Imagine: Your smart home, fully connected via IoT-enabled devices, is humming along wonderfully. Your fridge is telling you what to have for dinner, the air temperature is perfection, and the lighting and music automatically changes in every room according to your mood.
But then something stops working. You’re back to living a non-IoT life. Who you gonna call (on your landline/via carrier pigeon/smoke signals)?
As the Internet of Things universe grows ever larger, and with devices ever more complex, tech support is changing as well. Getting help online, over the phone, or in-store just won’t cut it any longer. You can’t exactly take an entire IoT smart home environment to an in-store help desk. Recognizing this need, a new crop of companies has opened with an eye on providing on-demand, in-person, customized tech support.
Los Angeles-based HelloTech, which opened in December 2014, just received an additional $10 million in Series A funding. The service sends tech support to homes in L.A., charging a flat hourly fee. Taking this a step further, HelloTech also recently launched its BuyYourParents service, which offers tech support packages and some devices, aimed squarely at the buyer who’s tired of helping his or her parents with their technology. (Its website features the line, “You’re not your parents’ tech support any more.”)
For a long time, Geek Squad had this market pretty much cornered. The company, started in 1994, was bought by Best Buy in 2002, which gave them a healthy footprint of consumers across the country, but their earnings from service calls fell last year. Nevertheless, there seems to be enough demand, or at least, ideas from entrepreneurs about how to make tech support simpler, cheaper, and more convenient.
Geekatoo, based in Mountain View, California, raised seed money in April 2013 and also offers at-home tech support. Instead of an hourly fee, it offers packages. Throwing down the gauntlet, the company’s website claims to be faster and less expensive than Geek Squad’s home visits, and it offers a no-pay guarantee if they can’t fix the problem. The site gets stars for easy quoting: answer a few questions, and there’s a base cost and what you’re paying for, ready for checkout. Not surprisingly, there’s also an app.
Geekatoo actually started with a TaskRabbit model, in which company tech support vendors would bid on jobs, but that didn’t work out very well. So the company revamped and went for the package price concept. What it does have going for it is a national service footprint.
Meanwhile, serving the San Francisco Bay area is Convoy. Started in August 2014, the process is familiar: Describe your tech problem(s) and schedule a time (both done online), and a techie will come to your house and fix your life your router. Also in the SF Bay area is newbie Eden, which started in May 2015.
And then there’s store/support hybrid Enjoy in Menlo Park, California. Founded by the guy who brought us Apple’s in-store support, the Genius Bar, it’s raised $80 million in two funding rounds. Enjoy both sells and services tech products. So, for example, shoppers can buy an Xbox and choose a time when an Enjoy “expert” will deliver it and spend up to an hour helping set it up. The company also offers support visits, sans purchase, but it won’t fix all your broken things
The takeaway here is that no resident of California will ever again have to worry about tech malfunctions. Actually, the real takeaway is to expect a new area of job growth as tech concierge services become a big industry.
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