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Have you ever had a problem with any of your gadgets and electronic devices around your home? Need help setting up an Apple TV or figuring out how to pair your Amazon Echo with that August Smart Lock, or did you have a hard drive crash on you? There are a couple of options at your disposal: You could search for someone to fix it for you on Craigslist or take it to a store and have a technician like Best Buy’s Geek Squad take a look at it. But these options can give people pause because of questionable credibility or the fact you have to leave your home and take time out of your day to get it fixed.
Techmate is looking to be your long-term tech support, launching its subscription service to help answer any question you have about any internet-connected device in your home. At launch, it’s available to customers in the San Francisco Bay Area, although it revealed plans to expand into Southern California later this year.
Founded by Colin Barceloux and Scott Hasbrouck, this Y Combinator-backed company has a similar model to Enjoy in that it wants to provide “high-end, white glove personalized service” to its customers to fix any device, such as smartphones, Nest thermostats, smart TVs, computers, tablets, Amazon Echos, and other Internet of Things things.
“We see the smart home coming,” Barceloux told VentureBeat. “People will face an explosion of all the devices and many more. In the next five years, the number of internet-connected devices will increase by 5 times. It’s massive and consumers have all this complexity coming towards them and won’t be able to manage them all.”
He described an experience he had with his father as being the impetus for the creation of Techmate. We’ve all dealt with having a loved one ask us for help in setting up their TV, taking selfies on their smartphone, or hooking up a printer. For Barceloux, he got frustrated enough that he wanted to have someone else come help his dad out. But looking around, he saw the only big company was Geek Squad, a service “ripe for disruption” but one prone to inadequate customer service. If you want a different model, you have to look online, but there’s no trust there.
For $32 per month, Techmate will give you unlimited support by phone or chat. Should you require more in-depth assistance, Techmate can send a certified technician to your home for $110, which includes up to 2 hours of support. As part of your subscription, the company will also provide a quarterly inspection of all your devices in an effort to offer more personalized service.
Techmate doesn’t have a staff of technicians at its disposal. Instead it follows a model similar to Uber, Postmates, and TaskRabbit: It uses independent contractors. Barceloux explained that its contractors are people who are already in the information technology field or have their own business and are looking to earn more income. He claimed that Techmate screens everyone using the “highest-level background check, they’re all interviewed in-person, and they need to have passed certification.” Additionally, to ensure customer safety, the company has a support hotline, a 90-day guarantee, and a $1 million insurance policy on all its contractors. It’s also certified with the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, McAfee, and others.
For their participation, Techmate pays its technicians $40 per hour. Barceloux said that Techmate offers them flexibility with their schedules and provides supplemental income. Additionally, the opportunity to join a community of people with strong passions around technology can be a draw.
To coincide with the company’s launch, Techmate has introduced an Amazon Dash-like button you can give to family members who often ask you for help with their devices. Just program the connected button with, say, your dad’s contact information so that when he taps the button, Techmate’s support staff will call him within 5 minutes to find out what technical problem he needs help with.
It’s worth noting that if you’re not a subscriber to Techmate, this connected button will start the onboarding process, meaning a company representative will talk the user through all the payment options, so you might want to do that part of the process before giving Dad the button. But once the user is enrolled in the service, a simple tap is easier than digging up a phone number or going online to ask for help.
Barceloux said that when you book an appointment, technicians will arrive at your house within 6 hours and are on-call between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. You even get a link to track where your technician is in real time.
Techmate launched a couple months ago and claimed that it’s growing 25 percent a week. It’s available in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Marin, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas.
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