Manchester has scored an exciting new tech startup. Located at 220 Hull Street, the folks at Glass Smith are looking to be the Uber of cell phone repair.
The Glass Smith team is comprised of Jordan Jez (co-Founder & COO), Blue Crump (co-Founder & CEO), and Daniel Klein (VP of Marketing & Communication). I think the team has a huge opportunity in front of them, and it will be exciting to watch their business grow right in our own backyard. I sat down and had coffee at Glass Smith’s Hull Street office so I could learn a little more about their plans. I followed up with a list of questions. Here is what Jordan Jez had to say.
Q: What is Glass Smith and when was it started?
A: Glass Smith offers on-demand phone repair, anytime, anywhere. Blue & I recognized that while many people break their phones each year the repair process is a painful, inconvenient process. We believe that if our phones are mobile, our repairs should be too.We founded in early 2016, spent the first 9 months developing our brand, website, mobile app, testing out tools and parts, and deciding on suppliers. We officially launched our device repair service in Richmond and 6 other markets in September of 2016.
Q: What did you do do before Glass Smith?
A: I recently earned a Bachelor of Science from Appalachian State. My focus was Appropriate Technology which explores applying existing technology to contemporary problems with a focus on renewable energy. That lead to working with Blue at Lumen Energy where we began discussing the concept for Glass Smith.
Q: Where are you from originally?
A: I grew up in the Southside of Richmond and like Blue I’m part of a large family. All of those phones on a single family plan meant plenty of jostling for upgrades and dealing with broken devices. We recognized the need for a better solution and decided to launch here in Richmond both because this is our home but also for the incredible startup ecosystem. We went with local companies for everything. Campfire and Co. developed our beautiful branding and design, Covintus lead our website and app buildout, the Yeomen was responsible for our customer support and help desk, and to top it off we were lucky enough to be part of 2016’s Lighthouse Labs business accelerator cohort.
Q: What type of products does Glass Smith currently provide and do you plan to add new services?
A: We offer on-demand phone repair which means we’ll come directly to the customer to repair phones on-the-spot. We handle cracked and shattered screens, water damage, faulty batteries, home button issues, really any hardware issue you can imagine. For businesses we offer a partnership program which provides a discount to all company-owned devices and extends to employee-owned devices as well. Imagine getting your phone fixed without having to leave the office.
In addition to providing repair service, we’ve developed a Learning Management System to train and certify our independent repair technicians. Our first 8 markets received over 400 applications so we think there is a lot of potential in this gig economy approach while providing resources for a marketable skill.
Q: What are you most proud of in terms of getting started?
A: From idea to launch I’m really proud of how far we’ve come in less than a year. We’ve learned a lot along the way. We’ve run an exhausting number of different digital marketing experiments, switched our parts distributor, and encountered so many obstacles we could never had foreseen and yet we’ve still seen 20-25% week-over-week growth since launch. We’ve got exciting plans for 2017 and are expecting some big things to happen. New growth begets new obstacles which begets new solutions which begets new growth, so we’re proud of where we’ve gotten so far and we’re excited for whats to come.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
A: We initially focused on college markets as our first vertical. While our first assumption that students break their phones often proved correct our second, that they would want quick, easy repairs, turned out to be wrong. Apparently while college kids love convenience and on-demand services, they’re much more price sensitive than we thought. Luckily our business model is agile and mobile so we’ve since pivoted towards working professionals and busy parents who love a service that fits into their busy schedule. In addition we’ve recently developed tiered Business Partnership program to cover company- and employee-owned devices.
Q: Why did you select Manchester for your startup?
A: Manchester is a perfect place for a startup like us. It’s affordable but vibrant, the neighbors are great, we’re walking distance to Plant Zero Cafe, and we have easy access to Downtown Richmond and the interstate. We’re looking forward to growing alongside the Manchester community over the next several year and we plan to stay in this neighborhood as we expand.
Q: Where do you see Glass Smith in 5 years?
A: Frankly, there are no industry leaders in the device repair market. We think our on-demand model and independent network of repair technicians could be an absolute game changer. We’re agile, mobile, low-overhead, and scalable which makes us incredibly competitive and we plan to be in 14 more markets by the end of next year. Uber has revolutionized the taxi and ride-sharing economy and we hope to do the same to device repair. Like Uber we want customers to be able to have a Smith available in every major market within 5 years.