In college A.J. Forsythe smashed one iPhone after another. He accidentally stepped on one. He dropped the next one. Five phones later, the junior at California Polytechnic tossed his latest replacement to a friend across the room and watched it ricochet off the whirling blades of the ceiling fan. Another man might have bought a heavy-duty case or downgraded to a device that doesn't cost over $200 to replace. He might have resolved to be more careful. But Forsythe chose another path: he bought around $40-worth of spare parts on eBay, tinkered with his kaput phone for hours, and figured out how to replace the screen himself.
Today he and his business partner, Anthony Martin, run iCracked, a company that helps people repair Apple products without Apple or its fees. The company independently designs repair kits for common iPod, iPhone, and iPads damages, has them manufactured cheaply in China, and then sells them to users--either directly for about $65, or through licensed independent repairmen known as iTechs, who visit users and repair their devices for an additional service fee.
In 2010, when Forsythe and Martin started the company, both were still in college--Forsythe at Cal Poly and Martin at University of California at Santa Barbara. Campus, it turned out, was an ideal first market for a phone repair company. "You essentially have 20,000 18 to 22 year olds who don't respect stuff as much as people who have to buy things with their own money," says Forsythe. By graduation, the two had built up a network of 40 technicians, and ran up nearly $40,000 in credit card debt. They moved to Silicon Valley, and last March scored an investment from tech start-up incubator Y Combinator. So far the company has received $500,000 in seed funding from San Francisco-based SV Angel, and is currently working on raising a round of Series A venture funding.
"It was one of the easier investment decisions for us," says David Lee, founding and managing partner at SV Angel, which made early investments in Airbnb, Twitter, Dropbox, and Github. "We're moving to an on-demand world where people are expecting exceptional service right now, when they want it, where they want it, and they're willing to pay for it...and this is an example of that."
Over the next five months the company plans to start offering phone insurance, a membership plan where consumers pay a monthly fee in exchange for discounted repairs later, and a phone buyback program. They're also looking into designing kits for Samsung smartphones as well.
"We're building one of the best on-demand dispatch systems in the world," says Forsythe, speaking of the iCracked App. "We see a world where no matter where you are, you press a button, and our service will dispatch one of our iTechs to you to either repair it, buy it back, insure it, or sell you a new or used device."
BURT HELM is a senior writer for Inc. magazine. In 2013, his Inc. feature “After the Squeeze” was awarded the Stephen Barr Award for Feature writing, and his stories “After the Squeeze,” and “Turntable.fm: Where Did the Love Go?” received awards from Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Prior to Inc. he worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and a department editor for Businessweek. He is a graduate of Yale University with a double major in Physics and English. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. @burthelm
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