Imagine the inconvenience of getting locked out and having to call a locksmith. Waiting for the locksmith, stressing about being late, and the fear of someone else having your keys is a process and problem that can be easily eradicated with KeyMe. The product and service gives you the option to walk to your nearest pharmacy or grocery store and print out a key based on an imprint stored in the cloud, giving you flexibility and convenience at your fingertips.
AlleyWatch unlocked some secrets about KeyMe while chatting with CEO Greg Marsh about the company’s latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
This was a Series C funding round led by QuestMark Partners. All previous investors participated in the round as well, including Comcast Ventures, Battery Ventures, White Star Capital, 7-Eleven, Ravin Gandhi and the Polsky Family Office, among others.
Tell us about your product or service.
KeyMe solves frustrating lockouts and gives people more control over their keys by enabling them to save keys to the cloud and recover them with just a fingerprint if they are ever locked out – ending the need for Emergency Locksmiths coming to your door at all hours of the night. It also brings a very common service that millions of people demand and use–key copying–out of specialty stores and into retailers that customers use every day.
More recently, KeyMe has had its sights set on ending an experience many car owners are familiar with–getting overcharged for a replacement key or fob. These next-generation kiosks can scan both types of car keys, which can then be cut in our office for a fraction of the dealership cost. We are hoping to give some control to key owners, as well as protect them from lockouts and save them some money.
What inspired you to start the company?
When I was at Columbia, my wife kept getting locked out of their apartment. Inevitably, she’d call an emergency locksmith, which if you have ever used one you know is not a great experience. These guys advertise one price then demand another on your doorstep; sometimes they come with just a power drill and break into your home in the middle of the night, leaving you with a broken door and empty pockets. I didn’t love this solution and set out to come up with a better one.
How is it different?
KeyMe is fundamentally changing the way people copy keys and solve lockout by introducing convenience and value into an industry dominated by scams and price gouging. This is made possible by advanced robotics, machine vision, and artificial intelligence.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
People spend $7.5 billion each year on copying regular keys, car keys, and solving emergency lockouts. It’s a huge offline service that has been ignored by technology and companies thinking about how to deliver a better service to customers. Our goal is to be the largest service provider in the industry by providing unmatched convenience and value for customers.
What’s your business model?
We treat every kiosk like its own business, complete with its own goals and metrics, its own support team, its own specifications. We strive to make the experience you have with us amazing from end-to-end and we partner with the world’s largest retailers (7-Eleven, Albertsons, Bed Bath & Beyond, RiteAid,,. etc.) to host KeyMe kiosks.
What is your response to potential users who are afraid to have their house key in the cloud?
That’s an important question because we know your keys protect the most important locked doors in life. We take the opposite approach to data storage vs almost every other consumer facing company — we want as little personal information about you as possible. We strictly don’t store information that can link your key data to a location or lock. In a worst case scenario where a hacker breaks through our encryption, what they would see are numbers which represent geometrical features of a key and no way to associate that with a location or lock. After we ship a mail-order, we purge address information immediately.
We also protect your saved key using biometrics – fingerprint encryption algorithms pioneered by the FBI – to ensure that only you can access your saved key. KeyMe has introduced unprecedented security and control into key duplication and locksmiths, which, as you may know, is an industry known for some unsavory characters. We are hoping to change all that.
What was the funding process like?
It’s always a lot of work to raise money, but we’ve been fortunate to partner with amazing investors like QuestMark Partners, Comcast Ventures, Battery Ventures, White Star Capital, and 7-Eleven, among others.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The most exciting (and possibly challenging) part of raising money is getting people excited about the service we provide customers and its potential to disrupt a $7.5B/yr industry. Most VC’s don’t wake up thinking about the locksmith industry or robotic kiosks. Getting these investors excited about the opportunity we have to fundamentally change the way tens of millions of people make and manage keys is extremely rewarding.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Investors always say “team” is the most important criteria for investing. This couldn’t be more true and I believe the most valuable element to our company are the caliber of the people we have on board. Our engineers come from leading aerospace agencies like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and defense contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and our business team includes proven leaders with decades of combined experience in the kiosk and mobile spaces.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
This new round of financing will help us achieve our target of having 3000+ kiosks in the field by 2017, a big jump from our current kiosk footprint. So we have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure we have everything in place to accommodate for that growth trajectory. We will be growing quickly in the next 6 months!
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Focus on what milestones are most important and be laser focused on executing against those. I think one of the most challenging things for a startup is prioritization. You have limited resources, time, and a big to-do list. The only way to handle that is to have focus.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We want to fundamentally change the way the world makes keys. There is certainly a lot of work to get there, but what is exciting is that we have all of the building blocks in place to achieve that goal. It’s all about execution at this point.
What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?
We like the one at the Viceroy. If it’s too crowded there, we’ll often hang at our office and play ping-pong. The level of competition has gotten pretty fierce!