Hi! My name is (what?) (1) : is your startup name fashionable?
Brand naming analysis over 100+ startups & 100 years in Europe
For early-stage startups, branding is key, but too often neglected. An effective branding conveys a clear message about the culture you want to build and can help your company to be seen as a serious player. It’s also a way to express a different value proposition than current market players.
That’s the theory.
In reality, when I look to these extract of 100 startups brand names, this is bullshit. Branding is about fashion. It’s about who’s in or who’s out.
From the beginning of the XXth century to the 1980s, most of new companies had a very sober style, using initials, or the founder name or the place/city/country name. For some innovations, the name of the founder was the name of the company (or almost the same) and even the name of the new product so far (Poubelle, Mongolfier…). That’s the basis of naming: your brand name has to be catchy, easily rememberable and unique. In France, we had the companies Felix Potin’s, Norbert Dentressangle’s, etc. with the founders’ names. Or sometimes with the places names like Lyonnaise des Eaux, La Parisienne Assurances, etc. But some tried to differentiate with WTF names, like LaVacheQuiRit (The Laughing Cow) founded in 1921. And it worked: this name was both friendly & modern, by being enigmatic it became “a thing” in itself, like “why this name?” “pourquoi la vache qui rit ( rit )?” For BtoC companies, creating an emotional connection with the consumer is key to be remarkable.
Then, came the -ex kind of fashion. -Ex end of name was used to show the idea of expansion, of growth, of the French “résultat d’exploitation”. It was used to show a kind of seriousness and reliability of these companies, like Duralex (1945), Spontex (1939), Durex (1929), Pramex (1992),etc.
Then, came the web… From the first internet wave, many innovative companies launched branding with this double “o” to embody modernity and ambition. Just to name a few, that was the time of Google, Wanadoo and Yahoo, of course, but also Boo.com, Kelkoo. Then many startup tried to surf on this fashion wave: Spartoo (APlus and CM CIC-backed), Buckaroo (BlackFin-backed), Odoo Business Solutions (Sofinnova and XAnge-backed), Woodoo, Tootem, Labdoor, Proprioo (Kima-backed), Souscritoo (became Papernest, IdInvest and Partech-backed), Rooster (Kima-backed), Wooop, Whoog, Zooz, Proprioo, Segguroo (a Spanish insurtech), Dacadoo ( a Netherlands startup), Thefloow (United Kingdom), Kahoot (Creandum-backed), Valoo, Pricemoov, Oosteo… Why all these “oo”? B. Bayart ( French Data Network) explains that « oo » could mean « object oriented »… Well…The “oo” turned then into other double voyels like “ee” or “ii” : Feed (Otium brands-backed), Heetch (Alven-backed), Keecker (Kima-backed), Reedsy (Kima-backed), Reezocar (Kima-backed), Seene (Kima-backed), Verteego, Cleep, Eelway, Leetchi (sold to Crédit Mutuel Arkea), Glowee, Freeda (Alven-backed), Swipii (Kima-backed) & even within the fintech space; MiiMOSA, Wizbii FR (CapHorn-backed), Billee. More recently, double S followed this trend, with Less (sold to Blablacar recently) or Friss (a BlackFin & Aquiline backed insurtech).
Then the Sharing Economy trend gained momentum and started to influence startup’s names… Using the “We” everywhere was a way to challenge the “You” of Youtube or the “My” of Myspace. Sometimes this We has been turned into the French “Oui”: OuiShare, La Ruche Qui Dit Oui, We transfer, Weshare files, Wipoz, WeMoms, Jubiwee, Wecover, etc.
In France, we also had the -éo, -éa trend, or -ia like Fortuneo, Criteo, Balinea, Akeneo (Kima-backed), Monéo (BlackFin-backed), Nortia, Audacia, Tontéo, etc. This trend seems to follow the French surnames trend like the Léo, Léa, Theo, Matéo, etc. The graph above shows the trendy names in France in 2010. This trend seems to be quite invasive, so that startups brands converging towards…
This anthropomorphism of the startups’ names is nowadays becoming a confirmed feature in Europe, with the use of real names, like James, George (Kerala-backed), Nestor, Jays(Creandum-backed), Alan, Juliedesk, Max, Lydia, Margobank (Daphni-backed), lili.ai (incubated in X accelerator), Bruno… The URL of the websites go further into the human-like name, by sometimes including “hello” or “merci” : like MerciHandy (Otium-backed), Hellomarcel, Hellojoe, etc. Many corporates set also human names as product names like Alice by Bouygues Telecom or even Cerise by Groupama Insurance. Why ?? “We realized that having something that makes it feel like it could be a person actually kind of lets your guard down a little bit and lets you have that deeper connection,” said Neil Parikh, co-founder and COO of mattress startup Casper, while the co founder of the insurer Oscar explains “We chose the name ‘Oscar’ because it’s simple and human-focused”. These choices of human names seem to turn tech into more human-friendly & more reality-linked projects.
I don’t know why in the 2000s, appeared many vegetable names for startups. Could be a vegan lobby? just kidding. Maybe it embodies something “good for your health” and fun in some ways, following the Apple (1976) breakthrough. For example: Pumpkin, Mangopay, Goji (Anthemis-backed), Advocado, Leetchi, Datananas, CielMonRadis, Kabbage, Bergamotte (XAnge-backed), Radish, Lemonway, Tamatem.co (Kima-backed), Tulipretail (Kima-backed). And within the insurtech space, Marmalada (Norcapital-backed), Brokoli (a Spanish insurtech) . According to techcrunch, having an Animal name is a thing too, easy for the logo but are you like serious, MortgageHippo, Hippo Insurance ,Fat Lama, LunchBadger, Purple Squirrel ?While looking for potential names for your startup, you should focus on finding a name serious enough to be considered as a real partner for the corporate targets, and friendly enough to be considered by your clients as an easy tool, handier compared to the oldies…. That’s something you should have in mind, whether you are a BtoC or a BtoB company.
Across all these trends, remains the eternal double syllabus with a final -y, like a kind American surname: Zenly, Auxy, Andy, Hivy, navdy, Screendy, Womply, Reedsy (2 in 1), Viewsy, Popsy, Atty, Wavy, Morty, Watty. These names embody something casual, handy and kind of cool. That’s why B2C startups use easier this kind of names.
Today, it’s quite hard to find an innovative name, and most of the fintech startups seem to favor an groundbreaking or even a kind of iconoclastic name to embody the unprecedented and smooth experience it offers, like Revolut, Bunq, Qonto, N26… (see Article ;)).
What about URL? Many French startups evolved from the .fr to the .com to appear as more international, then to the .co for the collaborative trend, sometimes to the .org for the most “tech for good” oriented, until the .io and tocay we see more and more tech or .ai following the deeptech trends. Actually, the URL is a thing, many startups can chose a name including the whole URL , like myfutu.re or Scoop.it for example.
What’s next for startup branding ?
- Famous writers? (like Zola)
- Animals name? (we had the fruit trend with Pumpkin, Leetchi, etc.)
- Names ending with -Us (like Omnius, the Berlin-based claim management player, why not? Latin could be the new Black )
- Vintage human names? (like Gustave, Marcel, Albert ? )
- Chinese or Russian name? (regarding Revolut or N26 captable;) )
- Random names, built with AI (like Zelros)
- The eternal 2words-mix trend like BatiPhoenix, Cyclofix, BlackFin, Flexibeauty, Fillup, Sponsokit, Exportmates still in the air?
- any idea?
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