From Engineering to a Consumer Brand: Thalmic Labs is now North

One of Kitchener-Waterloo’s most well-known startups has announced a rebrand—and with it comes one of the most high-profile launches of Canadian tech hardware in the past few years.

Thalmic Labs will now be known as North, and pre-orders for their flagship product Focals are open now. Focals is a smart pair of glasses that let the user see their day at a glance, respond to messages, and interact with Alexa. Check out a full preview of Focals here.

The lifecycle of Thalmic and its rebrand to North began five years ago when the company introduced their first product, the Myo. Though that product had some success and was seen as a forward-thinking wearable, it did not find traction in a shifting market. It was meant to enable gesture controls for various heads-up displays, and those displays never really took off with mainstream appeal.

Then came a $157 million Series B funding round for Thalmic in 2016. Many thought it would be for the second version of Myo, but it turns out that was to help create and scale Focals.

focals north
North’s new smart glasses, Focals.

The need to rebrand became clear. Now with a new device and the serious backing of investors like Amazon and Intel, Thalmic realized they needed a bit of an image upgrade as well. The case for rebranding was not necessarily a “we have to do this,” but more of a “we have the option to do this, so why not?” The name Thalmic Labs was created out of a rushed necessity in 2011 (and also because the .com was available), so a new product meant a chance at a deep look into branding.

“We really had this opportunity to think about it and put a lot of work into coming up with the name North,” says Aaron Grant, co-founder of North. “We had to really find something that represents who we are as a company, and North references that we’re from Canada, but it’s also something we can build into a strong consumer brand going forward.”

“It’s shifting gears from being an engineering company to an aspirational consumer brand,” adds Ketcheson, North’s CMO. “The amount of people who actually know us as Thalmic Labs in the grand scheme of things is pretty small, and North better captures our brand purpose and value.”

Now with a new name better suited to the fashion world, North is looking to make a serious play with wearables and achieve something very few thought was possible: look cool while wearing a piece of technology on your head.