start-ups or startups?

Start-ups or startups? Should your communications be grammatically correct or findable?

I recently spent an evening changing every ‘start-ups’ to ‘startups’ on my new website – BrandsStartHere.com. As the website is all about promoting 1-2-1 brand advice and branding packages to startups, this was no mean feat.

The reason for this change was initiated by a tweet I was in the process of writing. As I typed #start Twitter offered me #startups as an option. But as soon as I got to #start- Twitter stopped offering me options. On Twitter, hashtags and hyphens don’t mix.

So, I left Twitter and went to Google. I typed ‘start-up or startup?’ into the search box and pressed ENTER. Lots of interesting stuff came up, but a very informative blog by Liam Collins at Nesta caught my attention: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/startup-or-start

Now, I could have taken all his information and written my own blog, claiming to have done loads of research on this. But, that’s not what the internet is for. Use it to find stuff, to learn stuff, but don’t use it pinch stuff and claim it to be your area of expertise.

So, the aforementioned blog was enough evidence to get me to change the way I communicated the word startups. It wasn’t easy. It went against the grain for me to ignore the spell check and the dictionaries and choose an alternative spelling.

But if startups are putting startups into Google, or typing #startups into Twitter and Facebook, what was the point of me taking the grammatical high ground by adding a hyphen.

It is all about understanding your marketplace and your target audience. If they don’t use hyphens, then don’t give them hyphens.

Last night, I did another search on google.co.uk. I typed ‘1-2-1 brand advice for startups’ into the search box and pressed ENTER (I had changed the search settings to ‘Do not use private results’, so it didn’t take into account my previous searches or browser history). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first four entries on Page 1 were all about my new website. This meant one of two things: 1) I had done a pretty good job with search engine optimisation, or 2) No one else was offering the services I was offering.

This, in turn, meant one of two things: 1) I was offering a unique service that no one else was offering, or 2) I was offering a service that no one wanted. The latter being the main reason why nine out of ten startups fail: http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/.

I have been providing a very similar service to the one I am offering on BrandsStartHere.com through the Cultural Enterprise Office (in my role as their Industry Associate for Brand & Branding). This has been very well received by everyone that has taken it up so far. I have three sessions booked in for this week and a waiting list for my availability for further sessions. I recently ran a Brand Workshop for the Cultural Enterprise Office which was sold out (and received very positive feedback).

So, 1-2-1 brand advice for startups is clearly a service startups can benefit from. It’s just that most startups don’t realise they need it, don’t know it is available, or simply haven’t found it yet.