Why we rebranded from Yope! to Mamoru — history of a startup

If you follow us on Twitter or Medium, or if you’re one of the other startups at the Transistor co-working space in Berlin, you’ve probably noticed we’ve rebranded and undergone something of a pivot. This isn’t uncommon for tech companies, least of all in the blockchain space. But we thought it was worth saying a few words about the rationale behind this.

As anyone who knows us is aware, we’ve been involved in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency for some years. Personally, my earliest venture into cryptos started in 2013, when I began mining and trading, and a little web application I wrote to keep a record of my alts portfolio became (with the help of friend and co-developer Bruce) CountMyCrypto, a small but still popular cryptocurrency tracker.

I’d originally viewed cryptocurrencies as an interesting intellectual exercise. But the more I read, the more I became obsessed with Bitcoin and the beautiful simplicity of the idea behind it.

I started talking online to other women involved in Bitcoin, and after experiencing the awesome women’s meetups run by Anna Kurth in Berlin, I decided with my friend Magda to start London Women in Bitcoin. (The meetup continues to this day, taken to new heights by Neha Murarka, with the support of SkillsMatter.) You can read some more about it here.

At the same time, unbeknown to me, Gian and Enrico were working on Yope! which started life as a Bitcoin-based micropayments service for gaming. To cut a long story short, I moved to Berlin, we became friends and we started idly chatting about how we might work together.

In 2014 I started lending a hand with a Bitcoin project the guys were building. But it wasn’t long before we decided to put all our energy into their original idea — an API that would allow games devs to easily accept in-game payments without giving a huge cut to Apple, Google, or one of the many games platforms.

We pursued this idea relentlessly for some months. We pitched it at Berlin Bitcoin Startups (now itself rebranded as Berlin Blockchain Startups, but that’s another story). I went on an abortive mission to a gamedev conference in Hamburg, where I failed to interest multiple games developers in the idea of using Bitcoin.

In the meantime, we had been joined by our fourth co-founder, Massi, and we had all separately started playing around with Ethereum and become excited by the seemingly limitless possibilities.

The micropayments space was becoming crowded, and while we felt we could still make a success of the payments API, we decided to move quickly and pivot while we could.

We open-sourced the API. We began prototyping a couple of different DAPPs. Our careers networking API won some attention (and funding) from Wanxiang Blockchain Labs in China.

But our real focus was now on a new and exciting idea which began as a solution to a real-life problem.

Enrico had his bike stolen, which is not an unusual thing to happen. It wasn’t registered with the city scheme, which gave him no hope of recovering it. So one night over a beer (at Room 77, of course), we discussed how a blockchain-based bicycle registration and recovery scheme might work. We theorised about how we could use a chip embedded inside the bike frame to write its identity to the Ethereum blockchain and then use a smartphone to scan it. And thus SafeBike was born.

We began prototyping it — and then heard about the NexusLab virtual accelerator for blockchain startups. We applied, as did 270 other European blockchain startups. When we heard we were among the 10 finalists, we couldn’t have been more excited. It was a validation of our idea, and the chance to take it further, aided by expert mentors and the valuable and inspiring support of a startup bootcamp.

We’ve been in the NexusLab first cohort since May, which has been whittled down to just 8 startups. We are the only German-based company in the cohort. As the accelerator has progressed, it has become obvious that the technology we are developing has applications far beyond simply registering bicycles.

As we extend our use cases to providing proof of ownership to many different types of high-value portable possessions, we needed to find a name beyond simply SafeBike.

Many brainstorming sessions later, we decided on Mamoru. Mamoru is a Japanese word meaning ‘protect’, and it is also a popular name in Japan. We liked the idea of our products being personified in this way — like a superhero who can protect all your possessions.

So suddenly it made sense to pull all our other activities and social media accounts together under the Mamoru umbrella. Same team, same ethos, just a different name. And — we hope — a bright future.

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