In 1983, Gary Burrell recruited Min H. Kao from the defense contractor Magnavox while working for the former King Radio. They founded Garmin in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas, as “ProNav”. ProNav’s first product was a GPS unit which sold for US$2,500. The company was later renamed “Garmin”, a portmanteau of its two founders, Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao. In 1991, the U.S. Army became their first customer.
By 1995, Garmin’s sales had reached $105 million, and it had achieved a profit of $23 million. By 1999, sales had reached $233 million and a profit of $64 million. Garmin reported a 2006 total revenue of $1.77 billion, up 73% from $1.03 billion in 2005
By 2000 Garmin had sold three million GPS devices, and was producing 50 different models. Its products were sold in 100 countries and carried by 2,500 independent distributors. As of 22 August 2000, the company held 35 patents on GPS technology. By the end of June 2000, the company employed 1,205 people: 541 in the United States, 635 in Taiwan, and 29 in the United Kingdom. In April 2018, Garmin launched Connect IQ 3.0 along with new apps—MySwim Pro, Yelp, Trailforks and iHeartRadio. In May 2018, Garmin partnered with the University of Kansas Medical Center to tackle sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation.
The company began public trading on NASDAQ on 8 December 2000. At that time Burrell owned 19,911,155 shares. Kao owned 20,352,803 shares. Together their holdings accounted for 45 percent of the company’s stock. Kao’s brother, Ruey-Jeng Kao, an attorney in Taipei, owned another 7,984,109 shares, which when combined with Burrell’s and Kao’s shares constituted 54.22 percent of the shares outstanding.
From 2006 to 2015 Garmin operated a retail store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago.
In August 2003, Garmin completed acquisition of UPS Aviation Technologies, Inc. based in Salem, Oregon, a subsidiary of United Parcel Service, Inc., expanding its product line of panel-mounted GPS/NAV/COMM units and integrated cockpit systems for private and commercial aircraft. The acquired company changed its name to Garmin AT, Inc. and continued operations as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmin International, Inc.
Garmin has acquired Dynastream Innovations, EME Tec Sat SAS (EME), and Digital Cyclone. Dynastream, in Cochrane, Alberta, produces personal monitoring technology (ANT+)—such as foot pods and heart rate monitors for sports and fitness products—and also ultra-low-power and low-cost wireless connectivity devices for a wide range of applications (ANT). EME Tec Sat SAS is the distributor of Garmin’s consumer products in France; following the acquisition, EME changed its name to Garmin France SAS. Digital Cyclone Inc (DCI), located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, provides mobile weather solutions[buzzword] for consumers, pilots, and outdoor enthusiasts. Garmin also bought Nautamatic Marine Systems, an Oregon-based company that makes autopilot systems for boats. In July 2011, Garmin finished its acquisition of the German satellite navigation company Navigon.
In 2006, Garmin introduced a new corporate logo, and opened its first retail store, located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
In 2015, Garmin acquired South Africa’s iKubu Ltd. for its Backtracker on-bicycle low power radar system.
In 2018, it was reported that the Garmin subsidiary Navionics had exposed hundreds of thousands of customer records, when its MongoDB database wasn’t secured with a password.
In 2019, Garmin acquired Tacx, a privately-held Dutch company that designs and manufacturers indoor bike trainers, tools and accessories, as well as indoor training software and applications.
In 2021 Garmin acquired AeroData, a Scottsdale AZ based company that provides aircraft performance software for over 135 airlines worldwide. The company will continue to operate under the AeroData brand.