Maria Montero

Starting names may have passed the maximum rarity

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For years, even decades, startup names have gotten weirder. This is not a scientific verdict, but it is how things have seemed to someone who spends many hours reading these things.

Startups have had a long brand name with creative misspellings, animal names. human names, made up words, adverbs and other strange collections of letters. It has gone on so long that it now seems normal. Names like Google, Airbnb and Hulu, which at first sounded strange, are now part of our everyday vocabulary.

In recent quarters, however, something peculiar has been going on: Founders of startups are choosing more conventional names.

“When we get to the edge of strangeness… they are saying, ‘It’s too strange. I feel uncomfortable, “said Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, a naming consultancy. While the wacky startup monikers have not left, the founders are becoming more comfortable with less unusual sound options.

Foden’s observations are reflected in our annual Crunchbase News survey on startup naming trends. We’re seeing a proliferation of startups choosing simple words to describe their businesses, including companies like Hitch, an app for long-distance car travel; Duffel, a new travel booking company named after the popular travel bag; and Coder, a software development platform.

But luckily for fans of offbeat names, the trend is just toward fewer oddities, not none. Those who want to sponsor start-up startups can buy tampons from Aunt Flow, get parenting advice from an app called Mush, or get insurance from a startup called Marshmallow.

Here, we take a closer look at some of the most popular company naming practices and how they are trending.

Creativv misPelling5

For a long time, it seemed like a large number of startups were selecting names heavily by disabling the spell checker.

The most desirable dictionary words were already in use as domains or were too expensive to acquire. So the founders decided to drop the vowels, substituting an “y” for an “i” or adding an additional consonant to make it work. The strategy worked well for many well-known companies, including Lyft, Tumblr, Digg, Flickr, Grindr, and Scribd.

These days, creative spelling mistakes are still quite common among early-stage founders. Our survey of names uncovered a large number (see partial list) who recently raised funds, including Houwser, a newly created real estate broker; Swytch, developer of a kit to convert bicycles into electric bicycles; and Wurk, a provider of human resources and compliance software for the cannabis industry.

However, creative misspellings are becoming less popular, Foden said. Early stage founders feel put off by the prospect of having to spell their names to people unfamiliar with the brand (which for seminal stage companies includes just about everyone).

Word games

One of the funniest naming styles is the word game. In our reading of companies that raised seed funds in the last year, we came across several startups that employ some kind of play words.

We put together a list of seven of the smaller names here. In addition to Aunt Flow, the list includes WeeCare, a network of child care providers, and Serial Box, a producer of digital content. Crunchbase News also created its own fictitious start-up, the unmanned chicken delivery company Internet of Wings, in a series of explanations about the funding of the start-up.