KeyMe is a Company that is dedicated to helping people keep their keys. Incredibly, more than twenty million keys are lost every year, and more than ten billion dollars are spent on subsequently copying or remaking such keys. After his wife experienced one too many key-related mishaps, entrepreneur Greg Marsh decided to create a company called “KeyMe” in 2012.

Greg is a Columbia Business School dropout who still maintains a keen sense of competence, Greg created a new technology to serve as the driving force behind “KeyMe” which operates mostly via an app.

The company also offers a cloud-based copy service at self-serve kiosks at stores such as 7-Eleven, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Rite Aid, and Safeway. Essentially, “KeyMe” replaces traditional locksmiths by giving users the ability to scan, track, monitor and even duplicate keys via a system that can cut 98% of all brass keys.

KeyMe CEO Greg Marsh recently granted an exclusive interview where he how his company has placed more than 1,500 kiosks across forty-six states in a span of only fifteen months.

Keys, ideas, and becoming an entrepreneur

Meagan Meehan (MM): You’ve stated that your wife gave you the idea for this brand after a mishap with her keys, can you expand on this story a bit?

Greg Marsh (GM): When I moved to NYC for business school, my wife got locked out. She had a horrible experience…an unscrupulous guy showed up in an unmarked van and charged $300 to drill the lock. It got me thinking about the locksmith industry.

As I researched the space, I became really excited about the opportunity: it’s a massive offline service ($10B/yr in the US) which hasn’t seen innovation decades. I believed technology could deliver unmatched value and customer experience for key duplication, lockouts, and vehicle keys (even with the transponder chips). I met up with some great engineers, and we started building.

MM: You dropped out of business school to launch KeyMe, did you feel you were taking a big risk by becoming an entrepreneur at the time?

GM: I actually viewed dropping out of business school as the least risky option. I had classmates who only half-committed to working on their business while in school. Once they graduated, they put their full effort into it, and it didn’t work out. Then they had to look for a job, but after all the normal recruiting was over. It’s impossible to make a start-up successful without fully dedicating yourself to it. So, dropping out was the only option I saw to make KeyMe successful, but I had a safety net by being able to return to school if things didn’t work out.

MM: How did you create the technology for KeyMe and what makes it so very unique?

GM: Our core competency is incredibly strong engineering. We have top-tier technical talent from places like MIT, NASA, Lockheed, Raytheon, etc. applying cutting-edge robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence to enable our highly disruptive consumer service. We are making keys in a fundamentally different way than has ever been made before. Manual key cutting has a 15-20% error rate, which is horrible. Every key that is inserted into our kiosk is training our artificial intelligence. Now that our training set is made up of tens of millions of keys, we are very good at making keys.

Startup, brand, and business

MM: What was it like to start up KeyMe and what were the challenges of initial funding and such?

GM: Building a business and raising money is hard work. Hardware companies, in general, have an even higher hurdle rate due to a combination of high initial capital requirements, length of tech development cycles, and investors generally being allergic to hardware. The quality of our team and the opportunity we have to disrupt a $10B/yr industry allowed us to attract top-tier investors.

MM: How did you expand so quickly and get such a high caliber of retailers interested?

GM: Our value prop to retailers is really compelling.

We are fully turnkey, all we need is 3sqft and a plug. In exchange for that, we’re driving highly scalable traffic and typically generating the densest cash flow in the entire store. We’ve been fortunate to have amazing retailer reception and currently work with retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Kroger, Albertsons/Safeway, 7-Eleven, Kmart/Sears, among others. Our existing retailers are requesting over 10,000 additional units, so we’re working hard to fulfill that demand.

MM: What are you most proud of regarding KeyMe and how do you foresee the brand expanding and evolving in the future?

GM: I’m most proud of the quality of our team.

The team is the most important factor for our success, and we have an absolutely incredible group of people. KeyMe is going to fundamentally change the way hundreds of millions of people make and manage their keys. We aspire to become the market leader for locksmith services (key duplication, cloning vehicle keys, and residential lockouts) by delivering unmatched convenience and value for customers.

MM: Do you have any new product additions or new business initiatives for KeyMe that you wish to talk about?

GM: We are constantly adding functionality to our service. Our most recent feature is the ability to copy RFID key cards or fobs.

This is a huge market with very little focus on convenient, accurate, and secure ways to copy these sophisticated keys. Reception has been amazing for this service.

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