Editor’s note: This is another in an occasional look at technology businesses operating in San Luis Obispo County.
Kyle Wiens likes to help people “fix their stuff,” whether it’s a cracked iPod or a broken toaster oven.
In 2003, Wiens, then a Cal Poly student, and fellow engineering student Luke Soules launched iFixit.com. The online community sells do-it-yourself repair kits for such electronic gadgets as iPads and iPods, and offers free repair guides for items as diverse as computer equipment and vehicles to customers around the world. In turn, one of iFixit’s goals is to save the planet from electronic waste by keeping discarded equipment out of landfills.
Nine years later, the San Luis Obispo-based company has a new division, Dozuki, a software startup that allows customers to create their own interactive, visual online repair manuals and contribute suggestions to a larger Web-based community.
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The idea is to provide instruction manuals that teach people how to do things in a user-friendly way and in a more attractive format, said Wiens, chief executive officer. That can result in greater efficiency for businesses.
“When you’re teaching people how to do things, photos work so much better,” he said. “It’s a more intuitive way of learning. We learned with iFixit that the faster and easier it is to fix something, the more people will do it and the fewer errors they’ll have. With factories, if they are using our instructions on the assembly line, there are fewer errors and fewer quality problems, and that saves them a lot of money.”
Dozuki was launched in April; so far it’s being used by a host of businesses and organizations, including Lezyne, Micron, Green Table Network, Improve International and O’Reilly.
“Cal Poly’s mechanical engineering labs are using it to train students to use equipment, and a veterinary clinic in the United Kingdom is using it to help train surgeons,” Wiens said.
While Wiens is confident that Dozuki will continue to flourish, finding local talent remains a challenge. The company relies heavily on Cuesta and Cal Poly graduates, but it’s often difficult to find graduates proficient in Web design, said Wiens, who is talking with university professors about the need.
Another challenge for tech companies such as iFixit is that the county lacks large commercial spaces necessary to house growing tech firms and does not have enough of a fiber-optic cable network to power such businesses, Wiens said.
Even so, he remains committed to growing his and other tech business in the community. The company teaches at local tech events and helps to encourage business incubators such as the SLO HotHouse.
“We’re excited to see the local tech ecosystem grow, and it would be beneficial for us to have 10 other companies like iFixit come out of Poly’s incubator program.”
iFixit.com, with a new division, Dozuki
Annual revenues/profits: Wiens said iFixit is profitable and Dozuki is on its way “to being profitable.” In 2010, the company reported $4.1 million in revenues, according to Inc.com, an online business magazine. It has never accepted outside funding.