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Talent Toronto startup Nymi hires new CEO ahead of product launch

A Nymi band sits on a table top at the company's Toronto offices on Monday, March 10, 2015. CEO Karl Martin is stepping aside and becoming CTO after the recruitment of industry veteran John Haggard.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Nymi Inc., the Toronto tech company that wants to replace clunky text passwords with your heartbeat, has hired a new chief executive officer as it prepares for its first commercial product launch, slated for 2016.

Karl Martin, the founder of the company formerly known as Bionym, will be stepping aside as CEO after the recruitment of security technology industry veteran John Haggard. Mr. Martin will take on the role of chief technology officer (CTO).

Founded in 2011, the company's first product is the Nymi Band, a wrist wearable that uses the wearer's unique cardiac signature (or ECG) as a biometric "password."

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"We've had very successful pilots over the last year; that's what we would call the early product market fit," Mr. Martin says. "We've established we have something valuable: All you have to say is 'password killer.'"

Nymi has tested with payment providers such as MasterCard Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada as well as core enterprise uses for physical facility or computer network access.

Mr. Haggard has worked as an independent security consultant, as well as CTO and chief operating officer of Vasco Data Security International Inc., but was most recently chief business officer at Yubico Inc., a maker of specialized USB keys that act as a second-factor security authentication for access to computers

"In multifactor authentication, they've made amazing strides into replacing the old-style RSA tokens; we as a startup have always looked up to Yubico. [Mr. Haggard] was instrumental in scaling up that business," says Mr. Martin, who says he was inspired by Google Inc.'s savvy move of hiring non-founder Eric Schmidt as its CEO in 2001.

Mr. Haggard lives in Seattle and has no current plans to move to Toronto. Mr. Martin expects much of Mr. Haggard's time will be spent on the road pitching Nymi to chief intelligence officers and chief security officers of potential business clients. He will also be tasked with building up a sales team to take the company's products international.

Nymi also added San Francisco-area executive Ram Varadarajan to its board of directors. The former senior vice-president with CA Technologies also founded Arcot Systems, which made software for fraud and risk management.

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