Not a lot of people get to work at Google, much less before entering college.
But for Larry Gadea, founder of visitor-registration software Envoy, a job at Google just kind of came naturally right after high school, at the age of 18.
Gadea started programming when he was 8 years old. He loved computers and was already writing games by high school.
But it was a plug-in he developed for Google Desktop Search that put him on Google’s radar. It would allow the users to find and index files in their computers that Google Desktop Search couldn’t. It made the search feature a lot more useful, and immediately became super popular.
“Google Desktop Search didn’t allow plug-ins at the time. Mine was a hack that made Google allow plug-ins,” Gadea told Business Insider.
One day, in his high school senior year, Gadea received a random email from Google. Terrified that he might have done something illegal, Gadea nervously opened the email. It read, “Why are you doing this stuff on your own? Why don’t you do this with us?”
“They wanted me there full-time. I was super excited, an 18 year old getting a Google offer,” Gadea recalls.
But there was one big problem: Google didn’t know Gadea was that young. Being Canadian, Gadea needed a visa to work full-time in the US, but not having a college degree essentially made it impossible to get the visa approval.
So instead of working full-time, Gadea interned at Google’s Mountain View office during the summer before going to college. After his three-month internship was over, Google wanted him back so they gave him another offer: they hired him as one of the first few engineers at Google Canada, and allowed him to work there part-time during the full four years of college.
After college, Gadea wanted to try something new. Twitter was an up-and-coming startup, so he asked his boss at Google if she could connect him with the company.
“She introduced me to [Twitter’s cofounder] Ev Williams. I did an interview and they were the first to give me an offer,” Gadea said.
For the next three years, Gadea worked as a back end engineer at Twitter. There, he created “Murder,” a data center optimization technology that played a big role in reducing “Fail Whales,” the term used to describe Twitter’s frequent crashes in its early years.
But by 2012, Gadea wanted to try something new again. This time, he wanted to start his own company.
Gadea took nearly a year off, meeting people to find a startup idea. That idea came while visiting friends at Apple and Google.
“It was weird that Google and Apple had you type in your information in a computer at the front desk, but smaller companies didn’t have that technology,” he tells us. “Either the receptionist would leave the desk and find the person, or there’d be no one at all.”
He later realised the big companies had their engineers develop its own visitor check-in software. Smaller companies didn’t have the resources to do that, leaving them open to greater security risk at their office.
So in 2013, Gadea built a software called Envoy that could be used at offices to check-in people and keep track of visitors. It would basically allow visitors to sign-in through an iPad app, and print out a name tag with their photos on it. Its latest app can send push notifications to the iPhone and even show the person’s photo on the Apple Watch.
Soon, Envoy took off, signing up over 1,000 offices, including companies like Airbnb, Pandora, GoPro, and Tesla — all on word-of-mouth.
That kind of success explains why on Tuesday, Envoy announced a $US15 million Series A investment by Andreessen Horowitz, with its general partner Chris Dixon joining the board. The new financing comes after raising $US1.5 million from Silicon Valley bigwigs, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Quora’s Adam D’Angelo, and Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman in November 2014.
“If you go around Silicon Valley today, almost every startup you go to has Envoy at the front desk. It’s sort of become a hit viral app,” Dixon told us. “Larry’s a prodigy. He’s just a classic scrappy, super brilliant Silicon Valley entrepreneur.”