I've always been a big believer in the power of brands. The communication of value and assured quality has helped create household names: there are entire categories of products that are named after the brand, from Kleenex to Xerox.
It's always been a struggle for me to balance the vision between these industry-defining norms and the typical struggles of a startup. There are a lot of things at play here: it's easier to coordinate a shared vision and mission when you're 10 as opposed to 5,000, but at the same time you don't have the resources to define the pages upon pages of guidelines I've seen at some agencies.
Branding always seems to be an after-thought, especially with product-focused Silicon Valley. The trending thought on this seems to be that you should let the customer figure it out for you. They're the one defining the product from their usage habits: you might as well let them do it for your brand.
I've noticed while working with a lot of startups that this isn't the ideal process. I've either over-worked or under-thought on branding.
Luckily, there's a balance to be struck here, and Linlin Wills brings an interesting idea to the fore: a minimum viable brand that focuses on clearly defining the audience you want to co-create with you. She calls it brand hacking. I won't spoil too much: if you have the time, check out the guide she put together on the topic.