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BlackRock Invests $50 Million in Robotic Retail Keymaker KeyMe

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Technology startup KeyMe that caters to the locksmith industry has raised $50 million in growth financing from the global credit team at BlackRock to fund the expansion of its self-serve smart kiosks that cut keys for houses, cars and businesses at retail and convenience stores across the U.S.


KeyMe has more than 2,300 kiosks.


KeyMe CEO and founder Greg Marsh maintains that the U.S. key-copying industry is worth about $10 billion to $12 billion annually. “It’s a massive offline service, which hasn’t seen innovation in decade,” he said in an interview last year.


The company contends that its kiosks are the first and only ones to duplicate most of the vehicle and radio-frequency identification (RFID) keys. It copies keys in under 30 seconds with 10 times more accuracy than the industry average, claims the company. Mobile apps available for both iOS and Android let customers scan keys and save a digital copy, so that if a customer loses a key or is locked out of a car, home or office, he need only go to a kiosk and log in through the KeyMe mobile app.


The convenience is driving more customers to stores that have KeyMe kiosks, which in turn prompts more stores to request kiosks.


“Our existing retailers are currently requesting more than 10,000 kiosks,” Marsh said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints last year. “For every single kiosk that we launch, within 48 hours, our marketing team is getting that specific location listed on Google Maps as the best place locally to copy a key. Through SEO, we typically rank No. 1 for that listing. When someone types ‘copy keys’ into Google, our listing is coming up first,” he added.


Marsh said many shoppers who search KeyMe online are “new movers” — people who have recently relocated to an area and are making big shopping decisions, typically spending some $15,000 within the first two months of moving, according to Retail TouchPoints.


“We are making keys in a fundamentally different way than has ever been made before,” Marsh said. “Manual key cutting has a 15-20% error rate, which is horrible. Every key that is inserted into our kiosk is training our artificial intelligence. Now that our training set is made up of tens of millions of keys, we are very good at making keys.”


“We are excited to support KeyMe’s next phase of growth with this investment, which offers our clients the potential for attractive risk-adjusted returns,” said Jason Ridloff, managing director in BlackRock’s global credit team.


Other KeyMe investors are Battery Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Questmark Partners, River Park Ventures and White Star Capital. According to Crunchbase, since 2012 the company has raised $155.8 million.


Peter Green is an award-winning business and investigative journalist based in New York.

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