A Tampa entrepreneur is making his mark in Silicon Valley. Garrett Johnson is the co-founder of SendHub, a global call and text messaging service for business and groups.
"So rather than having to go out and buy a landline phone or spend extra money on a cell phone, SendHub allows its users to use their existing device, add a second number to that existing device, and they can use them for calls, texting, social media and all the other business communications functions they need," Johnson explains.
The trajectory of Johnson's life mirrors that of Facebook's founder. Like Mark Zuckerberg, Johnson also chose Silicon Valley over Harvard where he had been accepted. He moved to Los Angeles into a house with other techies. Eventually, Johnson and a college classmate launched their startup.
"We worked hard and we proved that this idea actually had some traction, and the potential to turn it into a successful business," he said.
Garrett Johnson was born and raised in the Belmont Heights neighborhood of Tampa. He went to a private Catholic school, graduated magna cum laude with a double major from Florida State University. He earned two NCAA titles in the shot-put. He's a Rhodes scholar and studied at Oxford in England. Johnson worked in Washington D.C. for a time as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
It was during a visit home from D.C. in 2005 that the idea for SendHub was born. Johnson says his mother asked him if teachers could send home reminders about homework because her grandson kept forgetting it. At that time, the family didn't have a computer, but did have a cell phone.
"So I wanted to figure out a way for his school and teachers to be able to more efficiently send text messages to parents, my mom included, about important information for their children," he said.
Johnson recruited an old Oxford classmate to work out the algorithms, and SendHub was born online. $200,000 in seed money followed through a program that pairs entrepreneurs with venture capitalists. It brought in such heavy hitters as the co-founder of You Tube.
"I had a 20 minute conversation with him over Skype while riding down the highway and later that day he wired a hundred thousand dollars into our account," he said.
Johnson says former Governor, Jeb Bush, is also an investor and mentor. At one point, as more investors came on board, Johnson says he raised $2 million in two weeks.
The Tampa native says the value of SendHub is about $10 million, but his goal is ten times that.
"We want to grow a billion dollar company. We want to disrupt the telecommunications market. We think it's antiquated. We think its technology is outdated, and we think we have the technology and the team to do it," he says.
Check out SendHub here: https://www.sendhub.com/
One of the people who nurtured Johnson's tech interests as a teenager is Tampa's Ralph Smith, who runs the computer mentors group out of the Lee Davis Service Center.
Its a non-profit that uses mentors to get disadvantaged kids into the computer industry, and Garrett went through that program
For more information: http://computermentors.org/