Startup Directory

Bad Elf

While developing an environmental, biometric, structural, and vehicle sensor integration solution for the US Army, founders John Cunningham ‘86SEAS, Brett Hackleman, and Paul VanderLei, struggled to find an adequate computing platform to tie it all together. When Apple introduced the iPad and the related MFi licensing program for companies wishing to build hardware accessories, they seized the opportunity and began building their own sensor instead of waiting for others to do so. In early 2010, they initiated an internal skunk works project to build a GPS receiver for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch as a proof of technology, and Bad Elf was born.

The first 1,000 units were produced for sale and offered on Amazon on Halloween of 2010 and sold out by Thanksgiving day. With the introduction of the 2nd generation iPad in March 2011, sales exploded, and Bad Elf transformed from an experiment to a real business as Bad Elf became synonymous with high performance external GPS receivers for commercial, military, and private pilots around the world. For the past three years, Bad Elf has developed new products and faced down challenges from larger players to remain the first choice for GPS when outfitting pilots’ electronic flight bags.

Bad Elf expanded its product appeal from aviation to marine and GIS/survey users and extended its reach worldwide, with products manufactured overseas and exports now comprising 25% of sales. The resulting hard-earned and stable global supply chain and sales network poises Bad Elf for growth to reach the next plateau in its evolution from startup to household name. The combination of an iPad, an app, and a Bad Elf hardware accessory replaces the existing, often proprietary, solutions at a fraction of the cost.

Bad Elf aims to deliver Engineering Magic® hardware accessories to owners of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, whether they pursue adventures on land, at sea, or in the air.