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Gary Burrell (1937–2019), Garmin co-founder brought GPS to the masses


He and his partner started the multinational company from a card table and two folding chairs

Gary Burrell was one of the founders of Garmin, which brought GPS technology to the general public. An engineer, Burrell was working for King Radio in 1989 when he recruited his business partner, fellow engineer Dr. Min Kao, to help him create GPS devices that could offer military-developed navigational technology to civilians. Naming their company a combination of their first names, Burrell and Kao created handheld GPS devices before later expanding to make activity trackers, fishfinders, and more.

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Died: June 12, 2019 (Who else died on June 12?)

Details of death: Died at home in Spring Hill, Kansas of complications of Parkinson's disease at the age of 81.

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The early days: Burrell and Kao pooled their money to get their startup off the ground. As Garmin legend goes, the company's first office was a room with a card table and two folding chairs. Their first product — released when the company's name was still ProNav — was the GPS 100, a $2500 panel-mounted device intended for use by boaters. They debuted their first handheld GPS devices in 1991.

What people said about him: “Gary Burrell has been my friend, mentor and partner for more than 30 years. His vision, values, engineering skills and commitment to serving our customers have been the foundation for the growth of our company. It has been both a great privilege and a blessing to have known this amazing man and I know his legacy will live on.” —Min Kao

“While Gary will be remembered by many as one of the great entrepreneurs of our age, I will remember the unusual way in which he led our company, something he called servant leadership. Whether it was about creating the best product or his behavior as a leader, Gary always considered the impact to others before himself. His example not only inspired my contribution to Garmin, it also positively influenced me as a husband and father. I am forever grateful to the rich and enduring legacy of Gary Burrell.” —Garmin President and CEO Cliff Pemble

Full obituary: Kansas City Star

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