Last week’s Best Buy Geek Squad layoffs came as no surprise to Eric Greenspan, founder and CEO of Make It Work, an 11-year-old Santa Barbara consumer tech-support startup that closed its doors on June 26. The company Greenspan says took the biggest bite of his business? Apple.
“We failed because Apple invented the iPad and the Genius Bar,” Greenspan posted to his blog on July 3, going on to say, “The trend of self-healing, DIY installations and solid state devices will only make matters worse for our competitors. Apple changed the world.
Already the Geek Squad is trading its black-and-white VW bugs for black-ties and gadgets at sleek, in-store help desks, reported to “strongly resemble the Genius Bar.” Best Buy laid off about 3 percent of its geeks, a direct result of closing 50 of its 1,100 stores, but the company is clearly rethinking its entire approach to service. Starting with Richfield, Minn., 60 more stores will be redesigned to reflect the new modern look. In another Apple-inspired move, the stores will allow customers to pay via mobile gadgets instead of traditional checkout lines.
Caris & Co. analyst R. Scott Tilghman says the way consumers service electronics dramatically shifted over the past five years, Genius Bar’s inception in May 2001 one among many contributing factors. The increase in portable devices has significantly decreased the need for in-home tech support. He adds Best Buy will still need some geeks on the street to help connect the many devices consumers need at home – from tablets to TVs.
“Apple made interconnectivity among devices seamless. Consumers will need help doing this with non-Mac devices,” says Tilghman.
Greenspan’s Make It Work won’t have an opportunity to make a comeback. In 2005, Tech Coast Angels (TCA) funded the company’s $1 million in Series A, at that time one of the largest in TCA history. By May of 2012, sales had dropped drastically and partnerships with Costco and Verizon failed. When investors pulled out at the last minute and Greenspan couldn’t secure funding, he lost everything. Despite bearing the majority of the company’s debt, Greenspan has maintained his sense of humor and passion for Apple, closing his moratorium blog post with “written on a beloved Apple iPad.”