A common image that comes up when people think about IT support is the stereotypical, grumpy technician roaming the halls (Jimmy Fallon's 'computer guy' sketch from SNL also comes to mind) -- this may have been the case in the 90's or early 2000's when even small businesses had a server room and custom software. These days, however, with more companies migrating to the cloud using apps like G Suite, Dropbox, and Slack, the need for tech support hasn't gone anywhere, but the need to have a technician on-site has all but disappeared for most businesses.

Yet, a Legacy Problem Still Exists

There's a problem for the 180,000 local IT consultants in the United States. Most operate on an hourly model with variable pricing, and in many cases, those premiums are justified by sending a technician on site. Making matters worse for the customer, the experience typically starts by filling out a ticket and waiting for several hours to hear back, which isn't really the 'peace of mind' we expect in a modern era.  

So, what if you could could tackle your computer crashes, connectivity problems, and even onboarding -- all in real-time? That's the vision behind Electric.AI, a startup shaking up online tech support as we know it.

A Fresh, Real-Time View of Tech Support

Electric felt that the solution to this problem would need to be something that was immediate, intelligent, and remote so they decided to integrate directly with your Slack channel. Any employee at a company can simply direct message '@Electric' AI bot and you'll get a response right away -- all requests and resolutions then get tracked in a dashboard.

For a business using reasonably new computers, G Suite, and other cloud applications about 97-99% of troubleshooting, administration and maintenance can be performed remotely. For the odd on-site task, typically replacing or installing a piece of equipment like a new Wi-Fi router, Electric can dispatch that to a local technician at an agreed-upon price.

And why Slack, you ask? In the past couple of years, they've become one of the most widely used and trusted business collaboration tools. With over 6 million daily active users and 77% of fortune 100 reported to be using the service, it's a highly adopted modern & collaborative medium that real-time tech support can be wrapped around.

Another key difference is that, because of the way Slack allows you to communicate with specific groups via individual channels, you can involve as many people in the support as needed. Not only can you fix bugs, install software, and the usual fare, but everybody stays up to speed on the support as it happens. Since everybody knows what's going on and multiple people can get help in sync, the overall support process is incredibly efficient. The Electric AI bot has a lot of legs (albeit digital ones).

New Wave of the Support Industry?

Electric's long-term vision is to automate the vast majority of common requests, engaging a human only in the small number of cases where a problem or request is too complex to be understood by a machine. Additionally, Electric plans to use the data it's collecting to recommend new software and hardware to businesses.

Ryan Denehy, Founder and CEO Ryan Denehy elaborated,

"This business is not for the faint of heart and carries significant complexities, but we've managed to develop a significant head start on workflow automation, data capture, and the automation library. Our team will continue to stay focused on execution to take advantage of our early lead in the space."

With $2M secured in early stage funding, there has been clear consensus on void that is being filled here. Brad Svrluga, General Partner of Primary Venture Partners agrees,

"Electric was one of those businesses that the moment you hear it described you know needs to exist. The traction they have shown so far is a testament to the extreme pent up demand for better answers on IT support and the brilliance and practicality of the offering they've built."

Electric.AI, like any startup, still has its share of challenges, of course. For starters, there's the question of sustainability and reliability. It might be that, given the ridiculous pace of technology, Slack might not even be around in a decade (I hope that's not the case). If they're not already doing so, Electric will need to think about how to continue to add their service to varying collaboration solutions.

However, these types of hurdles exist for any startup forging ahead as an early adopter so consider my intrigue captured -- I'll be keenly watching in 2018 to see if this is yet another industry that was, in fact, poised for disruption.

Published on: Dec 26, 2017