Shortly after Greg Marsh moved to New York City to pursue an MBA at Columbia Business School, his then-girlfriend, now-wife experienced a city dweller’s nightmare: She got locked out of her apartment. “She had a horrible experience,” Marsh recalled. “It was late at night. The locksmith quoted one price, showed up and charged many multiples of that.” That fateful evening got him thinking and, like any diligent MBA student, he started researching the locksmith industry.
“The more I looked into it, the more I was blown away by how big it was and how little innovation had occurred literally in the last century and how much fraud and low-quality customer experience people were used to in this space,” he said. Soon, an idea began to fester. He dropped out of Columbia and synced up with a couple robotics engineers to build AI-enabled key copier, KeyMe. Today, the technology company boasts 3,000+ kiosks—where customers can scan keys for copying—in retailers like Ikea, Rite Aid and Kroger. With the announcement of a new $35 million funding round led by Brentwood Associates, Marsh has ambitions to go even bigger. (BlackRock invested $50 million back in February 2019.)
In the $12 billion locksmith industry, KeyMe hopes to stand apart with its modernized product and emphasis on consumers, and from Marsh’s perspective, the gambit is working. “Our existing retailers are requesting over 10,000 additional locations,” the CEO told Forbes. “It’s pretty wild for a company at our stage to have such massive demand from big brands like these, and the primary reason for that is we found a way to drive really compelling foot traffic to these brick-and-mortar retailers.”
Some critics worry key kiosks could leave consumers open to security risks. To this, Marsh says, “We do not store any personal information which could link key information to a location or a lock, and so if in the worst case scenario our database was hacked and compromised, what people would be able to see is the numbers that represent geometrical features of keys.” Credit card numbers are encrypted; addresses are purged after orders are completed.
“Our vision is to be the most trusted brand in access solutions, and the way we think about that is getting people into physical spaces: your home, your office, your mailbox, your vehicle,” Marsh added.
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