Spring 2022

The Making of a Unicorn

Alumni entrepreneurs offer more than a great product.

Scott Cohen and Blake Johnson

Scott Cohen ’96 and Blake Johnson ’99 have always been committed to giving back. The pair, who met as undergrads at the University of Arizona, also have a deep love for their alma mater. 

“So many of our greatest memories have come from ourtime there,” Johnson says. 

Their entrepreneurial spirit guided them through economic uncertainty when the COVID-19 pandemic began the same year they launched their first joint venture, a company called Byte that produces invisible orthodontic aligners. Amid the economic storm, they saw an emergency brewing and wanted to help.  

They realized that people in need of dental care might not be able to access it in person, so they offered teledentistry, free of charge, to anyone who needed it. And they adapted the 3D printers they used to make aligners to manufacture face shields, distributing them to hospitals experiencing shortages.  

The expense of pitching in didn’t curtail their business success. At the end of 2020, Byte sold for over $1 billion in cash. In March 2021 Forbes said, “Repeat entrepreneurs Scott Cohen and Blake Johnson built this unicorn in record time in what some have called one of the greatest direct-to-consumer success stories of the century.”

Johnson and Cohen don’t deny that they are in the business of making money. But their passion for entrepreneurship dovetails with their passion for philanthropy. “They go hand in hand, in our perspective,” Cohen says. “We want to do our part in the world to give back, especially in the areas of education, poverty alleviation, health and community.”

As devoted Wildcats, Cohen and Johnson have each established endowed UArizona student scholarships. 

“Both Scott and I have been the beneficiaries of people reaching out to support us, which set us on a path. … Now it’s our time to lift people up,” Johnson says.

Johnson’s scholarship will support Eagle Scouts with financial need and academic merit, while Cohen’s will benefit high-achieving students with a passion for entrepreneurship in any discipline. 

“Supporting the university and incoming kids is super important,” Cohen says. “Nothing would give us more pleasure than to follow these students through their paths and make a difference in the outcome of their lives. Our vision is that they come out of the University of Arizona ready to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.”