Garmin was co-founded in 1989 by the then electrical engineers, Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao. Gary was born in Kansas, and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Min was born in Zhushan, Taiwan, and earned a doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee.
The pair came into contact with the then highly classified satellite positioning technology while working for their former employer on a project for the US Department of Defense.
Their ideal was to "popularize GPS and change the world," but this was in conflict with their former employer, who was cutting R&D budget. Hence their decision to start their own business. The company, and indeed its name Garmin, was put together by the two founders—Gary and Min.
Garmin started out by integrating cockpit navigation devices into an all-in-one design, which became immensely popular. The GPS technology was then gradually expanded, eventually into wearable products today, broadening the market into aviation, marine, automotive, outdoor, and fitness.
Garmin's business philosophy of valuing the fundamentals and "tackling the hardest jobs first" have carried the company through all kinds of challenges over the 30 years, and the business model of "vertical integration" resulted in extremely high customer satisfaction.