This past week, 63 startups officially launched at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 1. Among the ideas behind the startups and the groundbreaking technology the companies were built on, along with the impressive teams that make them up, there’s also another important aspect we should take note of - the names of the startups.
Believe it or not, the name of your company can be a critical component when it comes to the success or failure of your business as a whole (if you’re curious to learn why, give this article of ours a read). Taking the necessary time to develop a creative and powerful brand name is important, which is exactly why we’ve compiled 5 key lessons you can take away from the names of these YCombinator startups.
Here they are:
1) Creating Unique, Made-Up Brand Names
Many of the most memorable brand names for this batch of startups were ones that were completely made-up by the founders themselves. Some examples include Hygia, Togg, and Aalo.
The reason why doing this is so powerful comes down to human psychology. If the name of a business is catchy enough to be remembered by the consumer, then the only thing the consumer will associate with that word is your business. This can be a very powerful tool when it comes to brand recognition. Not only that, but words which sound similar may very well have the same effect as a consequence, increasing the chances your brand will be top-of-mind for consumers on a regular basis. For instance, a consumer might think of the YCombinator startup, “Higia” when they hear words like “hygiene”.
2) Putting Two Seemingly Unrelated Words Together
Putting two, seemingly unrelated words together is another best practice for brand naming that one can learn from these startups. The reason this technique is effective is that it naturally piques the interest of the consumer because our brains aren’t used to hearing two unrelated words being fused together. A human brain is a pattern-recognition machine, and any deviation in typical patterns will help that word stand out as a result.
Some notable examples of this for YCombinator include InkHunter, JetLenses, and HoneyLove. Outside of these startups, even bigger companies have used this method — like Facebook, YouTube, and more.
3) Using a "Play on Words" In Your Brand Name
Using a play on words when naming your company can also prove to be a great technique when naming your business, much like Public Recreation (a startup that helps promote health and fitness by bringing fun pop-up shops to the outdoors) has done. This will stir up curiosity in the prospect’s mind as they try to “connect the dots” and figure out the reason your company has that name. In addition, having a word or phrase that someone is relatively familiar with can act to instill a sense of comfort in them, allowing your brand to subconsciously gain trust in that person’s mind.
One of the most iconic brands doing this today is Lyft, which, of course, is a phrase we use when asking to catch a ride from one place to another.
4) Keep It Short & Simple
Simplicity is powerful. With hundreds and hundreds of companies advertising to us each and every day, having a short and simple brand name could be one of the best decisions you make within your marketing efforts. Some of the world’s biggest brands use this tactic— Uber, Target, Google and more. Within Y Combinator, two standout startups who practiced this were Togg and Momentus. These names are both short and memorable, making the process of remembering them as easy as can be, but equally fulfilling.
Keep in mind that the human attention span is now officially shorter than that of a goldfish, so be sure to make things as simple as possible when it comes to your marketing, including your name.
5.) Your Business Name Does Not Have To Be Relevant
When deciding on a powerful brand name, while relevance may seem important, there are actually a number of reasons why you should steer clear of making your business name too related to your products and services your business offers. For one, having a name that is extremely relevant can actually limit your company’s growth in the long run. This is because if you plan to expand into additional markets, it will be hard to rebrand your business to also include those niches in your branding. For example, if you own a PR agency that specializes specifically in blockchain named BlockChainPR, it will be tough to gain clientele in industries outside blockchain later down the road.
Additionally, a hyper-specific brand may also sound gimmicky, and in an online world filled with spam and self-serving content, this can certainly hurt your brand more than it will help. On the other hand, with a unique business name, you have the opportunity to shape its future in the exact way you see it.
For example, the men’s lifestyle and clothing brand, Bonobos, found their name in an unconventional way. The mission of the company is to help empower men to be better to women. Because of this, they began searching for a way to fuse their mission into their name in a unique way. While doing research, the founder of the company discovered that the communities of the animals called bonobos (a type of chimpanzee) are actually run entirely by the female bonobos as opposed to being male-dominated. This inspired the founder to adopt this for his own company.
The above type of name can give your business name some heritage, a type of history. The name possesses some relevance, but it's not on clear display. It's easy to grow or even pivot if necessary with a name like that.
When it comes to helping your company stand out in the “sea of sameness” that is the online marketplace, having an unforgettable brand name is a terrific place to get started. By looking through the 63 startups launched at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 1 and identifying the patterns they used to formulate their names, you’ll be in a great position to find the name you’ve been looking for.
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