there is definitely a solid argument to be made against the logic that you need to build a brand before you even have a solid business.

In fact I have seen many startups tread this path of spending large amounts of money on experts and consultants before even making their first sale, and I could safely say that 80% of these businesses have failed miserably, because the founders treated their new company like it was already established, leaving no room for them to pivot or change tactics when a particular plan of action was not working out for them.

In defence of Novanym’s value proposition though, Clark and Bridgman raised a good point in a recent interview conducted by UK publication, Startacus. The pair said that on the flip side, a lot of startups tend to go for a more descriptive ‘brand name’ for their company and this too can result in various problems.

Being descriptive is so tempting, that lots of people fall in the trap. If you’re starting a bike business in the West Country, it seems sensible to call yourself Bristol Bikes. But that’s so anonymous and generic that it doesn’t really help you at all. For a start, if a customer Googled you, they’d never find you. And it’s not exactly telling your customer what kind of business you are is it? Are you urban hipsters, racing specialists, a repair shop, or off-roaders with a social scene.

And leading on from that, what in your experience makes a strong business name?

It has to support the two Holy Grails of branding: differentiation and Engagement. So, in real language, it has to be distinctive so that you don’t blend in, you don’t sound like everyone else in your inevitably crowded marketplace – and you can get found online. And it has to feel right and resonate with you and your potential customers. It should help you to make a connection.

Personally I don’t think the offer that Novanym is putting out to the market is worth it. Whilst the price point for domain registration and logo design options may be in the ‘commercial’ ball park at the lower end of the Novanym product range – I don’t feel that the service is the right fit for first time founders at all. Actually, I would go as far as saying that it actually stifles their creativity. And that is not a good thing – the startup ecosystem needs creative minds.

Having said that, for corporates looking to launch new products, extensions and technology based brands however, I think Novanym could be the perfect solution.