How Not to Name a Startup: The Curse of the Camel Case
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buck the trend lately, and PowerPoint is just annoying, if ubiquitous. Anecdotally, at least, it seems like camel case is a bad idea.
There are exceptions, of course. The big ones are PayPal, LinkedIn, and Boston’s own TripAdvisor (a public independent company as of yesterday). These are very strong category winners but not top-tier corporations, at least not yet. Some fuzzier examples: YouTube (debatable whether a true success), DynaTrace (acquired by Compuware—note the spelling), BzzAgent (acquired by Dunnhumby—ditto), and LogMeIn (three words, not two). Companies like eBay and iRobot don’t count because they’re not really two-word names. But, conversely, there’s Webvan, as an example of a high-profile failure without camel case. Just trying to be balanced here.
For whatever reason, the tech ecosystem is overrun by camel-case startups, most of whom are bound to fail eventually—if only because the vast majority of startups fail. You can’t argue with that logic. OK, let’s just say there isn’t a strong precedent for their becoming top-tier companies.
In Boston alone, this doesn’t bode well for HubSpot, FitnessKeeper, TeraDiode, CounterTack, NitroSecurity, TwinStrata, BetterLesson, PeerApp, peerTransfer, CustomMade, TalkTo, MobiFlex, OfficeDrop, WordStream, PowerInbox, CloudBees, CloudLock, SocMetrics, SiteSpect, TenMarks, DataXu, PlumChoice, RatePoint, StarStreet, NetScout, EntropySoft, WaySavvy, EveryScape, AisleBuyer, FashionPlaytes, NetScout, RapidBuyr, HeyWire, and EverTrue. (Which is a shame, because many of these are promising companies.)
Around the U.S.—especially Silicon Valley—we can also say a prayer for TaskRabbit, CarWoo, AdGrok, RockMelt, WePay, GazeHawk, HelloFax, LawPivot, LiveScribe, LookSmart, PowerReviews, RentJuice, SearchReviews, ShowYou, StumbleUpon, TrapIt, ViralHeat, WiseStamp, AudioPress, BrightEdge, and BroadVision. Plus EnVerv, MindTouch, SweetLabs, PayScale, BigOven, HasOffers, TeachStreet, AdReady, LiquidPlanner, and BigDoor. And sorry, TechStars.
Sick of this yet? How about SecondMarket, GoldRun, BarkBox, LocalResponse, GameChanger, HookLogic, and LiveIntent? (Hello, New York.)
On the other hand, the no-camel-case strategy bodes well for Gemvara, Zipcar, Jumptap, Wayfair, Springpad, Punchbowl, Eversave, Demandware, Brightcove, Shoebuy, Vistaprint, Mocospace, Promoboxx, Skyhook, Foursquare, Outbrain, Birchbox, Recyclebank, Spongecell, Tutorspree, Zendesk, and Onswipe (maybe—or is it OnSwipe?). As well as our West Coast friends: Evernote, Eventbrite, Hipmunk, Shopkick, Flipboard, Livefyre, Anybots, Airbnb, Wetpaint, Redfin, Livemocha, Smartsheet, and (gasp) Clearwire.
Alternatively, if your name is sufficiently weird, like VMware or 3Com, you’re probably OK. In Boston, this gives hope to companies like SiOnyx and CyPhy Works. Not to mention SCVNGR, MC10, GrabCAD, OwnerIQ, and iAMscientist.
(As an aside, companies that insist on not capitalizing the first letter of their name should all fail now, just for the sake of the poor journalists who have to write about them in a grammatical fashion. You know who you are.)
So, startups and investors, if you’re looking for an actionable item here, I guess it would be: Bet on capital letters at the beginning of a name, not in the middle. Probably. Maybe. Why risk otherwise?
Or you can always branch out to two separate words and take Dogbert’s advice for naming a company. But that’s a topic for another day. As for building an actual business, good luck out there.