Car posters filled John Gattuso’s room growing up in Virginia, and at an early age he knew he wanted to be an engineer. In high school he excelled in mechanical studies, prompting his parents and teachers to encourage him to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“I don’t know what it was about cars,” Gattuso says. “My dad was not really into cars, nor did he work on them. But I fell in love with them. One of the things that attracted me to Tech was the large number of extracurricular programs that are automotive-oriented.”
Gattuso was president of a car club at Georgia Tech and built several cars. He also became the person family members and friends called when they had a car problem.
“I didn’t mind walking through what was going on,” says Gattuso, now 27. “But I thought there had to be a way to educate people about their cars. Having a car problem is stressful.”
Gattuso got the chance to help during his senior year, when he was enrolled in an entrepreneurship class offered by CREATE-X. The program is for Georgia Tech students who want to launch their ideas into fully functioning and viable startups.
Gattuso worked to develop FIXD, a monitor that plugs into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics II port. The monitor transmits the information in easy-to-understand terms, via Bluetooth, to a driver’s smartphone using an accompanying app. The FIXD app works on Android and iOS devices.
The FIXD monitor can detect most problems connected to the drivetrain, Gattuso says. It works on gas-powered and hybrid vehicles, model year 1996 and newer. All U.S. cars built since 1996 are required to have the port, which always is within two feet of the steering wheel.
Gattuso co-founded Atlanta-based FIXD in 2014 with two friends, Frederick Grimm, 27, who is from North Augusta, South Carolina, and was Gattuso’s roommate at Tech; and Julian Knight, 27, of Atlanta, who was their across-the-hall neighbor.
FIXD features include:
- FIXD will display the reason a check engine light is on, the severity of the problem, and the average cost of the repair.
- The FIXD algorithm determines mileage and displays when maintenance should be done.
- The app can suggest nearby repair and parts shops with good ratings (based on the driver’s phone location settings) and can display the average price for a repair or part.
- Installation of the FIXD monitor can be done in two minutes, with no tools required.
- FIXD will alert the driver if a problem with the vehicle is detected.
There are many more features, and more are in development, says Gattuso, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
“People often worry when they have a car problem and that’s understandable,” Gattuso says. “Many people live paycheck to paycheck. Not knowing if you have a $1,000 problem, or a $100 problem, or a $10 problem can be stressful. We want to give peace of mind.”
Information empowers people, he adds. Car owners are less likely to overpay at a repair shop, and they can avoid making a repair right away if it isn’t necessary.
“Just giving people information they need can help them make an informed decision,” says Gattuso. “People often want to know, ‘Will this problem cause a lot of damage?’ ‘Do I need to stop driving my car?’ ‘Can I wait until I get my paycheck next week?’ One of the most common problems is an evaporative emission leak and often that means your gas cap is loose. The fix can be as simple as tightening your gas cap.”
While at Tech, Gattuso co-oped with General Electric, and his senior year he was offered a job with Chrysler in Detroit. It was a tough call, but his mind was on FIXD.
“I had a good relationship with the recruiter and described my dilemma,” Gattuso says. “They said I should go ahead and start my company and were very encouraging of that.
“My parents were not too keen on me quitting a perfectly good, high-paying job with a great company, but my mother told me to do whatever makes me happy. My grandmother was the one mostly upset. She held that stance a long time. She came around Christmas 2017. I think the fact we had sold a couple hundred thousand of them helped,” Gattuso says.
“She was like, ‘Hey, can you show me how that thing works?’ She wanted one. She got one and used it.”
The private company does not share revenue information, but Gattuso did say the company recently sold its one-millionth FIXD monitor. On the company’s website, a single unit sells for $59 plus shipping and handling. The most popular purchase, the website notes, is a two-pack, where the purchaser buys a monitor at full price and receives a second monitor at 50 percent off.
The monitor is sold online at www.FIXDapp.com, Walmart and Amazon; and at 1,700 Target locations and 500 Best Buy stores.
For now, the FIXD company is located at the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in Midtown Atlanta. ATDC is the state of Georgia’s technology startup incubator, and operated by Georgia Tech. Once companies earn sustained profit for a specified period, they must obtain an independent site.
FIXD is a great example of a company that was born from a student-lead project that leveraged Georgia Tech’s various entrepreneurial services, says John Avery, director of ATDC.
“Of course, the biggest part of the effort remains with the entrepreneur, but these services can bring significant support to early-stage companies to get established by providing experienced coaching, connections and investment. It’s exciting to see how far FIXD has come in such a short time. They are a very talented team and we are very happy to be working with them. “
FIXD hopes to locate nearby when the time comes, and perhaps be of help to others who take the entrepreneurial path. In the meantime, the co-founders plan to grow the company’s retail presence and develop new features.
“Our goal is to take drivers from the moment they have a problem, to the moment it is repaired,” Gattuso says. “We want to walk them through that whole experience and remove any sort of headache they have.”