In the less than a year since PandaDoc has turned from a concept into the easy-to-use electronic signature app it is today, we have been repeatedly asked, “Why Panda?” The answer I usually give is that poor pandas are all thumbs and cannot hold a pen, only able to sign their contracts on their iPads touchscreen.
Today, I present to you with a less cheeky reply.
Young Juliet argues that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But we all know that’s not quite true. I might be the only person who would swoon for a dozen long-stemmed, red farfanuggen. Names have always been and will always be important.
If you want people to talk about your product or service, you want them dropping your name like it’s hot. You need your business name to be memorable, pronounceable, and Googleable. Plus, it can’t hurt to make sure that it has something to do with your company’s mission and focus. Today, I will use our name as an example of how to name your startup in four simple steps.
Pandas are responsible
If you, like me, have been obsessing over the twin pandas Mei Lun and Mei Huan born in the Atlanta Zoo about a hundred days ago, their mom has hardly left their side. We have a responsibility to care for the earth the way that mama is caring for her babies.
With the options this online, interconnected world has given us, it’s simply irresponsible to be using paper the way we do. When we decided to create a new electronic signature app, we wanted ours to not only work well, but to stand for something.
We can go all day on the benefits of going paperless in your home or office — saves a lot of money, saves a lot of time, is more organized, more mobile — and we do, but we also want to reconnect folks with where that paper is coming from.
Our survival as a species, like pandas, relies on dramatically slowing down deforestation. According to our friends at the World Wildlife Fund, forests cover 31 percent of the earth, providing us with our most important source of oxygen — you know, that stuff we can’t do without for more than a couple minutes. In pursuit of rapid growth by destructive humans, an equivalent of 36 American football fields is lost every minute, placing at risk the more than one-and-a-half-billion people who directly lie on these disappearing forests for survival.
Yes, deforestation is due to many factors and paper-making is a relatively small culprit. But we all need to start somewhere, right? And don’t forget, paper mills are huge air and water polluters. With apps like PandaDoc and a few thousand other apps, including our fabulous integration partners, printing is simply unnecessary. It’s a paperless world, we just need to start living in it. Plus, there are only 1,600 pandas left in the wild because of deforestation. We want you to think before you print. And what better reminder than a sweet-eyed panda burned into your brain?
Pandas give back
OK, this might be stretching it a little, although I’m sure they sometimes share some bamboo, pick bugs off each other or receive limitless power to protect the world. We as a small business believe in our responsibility to give back.
When we were developing PandaDoc, we wanted to do more than simply remind people they can save money and indirectly save trees and, even more indirectly, save pandas by pausing before printing and living in the cloud. We also wanted to join so many entrepreneurs and big businesses by donating one percent of our profits to helping the Earth. More than two thousand companies are now giving One Percent for the Planet and we wanted to follow their lead.
Yes one percent isn’t that much, but it does add up, especially for a bootstrapping startup. And imagine if every company did such a thing! It’s all about the power to influence other companies. And it’s nice to think some are doing it for good, not just evil. We’ve decided to give one percent of our profits to the World Wildlife Fund with Save the Giant Panda. Then, at the end of 2014, when we’ve hopefully earned a large profit, One Percent for the Planet will verify and certify our donations, so we can be a proud member of such a thoughtful group.
We’re hoping that you will align your purchasing with your values, and that PandaDoc can be one part of that. And don’t forget that you can donate to the World Wildlife Fund directly.
And it’s not just about businesses making and donating money. Anyone can give back. The One Percent Difference campaign still encourages you to donate one percent of your income, but it gives equal focus on you giving one percent of your time — or four and a half hours a month — volunteering for different charities. It even offers you a quiz to match your world-changing personality type with a well-suited charity. There are other sites like Volunteer Match that will match you with local charities.
And as a startup, we just love this MicroMentor program which acts as a matchmaker between established entrepreneurs and newer startups in need of mentors. Or, to work on team building, you can do 5K charity fun runs to raise awareness of business and to strengthen your team plus get a bit of fresh air and exercise!
No matter what you decide, it’s important for us as humans to give back to the planet we’re destroying.
Pandas are cute and marketable
We’ve gotten some jeers for supporting speciesism, aka supporting only non-ugly endangered species. Yes, we chose pandas in part because they are cute. We do not wish to diminish the much more serious climate risk that the dying out of other at-risk species like bees proves to be, but we chose pandas because their endangerment is directly related to deforestation (and the fact that they are lazy lays.)
Of course, in this world where online real estate is another limited resource, it certainly helped that we could buy the domain name PandaDoc.com (although we were left with using “thePandaDoc” for Twitter and Facebook. A lesson to be learned kids — you gotta buy into the real estate of the Internet of things before it’s too late!)
And it’s got to be logical. We had bought the rights to PandaDoc.com and SealDocs.com.
There’s no doubt that the “sealing” of potential docs does have a certain ring to it, and, sure, we don’t want people clubbing seals either, but, besides the fact that it’s a larger intuitive leap from paper to these water-logged lads, there is more potential for typos, doing a double E or folks dropping the S.
On the side, I write about Spanish startups and I see this problem time and again. Two such culprits are Bucmi and MitMi, pronounced “Book me” and “Meet Me,” respectively, their use of what we like to call Españglish actually hurts both their local Spanish and international English target audiences. It’s pretty dang hard to mispronounce or misspell PandaDoc.
Plus, in the end, documents are boring and we had to create a logo that would leave its mark. Our hipster panda is nothing if not memorable. The rapid success of HootSuite and MailChimp over other social media management and email marketing apps can certainly be in part because, when you are inundated by information, you are much more likely to remember Owly or a Curious George lookalike dressed as a mail carrier.
Pandas stand out
When it all comes down to it, in a somewhat crowded marketplace like electronic signatures and business document apps, you need to find a differentiator. At PandaDoc, we are confident that our app is the easiest to use on the market. But, as a secondary differentiator, we’re proud to say that, dang, we look good too.
Tell us about your business. What do you do to make it stand out?