Hel­loTech has stu­dents to help with com­put­ers

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Paresh Dave paresh.dave@la­times.com

Col­lege stu­dents are re­turn­ing home for the sum­mer, and if par­ents are happy to have them home, it’s partly be­cause they bring some­thing that has been miss­ing for months: home tech sup­port.

Now a re­cently launched Los An­ge­les start-up is look­ing to fill the gap, us­ing col­lege stu­dents to do it.

Hel­loTech charges $79 an hour to drive to your home and help with com­put­ers, prin­ters, net­work­ing and more. Best Buy has of­fered a sim­i­lar ser­vice called Geek Squad for about a dozen years, but Hel­loTech founder Richard Wolpert says his com­pany aims to com­pete with flex­i­bil­ity on re­quests, lower prices, ap­point­ments within 24 hours and the abil­ity to of­fer ad­vice on fu­ture tech pur­chases.

Wolpert, a tech in­vestor and for­mer Walt Dis­ney Co. ex­ec­u­tive, has raised $4.5 mil­lion to fund his ven­ture.

Hel­loTech is start­ing on the Westside, from the south­ern San Fer­nando Val­ley to the South Bay, with about 25 tech­ni­cians, mostly from schools such as UCLA and Santa Mon­ica Col­lege. They un­dergo back­ground checks, on­line course work, and class­room and field train­ing.

“They come to us as an al­most pre-trained work­force, and they are un­der­uti­lized with $10 to $12 [an hour] jobs,” Wolpert said of mil­len­ni­als ac­cus­tomed to help­ing older gen­er­a­tions with tech­nol­ogy. “It’s a per­fect match.”

Like Uber driv­ers, the tech­ni­cians are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors. Dur­ing a trial, they re­ceived an av­er­age wage of $30 an hour, Wolpert said; he ex­pects a seven-hour work­week on av­er­age. The clock starts when they get in­side the home and ends when the cus­tomer is sat­is­fied.

He plans to launch a num­ber of web­sites to help peo­ple set up ap­point­ments. BuyYourPar­entsroku.com, for ex­am­ple, would send a tech­ni­cian to connect a Roku on­line me­dia player box to a TV at the fam­ily res­i­dence.

The tech­ni­cians will leave cus­tomers with pam­phlets and links about new “smart home” gad­getry. The hope is that the cus­tomers turn to Hel­loTech if they de­cide to pur­chase those items, pro­vid­ing an­other rev­enue stream.

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