Sign Mom Up For Dropbox (or Start a Support Biz) With the New Soluto

By Mick Weinstein , written on May 23, 2012

From The News Desk

There are Techies, and then there are Normals. You, dear PandoDaily reader, are almost certainly a Techie, which doesn’t necessarily mean you fork repos on GitHub. Hear of Instagram before Facebook bought it? Techie. Friends turn your way for digital help, and you’re kind of stunned they didn’t already know how to do that? Techie.

Soluto, a darling of the Israeli startup scene since winning TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010, is a slick tool for Techies to soothe Normals’ computing hell and share a bit of Techie bliss. The newish Web-based version of Soluto, available since December, allows you to remotely monitor and optimize a Normal’s Windows PC (Windows only at this point), including one-click remote installs of apps including Skype and now Dropbox.

That means you now have a better way of sharing big pictures and videos with Normals: “Look Ma, Sasha’s birthday party’s already right there on your Dell... And you don’t even have to log into AOL!”

Soluto did a big $10.2 million financing round last summer, adding CrunchFund (Disclosure: CrunchFund is an investor in PandoDaily), Innovation Endeavors, Index Ventures, and Initial Capital to previous investors Bessemer, Giza, and Proxima. The company has raised $18 million overall.

The first version of Soluto, downloaded over three million times, was the local agent that still sits on both parties’ machines, joined by the new Web interface. This kernel-level app monitors hardware and software performance, sending anonymous reports back to Soluto’s servers, which in turn suggest solutions for the Techie to implement remotely on the Normal’s machine when it’s idle.

All that incoming data, combined with a crowdsourcing element, means Soluto can actively suggest smarter PC optimization solutions all the time. “There are only two companies in the world that receive all this PC crash report data at scale -- Microsoft and us,” said CEO Tomer Dvir, when we met in their funky Tel Aviv office, “and only we provide immediate solutions.”

Selling or licensing Soluto to Microsoft would seem an obvious play, but perhaps since Microsoft is going another, exasperating direction on removing Windows bloatware, Soluto’s current revenue model is focused entirely on enabling the Techie.

Product head Roee Adler says the three main use cases are for (1) an IT supervisor at a small business, (2) an independent IT consultant, and (3) someone who wants to start a business as an independent IT consultant. For (2) and (3) Soluto’s ongoing monitoring helps justify a recurring charge to Normals. Your first five PCs are free to monitor, then Soluto charges $6 per additional PC per month. They’re still working on the pricing model, Adler’s quick to add, and they plan special pricing for educational institutions and non-profits.

As Dvir and Adler see it, the future for Soluto isn’t so much the crash diagnostics side of the product but rather installing cool stuff on Normals’ machines. So the new Dropbox remote install is an important milestone. It works well (tried it with Dad) and, interestingly, was built without a Dropbox API -- yet Dropbox seems ok with that. Soluto creates a random password for the Normal, which neither he nor the Techie nor Soluto keeps, but the Normal can change it at any point through Dropbox’s “forgot password” function.

With the business now firmly focused on the Techie helper, I wondered aloud to Adler if Soluto falls in an awkward spot between, on the one hand, simple phone support, and on the other, take-over-your-machine apps (like TeamViewer for individuals or Citrix’s GoToAssist for enterprise). That is, if a Techie wants to get into the kishkes of a Normal’s machine, why not go all the way?

Adler’s reply was that IT people simply don’t do RegEdit, Adobe product updates, and all the other little stuff that keeps Normals’ machines running smoothly. So he’s convinced they have unique product/market fit and are now just listening closely to the “hundreds of IT people” using their new service.

On Adler’s suggestion, I spoke with one of those users, Evan Oberman of Toronto’s Obercor, which provides remote IT support. Oberman supports about 30 clients on Soluto’s new platform and loves it. “Nobody likes getting their machine taken over, since they have to stop working and it feels intrusive,” he says, “and I appreciate that I can be proactive with clients, instead of reactive. So it has both great functionality and is really good for customer relations.”

A version for Macs and mobile devices is in the pipeline -- “Mac’s a priority!” Adler promises. The Soluto team imagines a future where a Techie can remote support a whole range of gadgets in Normals’ hands -- from any gadget in her Techie hands.