The CEO of one of the world’s leading smart lock companies developed his hatred for keys while in high school.
He was tasked with stopping whatever he was doing and letting his older sister into their Oviedo home every time she forgot her keys – which was often.
It was the early 1990s and Phil Dumas, a self-described gearhead, started thinking that there must be a better way to unlock things.
When he got to the University of Central Florida and had to choose an engineering senior design project, Dumas convinced his classmates to tackle the key challenge. The timing was ideal.
It was 2004 and smart phones had yet to be developed. But the team took full advantage of the state-of-the-art Blackberry.
“Basically, we hacked it apart and created a platform where you could call the phone, enter a password and unlock the car,” he said of his senior design project.
It was the Eureka moment that would eventually lead Dumas to the create UniKey, which recently closed on a $5 million capital deal with Samsung NEXT as one of the investors. UniKey, which until 2016 had focused on the home security sector, has raised more than $20 million to date in venture capital and is expanding into the commercial and automotive sectors.
“We want to replace the entire key chain, for the home, office and car,” Dumas said.
He credits his UCF senior design project experience with giving him the tools to learn how to solve technical problems. But it was several other experiences that got his company off the ground. These include his real-life work experience, the help he received from the UCF Business Incubation Program, and an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank show in 2012.
When the show aired as the season finale in May 2012, UniKey became the first company to entice offers from all five investors on the show.
Dumas has since opened UniKey’s office in downtown Orlando, and the company has established 15 partners in the residential and commercial markets. Seven of them are leaders in their respective industries. The company has gone on to partner with industry leaders like Kwikset to produce the Kwikset Kevo, the first residential smart lock in the industry. The company has other strategic partnerships as well that have resulted in more than 160 million doors locked and unlocked in 65 countries worldwide, all powered by UniKey.