Most people's first job is flipping patties or bussing tables after-school—but Garrett Gee was starting his own company, named Scan, between studying and playing soccer at Brigham Young University. “I was basically told by my family that as long as I was getting good grades and doing well in soccer, I didn’t need to work. So Scan, more or less, is my first ever job.” After receiving $1.7 million in seed funding in late February, it seems as if Gee’s foray into the workforce is off to a pretty good start.
Scan, founded in 2011, utilizes and creates technologies like QR codes and NFC image recognition to connect individuals and businesses in the real world to the digital space. Since the release of the Scan app less than a year ago, it has received more than 10 million downloads in the App Store and Android Marketplace and is currently being used in more than 77 countries.
Like most start-up ideas, Gee says Scan came about when he realized a need in the industry. “Like with Foursquare and what they’ve done with the check-in space—where geo-tagging is a really cool technology but it’s only as popular and well used as it is because Foursquare built a good name and brand around it—that was something the QR codes space was lacking,” he says. “When I came across smart codes for the first time, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool technology in a really ugly, crowded space. Someone should make a pretty product for this.’”
Employing his web and app design skills, Gee, along with his BYU buddies turned co-founders Kirk Ouimet and Ben Turley, cranked out version one in about a month and instantly had not only a successful app, but a touch of clout to shop around for investors despite being “three young kids from a small town in Utah.”
Gee recalls a particular moment when an investor asked him why he should bother with Scan when he was meeting with people from competitor ScanLife who had far more business acumen and experience than Gee and his team. “Our answer was because we’re young and we were raised on the iPhone—we know the ins and outs of it,” he says. “We were just super open and up front about how rookie we were and they liked it.”
Scan is up to nine employees and is in the middle of experimenting with new updates and ways to turn a profit from their free service. Gee feels confident that regardless of such a crowded app market, Scan will consistently rise above the noise given the momentum they’ve already gained. “When someone sees our logo they understand it’s associated with quality, speed, and good user experiences,” he says.