Business strategy

4 key trends in startup names

- March 6, 2023 2 MIN READ
Darts game. Dart and target.
Another way to choose your startup's name. Photo: AdobeStock
Google, now perhaps the most ubiquitous brand in the world, didn’t start out with that name.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched their search engine on the Stanford University servers as BackRub – play on the fact that their nascent project was scouring back links on websites to index their importance.

But within 12 months, Page was over that name and the hunt was on for something better.

Google, ironically, came from an experience what would become a core part of SEO – a typo. The duo were brainstorming new names when a Stanford colleague Sean Anderson suggested “googolplex” and Page went: “googol” the term for 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Anderson jumped online to check for domain name availability and mistyped it as “google.com”, and a legend was born. Stanford’s David Koller tells the genesis story here.

Choosing a name for your startup is difficult. VC investor Alan Jones recently wrote about how it just needs to be “good enough” here. On the Startup Daily, we asked Jones about the phenomenon of misspelled familiar words – or was we think of them, numberplate names such as Rumin8.

And CrunchBase – great name – has been looking into the issue and discovered four key trends in startup naming, also offering advice from brand consultancy NameStormers founder Michael Carr, who says only one thing that matters with a name:”Can people remember it?”.

(We wonder if they did when Google landed in 1997 – they sure do now).

Here are the four key approaches Crunchbase uncovered in looking at hundreds of startup names:

1. A single dictionary word

Fintechs are “copious adopters of short, punchy dictionary words as names”, point to the likes of  Stripe and Block (previously Square). We’d probably add Zip to that list. ASX-listed Douugh, would land in the next category:

2. Cute misspellings

We confess that having to read these out loud of the Startup Daily show can lead to some embarrassing moments before the penny drops, or the founder corrects us. Our only piece of advice is keep it simple, because most people will struggle to remember how to search for you online if the spelling is too-cute-by-half. And that could lead them to your competition.

3. Branded biotechs

This kinda makes sense in a ‘what it says on the packet kind of way’. Think Psylo – the psychedelic drugs startup, and bloodstream analysis venture Microbio.

The final trend is perfectly designed for the ChatGPT generation

4. Some random word followed by AI

“Given how much money investors are pouring into AI startups, it makes sense that a company would choose to come across as one,” CrunchBase said.

And we just thought they were doing it because the Acmestartup.com domain was taken and Acmestartup.ai was still available.

But Michael Carr from NameStormers said tacking AI onto your company name “is a very short-sighted strategy”, especially when the jury is still out in the broader community about whether this kind of tech is a force for good or not.

You can read the full CrunchBase story here.