Zebra Technologies, a company born out of a conversation at a dining room table, just turned 50 years old! Can you believe it?
I don’t think that anyone would have guessed in February 1969 that a casual idea discussed by 28-year-old Gary Cless and 26-year-old Ed Kaplan would be capable of conceiving a technology industry pioneer that, in 2019, would be celebrated by 7,600 employees across approximately 120 locations around the globe – and countless more customers, partners and industry influencers.
Or that a simple $1000 capital investment 50 years ago would kickstart a multi-billion-dollar company that has designed, engineered, manufactured and deployed the mobile technology solutions credited with empowering innovation, facilitating game-changing breakthroughs and providing the tools to generate business growth for retailers, healthcare providers, manufacturers, militaries, governments, supply chain organizations and field service providers worldwide.
Gary and Ed sure didn’t…
“When Ed and I started this company, we never dreamt it would have a future like this,” the late Gary Cless once said in a video interview. “And sometimes, such futures seemed to be impossible. But throughout the journey, we never lost faith in that the impossible may become possible if we just would stick with it somewhat longer, work a little harder, come up with a better idea, and simply look at things in an optimistic way. And never, ever, become complacent.”
There were certainly times of uncertainty, though. By January of 1970, less than a year after the idea for Zebra was born, Gary and Ed had left their full-time jobs and put all of their time into their new company, which was originally called Data Specialties, Inc. In the beginning, they focused on engineering paper tape punches to record point-of-sale (POS) transactions. The young entrepreneurs took risks and, at one point, were $20,000 in debt. However, the use of thermal transfer technology for printing barcodes, as well as the release of the model Z-130, propelled the young company on a path to success. Zebra has not stopped growing since.