Not that Baby Boomers or Gen X homeowners are clueless about technology, but startup HelloTech is banking on people of a certain age needing a bit of assistance to live the Internet of Things dream.
The West Los Angeles startup this week announced it has added $2 million in venture funding to the $2.5 million it attracted last fall to expand the on-demand, in-home tech support service that it officially rolled out this week in LA.
CEO Richard Wolpert, a 4-time startup founder whose background includes stints as president of Disney Online and chief strategy officer at RealNetworks, says the need for HelloTech has been borne out of the explosion of new and useful home technologies and the decline in retail tech outlets (aside from Best Buy and its Geek Squad) that offer tech installation/support.
HelloTech is vetting and hiring mainly college students to make house calls to help clients hook up everything from wireless stereo systems to video surveillance systems to wireless computer networks. The startup is partnering with product vendors like Sonos, Nest and Linksys, though insists it doesn't do any hard selling: Tech support is its emphasis.
The top calls so far relate to newfangled wireless issues (speeding up networks, addressing dead spots, connecting printers) and old-fashioned computer issues (slow machines, virus identification).
HelloTech has 15 full-time employees and 23 technicians, who are incented to join the team for average hourly salaries of $30.
Among HelloTech's differentiators from traditional tech support services is that appointments are made for specific times not 4-or-more-hour windows. The company initially will shoot to serve customers within a day of being called, but hopes to cut that down to 2 hours.
The company has been running a friends-and family-trial in West LA since early April and is kicking off its service in the UCLA area by offering the first hour of service free (a $79 value!).
Wolpert says the company's plan is to add two more cities in the fall and then expand to 10 or 20 more over the next year.
Asked if there might be any enterprise IT angle I'm missing with HelloTech, Wolpert says not really. "We are the enterprise IT for the Home of the Future, but I guess that's a stretch."