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These Are the Hottest Words Found in Startup Descriptions

Still describing your startup as an 'app' company? Here's why you shouldn't.
These Are the Hottest Words Found in Startup Descriptions
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Smart entrepreneurs understand the importance of differentiating themselves -- and the opportunities and risks that come with jumping on a bandwagon.

Trendspotter CB Insights analyzed the bios of thousands of companies that have received a first round of venture capital funding since 2010. Using natural language processing, researchers aimed to determine which descriptive terms are hot with founders and investors and which are going out of fashion.

Related: VCs Share 3 Secrets for Mastering Any Niche

“Through this lens, we can see how the challenges startups aim to solve and the solutions they aim to bring to market are changing,” CB Insights published on its blog.

The HBO comedy Silicon Valley does a spot-on job of parodying the jargon-filled, optimistic mission statements of tech companies (whatever “minimal message-oriented transport layers” are). They poke fun at the startups whose descriptions echo one another and tell outsiders very little about what the company actually does.

If you’re trying to set yourself apart, first take note of what’s trendy. These are the 10 terms that showed up most often in early-stage VC-backed startup descriptions between 2010 and 2016:
1. app
2. platform
3. technology
4. service
5. solution
6. data
7. manage
8. market
9. help
10. mobile

To be sure, a lot has changed over the course of this decade, which is why CB Insights also tracked the popularity of terms over time. CB Insights found that “Twitter,” “Facebook,” “social network” and “social media” are among the top 40 terms on the most rapid decline over the past six years. The word “social” showed up in 12 percent of company descriptions in 2010, but in 2016, it’s only found in 4 percent. CB Insights attributes this to the fact that large social networks have established themselves, so fewer copycats are cropping up.

Even though “app” and “mobile” are among the top 10 most commonly used terms since 2010, both are already losing steam, reaching their peaks in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Most people expect to be able to access your product or service via an app or on mobile in 2016.

While “email” has fallen, “Slack” and “messaging” have gained momentum, indicating a new era of workplace communication.

CB Insights also detected upticks in healthcare and biotechnology terminology, virtual reality and words related to artificial intelligence.

Here are the top 10 terms that have increased the most in the past six years:
1. virtual reality
2. machine learning
3. natural language
4. ingredients
5. cyber
6. artificial intelligence
7. reality
8. automates
9. sensors
10. feedback

And here are the top 10 that have decreased the most:
1. electronics
2. advertisers
3. tap
4. solar
5. carbon
6. Twitter
7. social network
8. Microsoft
9. entertainment
10. publishing

Related: Why You Should Follow Your Instincts to Do Something Different

Regardless of industry, companies should always think ahead to what’s next. You don’t want to be the last one to the party once your competitors have already established themselves in a given niche or investors and customers have moved on.

Consider what’s on the rise, and from there, think deeply about where your expertise lies and what you bring to the table besides what everyone else does.

Edition: December 2016

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