Q: Google Thinks Our Name Is a Typo and Suggests a Competitor

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, skmurphy

When someone on your team says, “Google Thinks Our Name Is a Typo” you are at a disadvantage. Even worse if it suggests a competitor as the correct spelling it makes it look like you are typosquatting. Unless you have a strong reason for doing so it’s probably not a good idea.

Q: Google Thinks Our Name Is a Typo and Suggests a Competitor

Q:  I am a CTO/Co-Founder of a company called RentHoop, a roommate finding App. We are currently available only in LA and Seattle. Given the small market and low volume of users, we are learning slowly from our experimentations. One example of an experiment is an AB test designed to increase the flow of conversations between our users. However, we are not seeing results as fast as we would like.

Some of our mentors and advisors have been recommending us to keep our early stage service in one or two markets tops. However, again, that is leading to a slow volume of users, thus, learning slow. Does it make sense to launch our service nationally in an effort to gain more uses that can enable us to learn faster?

A: No.

One rule of thumb: Zoom in for Traction, Zoom out for Impact.

The wider you spread your net in what is a two sided auction that is geographically based the harder it is to foster transactions and the more likely that first time visitors have an unsatisfactory experience and don’t come back.

Remember that Facebook started very narrowly with the Ivy League colleges (and initially just Harvard) and that LinkedIn gained traction initially in Silicon Valley.

Operating In A Crowded Market For Two Years: How Can You Differentiate?

A Google search for “Find a Roommate” turns up pages of competitors. Worse “RentHoop” is treated as a spelling mistake with Google suggesting “RentHop” one of your competitors. That’s likely to cause confusion for a while and essentially makes you look like you are typosquatting.

The real question that I think your team needs to answer is how you will differentiate from another hundred or so roommate finding sites/apps already in the marketplace. What discontinuity in the market or new capability are you planning to exploit to be able to find a foothold in what appears to be a brutally commoditized and competitive market.

Given that you started two years ago (based on this Aug-15-2015 announcement in Betalist that positions you as “dating app but for roommates” ) I think you need to have a candid talk at a team level about viability and define a stopping rule if you don’t achieve an acceptable level of traction on an agreed upon schedule. As bootstrappers you need to agree on your “stopping rule” to keep your entrepreneurial passion from having you ignore signals from the market. The lack of a stopping rule–e.g. “never give up!”–most often leads to bankruptcy. Another test to consider is: knowing what you know now, would you have started the company two years ago?

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A note about the use of real names in this blog post: I obscure/anonymize any content I use from an office hours session or client work but I initially answered this question in a public forum with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs so I did not feel I was violating any implied or actual promise of confidentiality. In addition, for this situation I think using the real name is relevant to the core of the question.

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