To say that Garrett Gee was the underdog is putting it mildly. Just over a year ago, the college student from Provo, Utah decided to take on the crowded field of QR code apps with little more than his imagination and two tech-savvy friends. His competition included RedLaser, which is owned by eBay, and a glut of apps that all look basically the same and do the same things.
Fast forward to this month, in which Gee's app Scan just passed 20 million downloads and he is busy taking dozens of meetings with Silicon Valley venture capital firms. Despite being, in his words, "totally rookie" about starting a company, Gee has learned quickly how to keep focused and overcome obstacles. "It's not about who you are or where you're from. It's about whether you can create value," he says.
We first met Gee at Future Insights Live 2012, where Scan won the mobile division at our inaugural App It Out contest. For his victory, Gee earned a speaking slot at the combined Future of Web Apps / Future of Mobile conference in London this October. His talk will focus on the future of web entrepreneurship and the lessons he's learned as a quintessential underdog.
One of the keys to success, according to Gee, is spotting the right opportunity. In his case, that meant recognizing the huge opportunities available in the space occupied by QR code scanners. Where many companies were satisfied to simply release a QR code scanner or a shopping app, no one appeared to be tackling the entire lifecycle of a mobile transaction from start to finish.
Scan is more than just an scanner app; it's a platform for enabling digital actions using a wide range of mobile transaction technologies like QR codes, near-field communications (NFC), and image recognition technologies. The Scan app allows a user to scan just about anything. The Scan platform allows companies to not only generate QR codes, but to surface mobile-friendly content to those app users. Scan Pages allows anyone to add relevant business information (website, Facebook page, transaction links, etc.) to a mobile-friendly template and generate a QR code that links to the page. Gee, who handles 100% of the design of Scan, has also paid careful attention to user experience.
Gee says it's been rewarding to see the features he and his team add to Scan showing up in larger competitor sites. "It's fun to just be three young guys from Utah and watching a larger, more well-funded app playing catch-up," he says.