Steamboat start-up U Grok It sells to German company
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One of Steamboat’s home-grown start-ups has been sold to an international industrial automation company based out of Germany.
U Grok It, started by husband-wife duo Carrie and Tony Requist, sealed the deal in April with Turck, a family-owned company specializing in factory automation.
U Grok It is a handheld scanner that can be attached to smartphones so that small businesses can scan tags used in managing their inventory.
While the business deal won’t allow the Requists to retire in style to a Swiss chalet, they want other Routt County-based entrepreneurs to know that start-ups can do well in remote places like Steamboat Springs.
“You can do a lot of start-up work from here, via computer, via phone,” Carrie Requist said. “I did travel, but I would have had to travel wherever I lived.”
Requist’s scanner idea came about when their children kept losing winter gloves.
“You don’t have time to buy another glove. So we thought about how to help them find stuff and that’s what led us to this technology,” Requist said.
They wanted to be able to shoot out a scan that would help them find their missing gloves.
The idea eventually led the Requists, both graduates of Cal Berkeley, to the fact that huge stores like Walmart already had such technology to manage their inventories. But the big expensive scanner guns were too costly for most small businesses. The Requists adapted their idea to an affordable electronic device that could be put on smartphones, allowing small businesses to monitor their inventory in a faster more efficient way.
The Requists started U Grok It in 2011 while the country was trying to bounce back from a recession. By 2012, they got funding from family, friends and angel investors. They then turned to the Colorado venture capital firm The Foundry Group in 2014 for more funding.
Since then, Carrie Requist has been thrilled to see the environment for entrepreneurs take off in Steamboat.
“Since we started, there’s been some great entrepreneurship in Steamboat and Colorado,” Requist said. “A great place to start is the Colorado Mountain College Entrepreneurship Center. We also have a new local funding group called Four Points Funding.”
Marketing and technology consultant Jay O’Hare, who specializes in start-ups, agrees with Requist that CMC and the Four Points angel investment group are two entities with great resources.
“Four Points is specifically aimed at early stage start-ups,” O’Hare said.
In fact, Four Points holds “Steamboat Launch” every August and February where it brings together potential investors and four to five companies at CMC.
“I think it’s great to have an anchor company like Four Points that can bring investors and start-ups together,” O’Hare said.
And one of the best resources for small businesses and start-ups remains CMC and its entrepreneurship center at the Steamboat campus.
“We provide free, confidential counseling, and we also help existing businesses who face particular challenges,” said Randy Rudasics, Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center manager.
CMC just completed its sixth annual business plan competition where $10,000 and $5,000 were awarded to two start-up companies.
“Randy (Rudasics) helps coordinate that effort, and there’s a number of us retired business people who are willing to help those small start-ups,” said Kemp Bohlen of SCORE — Service Corps of Retired Executives. “Just the overall climate in town has gotten more cordial to entrepreneurship efforts.”
CMC’s entrepreneurship center also offers free to low-cost workshops and seminars, often in conjunction with SCORE.
In the meantime, Requist said her husband and another U Grok It employee have stayed on with Turck, the company that eventually bought them out.
“It’s a great company, very stable and nice people. We were happy to see it progress into an acquisition,” Requist added.
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