A Durham company competing in the red-hot market for cell-phone applications is charting a new path with a new name.
PocketGear will announce this morning that it's changed its name to Appia, as part of a broader strategy shift.
The company, which raised $15 million in venture financing last summer, will focus mostly on building so-called "apps stores" for mobile-phone partners such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Samsung and Verizon. It will spend less time and resources on selling games and other apps directly to consumers via its own websites.
As part of that shift, which has been in the works for about six months, company officials decided they needed a new brand identity, said spokesman Dov Cohn.
The name comes from "Via Appia," Latin for the Appian Way, a road that connected cities in the ancient Roman Empire. The idea is that the company connects apps developers worldwide to apps stores that distribute them to customers.
Appia's top challenge is that smartphone owners typically first visit the top apps stores run by Apple and Google. Appia is betting that the market is expanding rapidly enough to support "second stop" apps stores run by other companies.
“As consumers increasingly look for alternatives to the native app stores, Appia intends to power those other stores and enable app creators to easily reach new customers,” said CEO Jud Bowman, in a prepared statement.
Appia was formed in 2008 when Bowman, who founded PocketGear's predecessor a decade ago while still a teenager, bought back the company from Motricity, which moved its headquarters to the Seattle area from Durham.
Appia now employs 51 people at its offices in Durham's American Tobacco Campus.
Employees came up with a list of more than 300 name ideas and then started narrowing down choices based on trademarks, whether the name was taken on Twitter and other factors. One issue was that the online domain was owned by a Swedish publishing company, which agreed to sell it "for a very reasonable amount," Cohn said.
"We'll be investing a good bit of marketing effort to build awareness [of the new brand], especially with partners outside North America," Cohn said. "There is a huge eco-system of apps developers."