How we changed the name of our startup — A user-focused approach
First of all, I wouldn’t recommend to any entrepreneur to change the name of your startup, unless you really have a compelling reason to do so.
The process of finding a new name and building a new identity is long, complicated and uncertain, so don’t do it because you want a better name, but because you have a bad one.
In this post, I’ll explain why we decided it was time for TawiPay to find a new name, how we went about finding new ideas and testing them to make sure not to make the same mistakes again, and all the steps between selecting a name and building a new brand and identity.
A major reason we needed to find a new name is the fact that I need a way too long paragraph to explain the story behind the old one. So please, bear with me as I explain (hopefully for the last time), why we named our startup TawiPay.
More than three years ago, my two co-founders and I had about ten minutes to find a name for a project we were about to pitch at a Startup Weekend. Our initial idea was to offer a revolutionary way to transfer money internationally, to help millions of migrants around the world save on the hefty charges they pay when sending money home. We were throwing some buzzwords vaguely related to our idea in Google Translate, and found that Tawi — branch — in Swahili (for branchless banking, if you really must know), sounded good. TawiPay was born.
We quickly realized that what was most needed in the international money transfer industry wasn’t yet another money transfer company, but more transparency and independent information to be able to find the right provider for each transfer. In the weeks following the Startup Weekend, we were too busy building a first version of our comparison website to have second thoughts about our name, so we kept it.
We are now obviously very emotionally attached to the name TawiPay (it has been who we are in the last three years), but it is not a good name.
In addition to the fact that we sigh in despair each time we have to reluctantly explain the too long story I just told you, the name TawiPay :
- Is hard to remember once you hear it
- Is difficult to write correctly
- Confuses our users about what our website is for
We asked 700 people to listen to a short sentence with our name in it and then write what they heard (the famous radio-test). Among all the talipe, towybay, tawepay or tawipei, only ten people were able to spell TawiPay correctly.
I would say that in most press articles that were written about us, less than half spelled TawiPay correctly (the uppercase on the Pay isn’t helping).
But even more troublesome than that, our name is confusing for quite a few of our first time visitors. When they first arrive on our website, a lot of the users I meet during our test sessions think that we are a payment provider (because of the Pay we added to the Tawi). Our name really make it hard for us to explain that we are an aggregator comparing the different operators available on the market, but not a payment service provider.
The first time I heard a user ask if we were “some sort of PayPal based in Taiwan?”, it was a funny thing to share with the team. But it gets old very quickly, when you know that this confusion is costing you users.
So, now that you understand why we needed to change our name. Let us go over the process of finding and testing new name ideas.
We are based in Switzerland, and a few times a year, we take a few days in the nearby Alps to have long-term strategic discussions. In one of these retreats last summer, we had our first extensive brainstorming trying to find new names. We aimed for something relatively short, easy to remember and to say in all languages, and with the potential to be the center of a strong brand identity. For these reasons, we had a preference for original made-up names rather than names based on an english word.
You need to have a lot of ideas and will probably use a lot of post-it during this phase. Most of your ideas will be bad, and the good ones will usually already taken by another company, or the .com domain name won’t be available.
After this first brainstorming, no name sufficiently convinced us to pursue the process, and we let it drop for a few months, going back to running our business.
We tried again last winter, ending up with a few potential names, that we started to test quite extensively. Now that we were going through all the trouble of finding a new name, we didn’t want to make the same mistakes again.
For our first round of test, we asked testers on the UsabilityHub platform to look during 5 seconds at different version of our homepage with the different names we wanted to test. We then asked them a few questions, to see how well they could remember the name, what they thought the website was about, how trustworthy they found our brand, etc.
We also showed users some screenshots of google search results where we typically appear, simply changing the name TawiPay to the name we wanted to test. In a context where the links to all website are formatted the same, the name of your website has a lot of importance. It was very insightful to see how likely these users were to click on our link, or what they thought our website was about just by reading the name and the small description.
Potential names also went through a radio test (I recruited users via UserInput), to asses how easy it was to spell the different names after having heard them in a sentence.
The name that performed the best in all these tests wasn’t one we found in one of our brainstorming sessions. The idea came up during a totally unrelated meeting, when my co-founder Laurent made a connexion between two post-its my other co-founder François had put on the walls during a solo session : “Moni-” and “-ito”. Monito sounded good, met our basic criteria, but the domain name monito.com was already taken, so we quickly tamed our first wave of enthousiasm.
As we still weren’t convinced by any of the name we had tested, I ran the tests on Monito out of curiosity and to have an additional benchmark. It got by far the best results in the radio tests we ran (more than half of the testers were able to spell Monito correctly), it also performed very good in the different tests I carried out via UsabilityHub.
Motivated by these good results, I tried to call the owner of monito.com, and after several attempts, I was finally able to speak with him over the phone. A very friendly canadian photographer, who was very attached to this domain name that he had since more than twenty years, but also very interested in the social mission of our startup and open to sell the domain to us.
We started the negotiations while still having to agree on the name internally. With all the names we had discussed over the last months, it was hard to be all enthusiastic on the same name at the same time, but thanks to our tests and criteria, we were able to based our decision on data.
After quite a lot of back and forth discussions with the owner of monito.com, we were able to get an agreement that was compatible with our early-stage startup budget.
We now had a six-letter domain name in our possession, and a very promising name.
A first next step was to get a lot of logo proposals using a platform like DesignerCrowd. Although it was an interesting process that helped us identify all the different kind of logos we didn’t want, we soon decided it was worth it to hire a design agency specialized in branding.
We worked with the swiss agency Helvetic Brands, who guided us through the process of finding a logo for Monito and setting the foundations of our new brand identity.
We needed quite a few iterations to arrive to a results that is aesthetically pleasant, that represents who we are and that supports our mission and vision. Earlier today, François, our CEO, unveiled our new logo in this article, explaining in more details what it represents.
The logo was the base of a complete revisited style guide (powered by the swiss startup frontify), with a new color palette, a new font, new patterns, etc. This style guide was then used to revamp the look and feel of our website and declined on some nice goodies.
Today, exactly three year after the very first version of our product was released on tawipay.com, we are thrilled and excited to launch our new website on monito.com.
Our comparison engine is now more beautiful and easy-to-use than ever if you need to find the best operator for your next transfer, and we now also have the first money transfer search engine, if you’re looking for review and information on a specific operator or bank.
I hope this post was interesting and maybe helpful if you’re contemplating the idea of changing the name of your company. If you liked it, don’t hesitate to hit the heart below to recommend the post.