Indeed, Dr. Raffi Amit, professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Wharton eBusiness Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that hybrid companies providing both online and offline assistance have the best chance of survival. "I think the companies that will win here are the ones that are able to properly integrate [an] online and offline help desk," Amit predicts.
Even companies that provide online help have expanded their businesses beyond the support market. Andreas von Blottnitz, president and CEO of Expertcity Inc., says his Santa Barbara, California, company focuses on its screen-sharing technology, which allows users to view each other's screens over the Internet. Blottnitz, 35, says it's not much different from what other companies do on a regular basis. "You're a company [like] Goodyear," he says. "Goodyear not only focuses on cars, [but] also make tires for airplanes and bicycles. They focus on tires, but they are in different industries. The same is true for us."
O'Shea concurs that tech support must be just one part of your business if you want to make a profit. "I wouldn't want to say that tech support in and of itself is not worth going into," he says. "It's a good way to make your name [and] a way to brand yourself, but it's not necessarily what you want to be completely dependent on for your income."
With major players like TechKnow-How.com, SafeHarbor Technology Corp. and Attenza already vying for the help-desk market, newcomers need to either develop the right partnerships or create a compelling technology. Contends O'Shea, "If there were some type of technology out there that was really advanced where they could solve some of the more advanced problems, that would surely get a little bit of press, not to mention [that] it would attract the more novice users and [the] more savvy user."
So before your face turns red from swearing at your ailing PC, relax. Breathe deeply. Think of all the people out there facing similar problems. Then think of all the money you could make by helping them. Smile. And buy yourself a Macintosh.