What’s in a name? Bionym rebrands itself as Nymi

The wearable firm is making its hardware available to developers

The Nymi Band


For a company that sells persistent identity verification, Bionym doesn’t seem particularly concerned about maintaining its own. The wearable technology outlet is renaming itself after its flagship product, the Nymi wristband that can ID its wearer by his or her pulse.

The company formerly known as Bionym was founded to develop biometric technologies. “That was our focus for the first couple of years,” explains Nymi CEO Karl Martin. “While biometrics are an important enabler for our product, the thing that we want to be known for is about identity authentication.”

Ironically, Bionym is changing it’s name to “name,” according to Martin. “‘Nym’ essentially means a name or identity, as in pseudonym or anonymous,” explains Martin. “So Nymi was a play on that.” The firm’s wristband identification device will now be called the Nymi Band. Along with the name change, the company also announced it would be selling a version of the Nymi Band targeted at developers, in addition to its existing software development kit.

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It’s been a good year for the company. The Nymi Band was originally intended primarily for consumer use, but in June it became one of the first devices compatible with Salesforce Wear, a toolkit launched by the global cloud CRM giant to facilitate enterprise uses for wearables. In September, the company raked in $14 million in Series A financing led by a group that included Salesforce Ventures and MasterCard. And just last month, it announced a pilot project with MasterCard and RBC that would allow participants to pay for purchases using their Nymi wristbands.

That’s exactly the kind of good news cycle that should precede an identity change, according to Wayne S. Rogers, Principal at Blade Creative Branding. He cites the example of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which is now better known as Panasonic. “They had a brand called Panasonic, and they thought, ‘This brand is killing it,’” he says. “So they decided to change the name of the company, because everyone knows Panasonic but nobody knows Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.”

The alternate approach would be to take advantage of goodwill around a product to escape the negative connotations of a parent company. Bionym had no such problems, but the recent example would be Research in Motion rebranding as BlackBerry in January 2013. “The BlackBerry brand was loved and admired within the consumer community, but Research in Motion as an organization had been tainted by internal struggles, personnel changes, massive ego issues between the ownership, and stock devaluation,” remembers Roberts. Under the circumstances, renaming itself after its flagship product made sense for the one-time smartphone giant.

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The Nymi name doesn’t have quite the same brand value as Panasonic or BlackBerry, but Martin believes it’s particularly important for startups to establish a clear identity. “It provides more clarity for the average person that might come across us, [instead of] having ‘Bionym’ and the ‘Nymi’ product name,” he explains. “There’s only so many things that people will remember about you especially when you’re new.”