It’s Monday morning. You groggily open your email inbox and come across a set of photos from a cousin you haven’t spoken to in years. ‘Summer Trip!!!’, it’s called. You double-click, shrug as nothing happens, and watch a minute later as your taskbar slowly fills up with icons you’ve never seen before. This seems bad. You open IE to find that your homepage has been claimed by a free credit report agency with a passion for popups. Panic sets in as you cross your fingers, reboot your computer, and learn that your startup sound has been set to a clip of Rebecca Black’s Friday.
This sounds like a call for… GEEK SQUAD!
Err, wait. Maybe not. Best Buy’s computer repair service can be quite pricey (and it’s difficult to tell exactly how much it costs from their website), and a lot of repairs involve shipping your computer to a warehouse as opposed to fixing them on the spot. Which is frustrating when many cities are teeming with hardened technophiles who have been fixing computers for their friends, families, and college dormmates for years.
Enter Geekatoo, a company that’s similar to RedBeacon, Zaarly, TaskRabbit, but that has a much narrower focus: helping people get their computers fixed.
Submitting a problem is straightforward. First you type in a brief description of what’s going on, some system information (Mac or PC?), and some basic personal information (name, phone number, zip code). The service prompts you to set a bid window — in other words, how long the site’s computer experts (affectionately referred to as Geeks) will have to bid on your job request.
The job then gets added to a queue visible to the site’s Geeks, who can bid against each other to determine who’s willing to offer the lowest fee to fix the job. Clients (in this case, you) can look at profiles for each of these Geeks, which includes reviews left by former clients and any certifications they might have. After you’ve gotten a few bids you can choose the Geek you’d like to hire, at which point the site will facilitate setting up a call and/or meeting to fix your computer.
To help ensure that Geeks know what they’re doing, Geekatoo ranks them according to their qualifications. Geeks can optionally choose to get get background checks, feature their college degrees, and show off any certifications they’ve earned from computer reapair schools. Alternatively, potential Geeks can opt to take an online test via a third party, which will let people without credentials (but who know their stuff) participate as well.
Of course, computer repair jobs can be pretty complex — the Geeks won’t necessarily know what’s wrong with a computer when they accept a job, and they probably won’t know how long it will take to fix. The site addresses this by offering a ‘sandwich’ pricing scheme: when they bid, Geeks set a minimum price, an hourly rate, and a maximum price. The minimum price ensures that a job is worth their while, even if it only takes them ten minutes to install a new driver or delete a malicious program. The maximum rate helps ensure that clients know how much they’ll be charged in a worst-case, this-took-forever to fix scenario. Geekatoo takes a 12% cut of the transaction, the rest goes to the Geek.
The system is still open to some gaming — Geeks could potentially work slowly to milk clients for more money, but that’s a problem largely inherent to the repair industry, and the maximum price ensures that it won’t be a huge ripoff.
One thing that Geeks need to watch out for: if you can’t figure out how to solve a problem (even if you’ve spent hours trying), you’ll only walk away with your minimum fee. Cofounder Christian Shelton explains this is because most competitors guarantee that they’ll fix the client’s computer. It can take a long time to diagnose some issues, like driver problems or faulty hardware — so this may actually lead Geeks to avoid these more difficult problems.
That potential issue aside, the site looks solid. The UI looks good and isn’t overly confusing, and it doesn’t take a lot of work for a client to submit their problem. There are still plenty of questions: the site needs to build out a solid base of Geeks, it needs to gain client trust, and we’ll need to see if the market becomes a race to the bottom. But it’s a good idea that addresses a problem that many, many people have.
Geekatoo will be competing with plenty of local computer repair shops, Best Buy’s Geek Squad, and the aforementioned startups.