The daily download on the business of technology.
Richard Wolpert is not your average Silicon Valley startup CEO. For starters, he’s in Los Angeles, not the Bay Area. He’s 54 and a veteran of Apple, Disney, and Real Networks. He’s been an operator and an investor. Once upon a time he invested in the first company Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was an involved in, a now-forgotten file-sharing outfit named Scour.
Wolpert’s latest venture, HelloTech, has an abundance of pluck. It has raised $18 million in venture capital, has just 35 headquarters employees (plus a call-center crew in the Phillippines) and a business model that combines the cleverness of Uber with the fills-a-real-need utility of innovations like how-to videos on YouTube or what-did-we-do-before-it-existed Google Maps.
HelloTech, says Wolpert, epitomizes a category I hadn’t know of before: DIFM, or do it for me, the polar opposite of DIY, or do it yourself. The new wave of Internet-connected devices like smart speakers, video doorbells, digital locks and so on are tougher than they look to install. And even if they’re a snap, integrating them with similar gadgets is a challenge.
Enter HelloTech, which matches jobs with qualified technicians at fixed prices. Though the company operates as a consumer service, its early key sponsors are device and service providers who make the HelloTech technicians available to their customers. Samsung pays the way for certain customers; Ring Video Doorbell subsidizes installations. Wolpert refers to HelloTech as a “bolt-on Geek Squad” because his network of technicians is essentially a white-label support force in the field.
His company has been around for nearly three years. Wolpert says it is collecting valuable data, like how long specific jobs take. An Apple TV installation isn’t the same as connecting an August lock. It also plans to introduce dynamic pricing—the hated term at Uber was “surge pricing”—but in an intelligent way. Jobs in Boise shouldn’t cost the same as in San Francisco, says Wolpert. And college students doing simple jobs shouldn’t earn has much full-time IT pros completing complicated tasks.
One is tempted to assume technology used to be so much less complex, but that’s not true at all. It’s just that relatively few people have the patience for it. Now everyone wants it, but they need help making it work. This might be an idea whose time has come.
Bet you can’t eat just one. Competition is heating up in semiconductor chip market. Intel announced it was extending its Core i3/i5/i7 line with a pumped up i9 processor with 18 cores and prices up to $2000. The premium end of the market has been growing fastest, thanks to gamers, and AMD recently debuted its own high-end, 16-core chip dubbed the Ryzen Threadripper. Meanwhile, mobile chip design king ARM unveiled a new lineup, dubbed Dynamiq, aimed at artificial intelligence and virtual reality applications.
States rights. Ride services Uber and Lyft returned to Austin, Texas, this week after the state adopted a law overriding restrictions passed by individual localities. Tragically, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s mother, Bonnie Kalanick, was killed in a boating accident.
No fly zone. An as-yet unidentified computer glitch forced British Airways to cancel hundreds of flights over the weekend, temporarily stranding 75,000 passengers.
Organizing the world’s information. Google says it can’t produce data about the salaries of its employees requested in a wage discrimination suit charging the company paid women less. A lawyer for Google said the effort was “a very time-consuming and burdensome project.”
Burrito hackers. Restaurant chain Chipotle is the latest retailer to admit customer credit card information was stolen. Malware installed on Chiptole’s payment system leaked the information from March 24 to April 18.
Yet another phone. As tipped in a few leaks, Andy Rubin, founder of Android, unveiled his new smartphone, dubbed the Essential, for $700. The phone features an add-on port for accessories like a 360-degree camera.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
TV is in a golden age, with more great shows than ever and more ways for consumers to watch them than ever. The Roku set-top box was an early player in Internet TV and continues to be among the most popular ways to access streaming video online, with 14 million active accounts.
Roku CEO Anthony Wood, a Silicon Valley veteran and a former vice president at Netflix, spoke with Fortune’s Tom Huddleston, Jr. about the evolving landscape, including Wood’s view of new services that offer dozens of cable channels over the Internet.
“Personally, I am not sure how popular repurposing a linear cable network will be in a streaming environment,” Wood said. “Certainly, it’s in the millions the number of customers who want it. But is it 100 million, like Netflix? I think that’s an interesting question: whether people have changed the way they want to watch content and what content they want to watch.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Grammy Winner Ne-Yo Backs Summer Software Camp for Kids by Barb Darrow
Google’s AlphaGo A.I. Retires After Dominating Humanity’s Best Players by David Z. Morris
NASA’s New Tech Could Help Drones Safely Land During Emergencies by Jonathan Vanian
AT&T’s DirecTV Now Sees Slower Subscriber Growth by Aaron Pressman
Apple’s iPhone Market Share Slips as It Eyes $1 Trillion Valuation by Don Reisinger
BEFORE YOU GO
Everybody likes to save money, which fueled the rise of extreme couponing app Ibotta. But as the Denver Post reveals in a great, in-depth profile, the app had to be redesigned to keep growing. As CEO Bryan Leach explains, consumers don’t want too many choices.