Entrepreneurs Pooled Savings to Found Garmin

(p. B16) Gary Burrell, who with a fellow engineer founded Garmin, the navigational device company whose products can direct pilots in fog, prevent hikers from getting lost and help insomniacs track their sleep, died on June 12 [2019] at his home in Spring Hill, Kan.

. . .

Mr. Burrell (pronounced burr-ELL) was vice president of engineering for King Radio, an avionics company that made navigational devices, when he recruited Dr. Min H. Kao from Magnavox, another defense contractor. Dr. Kao had been instrumental in developing a GPS receiver for aircraft.

At the time, the government was opening up its Global Positioning System for civilian use, and the two men saw possibilities.

. . .

In 1989, they pooled their savings and persuaded Dr. Kao’s Taiwanese relatives to invest seed money. With $4 million and an office with two folding chairs, they started what would become the world’s largest maker of consumer navigation devices.

Garmin — a coupling of the partners’ first names — now has 13,000 employees at 60 sites around the world. Last year it reported revenue of more than $3.3 billion from selling GPS devices to automotive, aviation, fitness, marine and outdoor recreation customers.

Even with the advent of wireless communications and smartphones, Garmin remained competitive by relying on technological advances, creative products and satellite links, which can widely cover areas that Wi-Fi can’t reach.

. . .

Forbes estimated in 2015 that Mr. Burrell had a 14 percent stake in Garmin and was worth $1.8 billion at the company’s peak value.

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Gary Burrell, 81, Who Helped People Find Their Way (With GPS).” The New York Times (Saturday, June 22, 2019): B16.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date June 20, 2019, and has the title “Gary Burrell, Who Helped People Find Their Way (With GPS), Dies at 81.”)

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