Spark IO changes their name. SparkFun and Particle partner to change the world.
Spark IO broke big with their Spark Core Kickstarter campaign in 2013. Ever since we used a Spark Core, we’ve been waiting to find a good opportunity to talk to Spark about building fun things together.
Fast forward to fall 2014 when a mutual friend introduced me to Zach Supalla, the CEO of Spark.
Nathan: We started talking and quickly gained the respect of each other. It’s funny because neither one of us wanted to talk about things like trademarks, we wanted to talk about manufacturing and supply chain challenges.
Zach: Well, we’re the same kind of nerd. I’ve always been a huge fan of SparkFun; I have stacks of red boxes at home, and I learned most of what I know about electronics design from SparkFun’s tutorials. I had heard through the grapevine that you were annoyed at us about the name, but I never felt comfortable approaching you because the branding issue felt like an insurmountable obstacle, and I didn’t really know what I would say.
Nathan: I’ve heard the story but other folks may want to know: Where did the name Spark come from?
Zach: Spark originally started as a consumer products company; we were developing a product called the Spark Socket, which was a consumer product to connect lightbulbs to the internet so they could be controlled from apps and APIs. I picked the name Spark because of the double meaning of a ‘spark’ of light and a ‘spark’ of inspiration. When our lighting product was unsuccessful, we pivoted into making developer tools, and we held onto the name because we wanted the Kickstarter backers from the Spark Socket to recognize us when we returned with the Spark Core (which is so named because it was the core of the Spark Socket).
Nathan: That first Skype call we had dissipated a ton of my fears. After that we emailed back and forth a bit. I pushed hard for a rebrand but I hope I always kept it friendly. Then, after the great meeting we had in San Francisco in January you agreed to rebrand.
Zach: We really wanted to build a relationship with SparkFun, and at the same time we were seeing a lot of confusion about the many Sparks in the world. We were getting confused with Apache Spark (big data software), Autodesk’s Spark 3D printer platform, and we were about to launch a cellular product where we would be confused with Spark NZ (a cellular carrier in New Zealand). Our board of directors had already advised me to consider a rebranding, but I had been resistant. After our conversation, I brought up rebranding again with the Board and asked them to tell me if I was being irrational about the name, which they said I was. I was glad for the feedback and decided to rebrand.
Nathan: SparkFun has wanted to carry Spark products for a while but we were always hesitant because of the confusion it would cause. Thank you for working with us! I can only imagine how much pain a rebrand is. What’s it like? What can you share to help other folks?
Zach: It took a while to pick a new name that we liked. Imagine trying to rename your child when he or she is three years old. You’ve gotten pretty used to the original name, so everything else sounds alien. We tossed around ideas for a month or two within the team, and our new name - Particle - was tossed around twice before I really considered it. This time we did a lot more trademark research to ensure that the trademark space for the name is clear (which it is). A lot of the rebranding work is still to be done: It’ll take a few months for our team and our community to internalize the new brand. We kept the same logo, which will help quite a bit.
Nathan: Time for our shameless company plugs: SparkFun is super excited to carry the Photon as soon as it’s available. We’re also excited to announce our kits and boards based on the Photon P0 and P1 modules. I know you’ve got the Electron coming as well. Anything else you want to let us know about?
Zach: Right now we’re getting big into collaborations, so I’m super excited to be working with SparkFun. We also have a community member who launched a Kickstarter campaign for Bluz, which is a BLE development kit that runs on our platform and is compatible with the Photon and the Electron. We make tools, and we’re excited about opportunities to apply those tools in new areas, so if you’d like to work with us on an extension of our platform (Ethernet/mesh/sub-ghz/whatever), we’d love to hear from you!
Zach: Consider it officially added to the roadmap! Also, now I know your secret identity on our forums, ChipAddict.
Nathan: Hah! You have no idea how scary it is for me to post on forums. I always have this sneaking feeling I should know this. Thanks Zach! This is going to be fun.
You can read more about the Spark name change over here.
Business lesson #0x138 : Talking won’t work out every gnarly business entanglement but it should be your modus operandi rather than the exception. And check back tomorrow for a full reveal of the new SparkFun/Photon ecosystem's specs and pre-order information!