Content, Mergers and Acquisitions

Puls: Geek Squad Meets Uber for Consumer IoT, Home Device Support

Take Best Buy's Geek Squad for consumer IT and device support. Then blend it with Uber's shared economy, on-demand business model. What do you get? The answer involves Puls, which connects consumers with expert technicians for rapid-response repairs and on-the-spot support for home and consumer products and devices.

Even if you're an MSP focused on business customers, you could wind up bumping into Puls. Why's that? While I was working for an MSP, our team sometimes wound up supporting what we used to call an F.O.S. (which meant a friend of Steve, our owner). People who work in IT related fields are often tapped by their friends to help them with various technical problems they face in their home.

That's not surprising. Consumers have very few options for in-home IT and device support. Most people rely on services from big-box retailers; those can be hit and miss when it comes to supporting the broad range of technology inside a person's house.

The Puls Consumer Device, Home IoT Support Opportunity

Home networks are becoming more complicated and consumers need a place they can go to get support. Demand for home IT services is estimated to grow nearly 50 percent annually from 2017 to 2021, according to Research and Markets. Perhaps MSPs will start to get involved with the consumer market, or we may see a new brand of MSPs that specifically target consumers. The best solution may surface somewhere in the middle, with a company like Puls acting as the middleman.

Business Model: Puls, which rebranded from CellSavers last year, connects consumers with expert technicians for rapid-response repairs and on-the-spot support for home and consumer products and devices. The company started out repairing smartphones and tablets, as its former name suggested. Over the past year, the startup expanded its services to include more than 200 products such as big-screen TVs, HD antennas, garage door openers, video doorbells, and smart thermostats. Recently Puls has added demoing, setup, and installation to its list of services.

Puls has created proprietary software that can help match consumers with one of over 1,000 professionals across the United States. (Some Puls documentation suggests the professional network now spans more than 3,000 people.) This matching can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will usually result in a one-hour response time. The company itself has employees across San Francisco, San Diego, and Tel Aviv offices.

Puls Customer Reach, New Funding

Puls's reach is growing quickly. The company now supports over 50 major metropolitan areas, supporting over 100,000 customers with services from cell phone repair to TV installation and smart home setup.

Backed by $50 million in Series C funding, Puls will expand throughout North America and plans to add more verticals focusing on home appliances and personal computers, which should be launched early in 2019.

Puls also plans to use the funding to accelerate its direct-to-consumer business as well as expand its strategic partnerships with large retailers, insurance companies, and hardware OEMs. The company already partners with Google, Samsung SmartThings, ANTOP, SimpliSafe, Lighthouse, and Hisense.

Puls Alternatives?

Admittedly, online marketplaces for IT support aren't new. Names like OnForce and WorkMarket come to mind. But so far, no single company has nailed the shared, on-demand IT support model for consumers.

Perhaps Puls will change that; and maybe the platform will allow some MSP employees to pick up some gigs -- and make a little cash on the side.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.