Luke Cooper is the founder and CEO of Fixt, which he calls the “Uber for device replacement.” When a smartphone, tablet, or other device stops working, Fixt allows users to push a button and receive offsite repair in 30 minutes, onsite repair in 1 hour, or a full replacement in 12 hours. The Fixt.co platform also offers detailed device repair analytics and enterprise-level cybersecurity. The company aims to change how consumers and businesses think about retail insurance. Formerly known as Peach, Fixt changed its name last month, November, 2015.
Have you always considered yourself an entrepreneur? Tell us about some of your early experiences.
LUKE COOPER: So what happened to me as a young man that set the foundation for what I would become as an entrepreneur? All those things happened to me when I was 12 years old. There were three things that were sort of critical to my growth and development and foundation as a young man. The first thing was, unfortunately, my dad went away to prison for 20 years. We lived in one of the worst housing projects in the northwest, and not a lot of people made it out of that. He certainly couldn’t escape that. So, a very critical moment for me as a young 12-year-old boy.
But my mom just knew exactly how to balance that out. The way that she did that was one day she got us up at 5:00 in the morning, and took us on a tiny Cessna airplane. It was the first time I’d ever flown—the second time she’d ever flown—and we toured parts of Connecticut and New York. For the first time in my life, I saw that where I was and was not. I saw who I was. I later learned in life that if asked a question, much later, on “how did she do that?”—like, we had no money; we were living in the projects—she told me one day that, basically, the week before that she walked over to the airfield found one of the pilots, and just asked them—she said, “Can you give a struggling family this experience? It was insightful for me because it showed me where I get my gumption from. People who know me in sales circles or just personally know I’m very muscular in that same way.
The last thing that happened to me when I was 12 years old was participation in a group called NFTE—National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. I built these solar power microwaves, and I cooked something in one and I won my Business Plan and Sign competition at my school. That gave me healthy self-esteem for the first time in my life.
Where did you get the idea for Fixt?
Fixt really came out of the idea that we could revolutionize insurance for good. The problem with insurance is that it just doesn’t function in the way that it should. It functions less like a restaurant and more like traditional business. In our minds, it should function like a restaurant. You see a restaurant, you like the restaurant, you take a look at it, you sit down, you have a great dinner. If the meal is good, if the service is good, then you pay and you tip and you’ve gotten great service. Unfortunately, in insurance you pay, pay, pay. And typically at the end of that experience you have a bad claim experience when something goes wrong. We wanted to change that and flip the paradigm by making it super easy to get the help you need right when you need it. Fixt really came out of that idea.
One day, the actual idea for tying diagnostics into all that we do, was an experience that I had in Boulder. I was on a bus and I dropped my phone. Everyone around me on the bus sort of gasped and said, “Oh my God.” You know, it was just torn by the fact that I could have broken my phone in half, and I thought in the minute between the time I looked at everyone’s face and went to go pick my phone: “What if when I turn the phone over I could give them some comfort that everything’s okay?” I began to toy with that idea, and that was really the genesis of how we wanted to deliver our core services.
You started the company in Boulder. What drew you from there to here?
It was a tough decision. I think places—Boulder and, you know, lots of places in the country—offer lots of things to young entrepreneurs, but Baltimore is a very special place. It’s where my family is and where there’s an opportunity to do something really incredible, in two ways. The first and foremost: there’s just all this hidden talent that’s around town that just gets ignored everyday. I think that there’s this incredible promise in the young men and women in this town, in ways that I think to many people who saw me when I was a 12-year-old boy—you know, I see the same promise here.
In other ways, in the tech community specifically and the angel investment community, I think it’s burgeoning. I think there’s a lot of opportunity and promise for young entrepreneurs to do something great here as well. It’s a city that gets forgotten about quite a bit, but there are people who are really keenly focused on helping Baltimore get to the next level of growth. I was very fortunate to have mentors and advisors and investors like John Commack and Newt Fowler and others that were very instrumental in convincing us to stay here in Baltimore and forgo the opportunity to go to sunny Boulder.
How did you get to Baltimore originally?
How’d I get to Baltimore? I got here in a 1990 Honda Accord. I was just graduating law school, went to Syracuse, and I had job opportunities in New York City and Connecticut at two different firms. I just wasn’t excited about either one of those opportunities. A good friend of mine, Gavin Bramble—he’s from Baltimore—he was graduating law school at the same time. I’ve known him since college. He said, “Luke, why don’t you just come to Baltimore?” I was 23. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. I said, “Okay, great. I’ll just come.” I packed up everything I had and put it into this green 1990 Honda Accord and I drove down to Baltimore. I lived at his house at 1800 Madison Avenue for the first year I was here.