NYC Startup KeyMe Releases An App That Promises You’ll Never Get Locked Out Again

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Iris and fingerprint scanning may be the future of locksmithing, but when it comes to keys, most of us are still using the good old-fashioned brass sort. And that means the occasional lock out.

New York based start-up KeyMe is hoping to solve that problem by creating a secure, cloud-based keychain that stores keys’ cutting instructions and makes it easy to walk into a locksmith to have a replacement made. Their iOS app, out today, enables users to scan and store their keys at any time.

Founded in 2012, KeyMe raised a $2.3 million seed round at the beginning of the year led by Battery Ventures. Coinstar founder Jens Molbak, who sits on KeyMe’s board, also participated in the round, along with a number of other investors. KeyMe Founder and CEO Greg Marsh told us that they are not looking to raise at the moment.

The concept behind KeyMe is surprisingly simple. Using the app, you place your key on a white piece of paper and take two scans, of its front and back. The app then translates that into two pieces of information: the key type and a series of numbers that serves as the depth cutting instructions for any locksmith. That data is stored in your digital keychain, and when you do end up losing your keys, it costs $9.99 to unlock that information plus the price of your local locksmith’s cutting work.

“The locksmith doesn’t need to know anything about us or have any special software. You walk in and pull up a screen on your phone which is the instructions. It has your key type and that series of numbers, which is common locksmith language. Without any precontext they’ll be able to use their hardware and make your key,” Marsh said.

The app itself is free, as is creating an account and storing an unlimited number of keys.

In total, it’s a fraction of the cost and time of getting a locksmith out to your place to make a new key from scratch, Marsh said, which can take hours and cost up to $150. He knows from experience: his fiancée, who frequently locks herself out, gave him the inspiration for the startup.

Some New Yorkers may have already come across KeyMe while out on a Slurpee run this summer. In June, KeyMe installed self-service kiosks in five Manhattan 7-Eleven stores that can both make duplicates of physical keys and scan keys for future lockouts. Marsh said that the kiosks have already done a couple thousand transactions, although he declined to give specific numbers.

Because KeyMe is cloud-based it’s also possible to share keys between friends and family members. If your buddy is staying at your house for the night and you can’t meet him when he gets in, he can make a copy of the key himself. Of course, that does mean putting more duplicates of your keys out in the world, but for now let’s assume that friends are trustworthy.

While other companies like StickNFind and Tile use Bluetooth to track keys to prevent losing them in the first place, KeyMe is differentiating itself by approaching key loss as inevitable and dealing with it after the fact.

As far as scaling goes, Marsh isn’t worried. In fact, he’s hoping to have a national impact from day one.

“The nice thing about the app is that from day one it can address a national audience. Everyone can scan their key, and then if they get locked out we are a million times cheaper and more convenient than a locksmith. Hopefully it’ll help a lot of people quickly.”

More kiosks will also be rolling out over the coming months. Between the kiosk expansion and KeyMe’s option to send away for cheap customizable duplicates, it seems that the start-up is hoping to close the loop on information storage and key production. That’s a ways off, but if KeyMe can convince people that their information is secure, it could unlock the stagnant home key industry in a considerable way.