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Austin Lucas, the founder and CEO of Elite Obsolete Electronics, has both participated in and monetized the iPod repair market. Lucas sources parts for iPods, lists them on his online store, and ships them to buyers all around the United States. Additionally, he modifies and repairs iPods that are pre-built in his Kansas City office and shipped to eager buyers. But how exactly did Lucas build an entire business based upon decades-old technology? The answers may surprise you.
Lucas had a passion for technology and self-repair early on in his life. “When I was a kid, I loved technology and iPods obviously, but I would always mess around with computers,” Lucas said. “I built my own computer when I was in seventh grade.”
Some may go their entire life without opening consumer electronics once, yet Lucas began this hobby before starting high school. He wasn’t content with just building the occasional personal computer and saw a vision of using this hobby as a potential career. By the end of high school he had taken the steps to make this a reality.
“By the time I was a senior in high school I had gotten my first job as a professional repair technician at a walk-in shop; I fixed iPhones, iPads, Macs — really whatever came in through the door you'd take a look at and see if you could fix [it]. I worked that job, for multiple companies, for about four years while I was in college working part time (full time in the summers).”
Again, Lucas saw another opportunity make use of his technical prowess. This time, it involved one of his first passions in the field of technology—the Apple iPod. Lucas’ childhood was spent “watching iPod keynotes,” and he realized that “a lot of people have a soft spot for iPods.”
Unfortunately, passions and hobbies can only propel a business so far; there has to be a market for the product as well. Suprisingly, despite most iPods being decades old in 2021, there was a market—and a big one at that. Lucas recalls, “I would notice that people would come in with these iPods, asking if we would fix them. Just to put a new battery in, the simplest of the simple repair, and we would turn them away.”
For a period of time, Lucas continued sending potential customers away. At the time, even he thought that “they were really difficult to open.” Once again, however, his desire to pursue greater interests in technology continued. Lucas explains, “One day it clicked with me that, around the country everyday thousands of people are walking in for an [iPod] repair and they're being refused a repair and being told to buy one online. I thought, wow, that is a huge market.”
The Mission of Elite Obsolete Electronics
Lucas says this realization “encapsulate[s] the spirit of Elite Obsolete [Electronics] as a whole.” When every other repair shop refuses to repair or source parts for an ‘obsolete’ product, Elite Obsolete Electronics, with Austin Lucas at the helm, is there to help. The “huge market” that catalyzed Lucas’ entrepreneurship into the realm of iPods surprised even Lucas himself.
“I was surprised to see that there was a pretty big market for iPods from people in their 40's. They've been using an iPod for over a decade and they have built up a library on iTunes, and the easiest solution for them when their old [iPod] breaks is to go buy a new one, not being bothered by iTunes or Apple Music or Spotify.”
Lucas Focuses On Elite Obsolete Full-Time
Throughout this entire journey, from middle school hobbyist to professional repair technician, absent is a formal education. In his own words, Lucas says “I did not have any formal education, as far as being a repair technician, that was all self-taught. I didn't even go to business school—I dropped out of college to pursue [Elite Obsolete Electronics] full-time.”
Many would see this—dropping out of college to pursue decades-old technology—as a big risk. It is, but it paid off. “That was almost two years ago, that I've been doing this full time,” Lucas said. “[I'm] fully self-funded, haven't even taken out a loan. It's been a one-man job this whole time.”
The Future of Elite Obsolete Electronics
The relatively early success has allowed him to explore other opportunities in technology and expand his company. He explains, “I've tried a handful of other ventures, but I decided to keep my hands full with iPods, [it's] just what I do best.” Longer-term, however, Lucas has bigger plans. “In the summer, I'm planning on expanding from the one-person job it is right now to branching out and going 'full-on' in those other ventures.”
Repairability in Modern Technology
The technology sect of mainstream media paints the ‘right to repair’ as the sole issue in third-party repair. According to Lucas, a repair technician himself, this isn’t so important. He continued, “There's a certain ruling by the Supreme Court that allows me to do what I do. It's the second sale doctrine.” For those who may not be familiar with this doctrine, it is the principle upheld by the Supreme Court that allows consumers to buy, modify, and sell products secondhand. Lucas, in his own words, calls this the “underlying backbone to the entire industry.”
Despite the fear that modern advancements will prevent others from modifying future vintage technology, the industry is confident it will adapt. Lucas claims, “As the market evolves, I'm sure that the skills necessary to make money in that market will also evolve.”
Why Independent Repair is Crucial to Technology
Especially in a field as sophisticated as technology, there is always value in obsolete products. Austin Lucas has found a way to both profit off of these products and bring broken ones to life by founding Elite Obsolete Electronics. Every time a vintage product is reclaimed, one less product ends up as e-waste in a landfill. Despite the potential pitfalls, Lucas is confident that creative technicians like himself will find new uses for vintage technology.
Check out Elite Obsolete Electronics for yourself at eoe.works.