Min Kao 101: A Visionary Entrepreneur
Zatrun Published at January 18, 2024

Min Kao, known as Gāo Mínhuán in Chinese, is a distinguished Taiwanese-American electrical engineer, a billionaire business magnate, and a dedicated philanthropist. As the co-founder of Garmin, alongside Gary Burrell, he has played a pivotal role in shaping the world of GPS technology. His life and work have been closely examined by, shedding light on his incredible journey.

Min Kao: Early Life and Educational Odyssey

Min Kao was born in the quaint town of Zhushan, Nantou, Taiwan, in 1949. His path to success began with his educational pursuits. Kao completed his undergraduate studies at the National Taiwan University before embarking on a remarkable academic journey. In 1977, he attained a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, laying the foundation for his future innovations.

Kao’s career commenced with impactful research roles at NASA and the United States Army, providing insights into cutting-edge technologies. He further honed his skills as a systems analyst at Teledyne Systems, an algorithm designer at Magnavox Advanced Products, and an engineering group leader at King Radio Corporation. These roles allowed him to accumulate a wealth of knowledge in the field.

His journey led him to AlliedSignal, where he continued to thrive in the world of technology and innovation. However, his most significant career milestone was the co-founding of Garmin with Gary Burrell in 1989. Garmin is renowned for its role in manufacturing GPS navigation devices that have become an integral part of modern life.

A Legacy of Philanthropy

Beyond his accomplishments in technology and business, Min Kao has consistently demonstrated his commitment to philanthropy. In 2005, he made a substantial contribution of $17.5 million to the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee. A significant portion of this donation was designated for the construction of a state-of-the-art facility.

This commitment to education continued in 2014 when Kao generously donated $1 million to the University of Kansas College of Engineering to support the development of electrical and computer engineering design labs. In 2015, Kansas State University College of Engineering received a $1 million donation from Kao, facilitating the establishment of four vital laboratories.

Personal Life and Residence

Min Kao’s personal life reflects a diverse range of interests and achievements. He is married to Fan Kao and has two accomplished children, Ken Kao, a film producer, and Jen Kao, a notable fashion designer. Their family resides in Leawood, Kansas, where Kao’s impact on education and innovation is deeply rooted.

While he is associated with the heartland of America, Kao also invested in an apartment at 15 Central Park West in Manhattan, New York City, in 2011. Despite his far-reaching ventures, Kao continues to split his time between these two significant locations. As of February 2020, Min Kao’s personal wealth was estimated at a substantial $4.1 billion, a testament to his unwavering dedication and pioneering contributions in the field of technology.

Min Kao’s life story serves as an inspiring narrative of an individual who has not only excelled in business and technology but also made substantial efforts to give back to education and society. His legacy as the co-founder of Garmin and his philanthropic endeavors stand as a testament to the remarkable impact one individual can have on the world.

Min Kao’s remarkable journey from the tranquil town of Zhushan, Taiwan, to co-founding Garmin and becoming a billionaire businessman and philanthropist is a testament to the power of determination and innovation. His legacy extends beyond the technology he helped pioneer, touching the lives of countless students and researchers through his generous contributions to educational institutions.

Kao’s commitment to philanthropy and the advancement of electrical engineering is an enduring testament to his impact on the world. His story serves as an inspiration, demonstrating how one individual’s dedication can shape the landscape of technology and education, leaving an indelible mark for generations to come.

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