So which Spark are you, exactly?
When I started Spark in 2012… actually, let’s step back further.
The first company I started in 2011 was called Hex Goods. We (well, I) sold designer products (decor, accessories, etc.) online – I imagined it as a curated Etsy.
Two things remain of Hex Goods. First is a single coffee mug with the ‘Hex Goods’ logo on it that my supportive wife bought for me when I launched the site. Second is the corporation Hex Goods, Inc., which became Hex Labs, Inc., and then became Spark Labs, Inc., the corporate name of Spark IO. And now it’s about to change again.
In early 2012, I shut down Hex Goods and started Spark. Actually, I started “Switch Devices”, which was the original name of Spark. Spark started as a connected lighting company, not an Internet of Things platform. I thought “Switch” was a fun name because of its double meaning: a lightswitch, but also a “switch” in perspective for connected products. Unfortunately, some other folks had a thing called Switch (although it looks like they went out of business), so I started looking for a new name.
Spark was one of a handful of names I was considering; the others were Torch and Candle. I picked Spark because I felt like it provided more flexibility going forward, and again I liked the double meaning: this time, a “Spark” of light plus a “Spark” of inspiration. Switch Devices became Spark Devices.
The Spark Socket launched on Kickstarter in late 2012, and was unsuccessful. Over the following six months, we pivoted from a consumer IoT product to an IoT platform for engineers and developers. The name Spark still felt appropriate (now it’s a “Spark” of electricity instead of lighting), but we bought a new domain and changed from Spark Devices to Spark IO shortly after our Kickstarter campaign for the Spark Core, because we weren’t really in the business of devices any more.
Spark IO served us well for a while. It was a great brand with strong meaning and lots of positive connotations; it’s short, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce.
Unfortunately, lots of other people feel the same way about Spark.
If you search ‘Spark’ on the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, you will find 681 live trademarks that include the word Spark. These trademarks are typically not in conflict with one another because each covers a narrow industry, and those narrow industries theoretically don’t overlap. Except when they do.
In our case, there are four Sparks that create confusion for us:
- Apache Spark, a popular tool for working with big data
- Autodesk’s Spark 3D printer platform
- SparkFun, one of the top retailers for hobbyist/DIY electronics
- Spark NZ, a cellular carrier in New Zealand.
Each of these Sparks creates confusion in a different way. We frequently get people popping into our IRC channel #spark and asking questions about big data. Autodesk will soon be selling 3D printers to the same customers that we sell IoT development tools to: R&D groups and design firms. SparkFun is an amazing company that we’ve wanted to work with forever but the concern about brand confusion was too great. And now that we’ve got a cellular platform with the Electron, I’ve been expecting Spark NZ’s lawyers to be calling us any day.
As we’ve grown as a company, the scope of our business is growing, and we’re bumping into more Sparks. So rather than trying to fight it, we’re making a change. As of May 13, 2015, Spark is now Particle.
Our new name Particle gives us plenty of room to grow. Once again, we’ve got a double meaning: a “particle” is a single discreet unit within a larger system, just like our dev kits and devices on our platform are single units in a greater whole. It also suggests that we make physical things. We’ve named our new dev kits after elementary particles — Photon and Electron — and we’ll continue that naming scheme as we come out with new products.
Expect to see changes in our platform to reflect the new name over the next few weeks. You can now find us at www.particle.io, and our API is available at https://api.particle.io (although the old API at api.spark.io will still work for quite some time). We’ll be switching our Facebook/Twitter/Github/IRC/etc. accounts in the next week or two. When changes are to be made in software, we’ll give you plenty of advanced notice, especially when we’re deprecating old things.
Thank you again for all of your support, and thanks for joining us on our journey from tiny start-up to… whatever it is we’ll become next.
Zach and the… Particle team