With customers ranging from tweens to 90-year-olds, and an aspiration of taking on the full responsibility, Swedish Tech Troopers are soon the Uber of Tech Support.
“This is one of those startup stories.”
I have to admit, I had to chase David a bit to get him on the phone with me. He’s a busy man, that’s for sure. But once I did, we ended up having a long and interesting conversation about his exciting project.
“Last year, Jerker Vannerus (who’s now the CEO) came to me with this idea about crowdsourced tech support. At the time, I was working at a web firm called Odd Alice, and because we had the right resources, such as a graphic designer, we started working on the project internally”.
At Odd Alice, David and Jerker managed to make a proof of concept and the first beta version of the website. From January this year, David started working full time as CTO and “developer guy”, as he calls himself.
“Tech Troopers is about using all the technical knowledge we know exists among our fellow geeks and nerds”, David explains. “The IT staff, our Tech Troopers, are mainly guys that do this as a side gig, to get some extra cash while studying or so”.
He’s a very humble guy, David. When I ask him about the company’s mission, he laughs and says something like “oh, mission statement…”. He doesn’t respond with any default punch line or elevator pitch, like most companies do. Instead, he speaks passionately about the genuine problem they’re trying to solve.
“Things are getting more and more technical – I mean, soon the microwaves are connected to the Internet. But companies don’t take responsibility for more than their part. For example, if you have a problem with your Internet connection on your MacBook, and you call your ISP, they’ll say something like ‘Internet looks good from here, call Apple’, and then Apple will ask for your router and go “oh, d-link, then you should probably call them’ and then… You know?”. Sounds familiar, yes.
Instead, the company wants to be a stand alone support service, taking full responsibility in areas where the tech giants don’t. Tech Troopers are providing simple and cheap technical help for homeowners and businesses, in an ever so present gig economy.
“I was supposed to be on vacation, but I did this instead”, David tells me. And hard work does pay off. “We’re a small but growing team, and we try not to grow too quickly”, he says. Today, Tech Troopers offers support nationwide in Sweden and home visits in Stockholm, Gothenburg and parts of Skåne, and they will move to new cities, but only when they feel ready. “We want to have lots of people at lots of different places. The help should never be far away, and a home visit shouldn’t cost more because you happen to live on the countryside”.
David himself lives outside of Borås, Sweden, where he works from “a house out in the woods”, as he says. His co-founder and CEO Jerker works from the HQ in Stockholm, and another guy, the “Super Tech Trooper” (basically, Head of the Troopers) is based in Helsingborg.
“When we soon go international, we’ll end up having many Troopers. They have to bring their own devices, but they shouldn’t have to pay for phone charges from helping customers. Therefore, we’ve developed the Trooper Phone! With the Sinch PSTN API, Tech Troopers can call their customers for free, and we pick up the tabs”, David explains. They also use the Sinch SMS API for a similar purpose: “When we get new cases, I use the service to send out messages to our Troopers”.
“It has been simple to integrate”
“I have hundreds of ideas on how to use it more!”
“The next logical step is obviously doing this through a Tech Troopers app.” David has many great ideas on how to scale the business. He tells me about the app idea, which would be used as a platform for the Tech Troopers to manage their customers, including calling, texting and scheduling meetings. “Their gadget belt, basically”.
David and the team have a plan that’ll take them international, and he admits that next year is about scaling. “We will make this thing bigger. And build tech things that’ll help us with it. If that means developing an app or expanding the web, we’re not fully sure yet what comes first.”
Simultaneously, Jerker is talking to other companies about partnerships. For instance, Tech Troopers are involved in a pilot project with the online merchant Komplett.se, offering extended tech support to their customers. Therefore, when I ask David about Tech Trooper’s target audience, he answers “everyone”. End-customers, companies, teens and grannies.
“I thought people my age (33) knew everything”
He tells me he worried at first, “because it’s hard to know if it’s even possible to reach the people who’s in need for technical support, since they might not have enough technical knowledge to really reach us”. But as it turns out, “a lot of people know how to use their devices and the web. But many of them don’t know how to fix them once they stop working the way they are intended. And most people prefer paying to get help before spending hours and hours trying to solve the problem themselves”. Their oldest customer so far is a 90-year-old lady, who knew how to work the smartphone but had a problem reading the tiny text in the instruction manual. She simply needed help finding a PDF version online.
Before hanging up, David tells me about his view on the stale telecom market, and how it doesn’t fit his visions for future projects.
“For me, Sinch is the modern phone service.”
“I’ve been in contact with a lot of traditional service providers in Sweden, looking at how to get our Tech Troopers to call for free, and talking about cloud services, but none of them have it! You need to buy a phone from them, sign up for 36 months, pay upfront fees, and whatnot. Phones are really old”, David says. “I want to build our very own telephone switch system, so that I could forward numbers, record messages and lots of other things! It would be really cool to build a system like that using Sinch!”.
It goes without saying, we’re looking forward to troop into the future together.
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