Back in 2014, the San Francisco start-up; Juicero, secured $120 million in funding for their product, by presenting a 3D printed version of their ‘high-tech’ juicer. The investors, some of whom now want to remain anonymous, must have been really impressed with the concept considering there was no working prototype in the pitch. Can you see where we’re going with this article?
Digital First aren’t a one-sided organisation and we love to analyse both sides of the story before we make our opinion. However, the research into Juicero is an exception. Let’s find out why…
What makes a juicer raise millions? Juicero’s concept was simple; everyone is too busy nowadays to prep for a healthy juice and don’t even think about cleaning the machine after. Their solution was a machine that squeezed packets of fresh fruit & veg into a smooth drink for everyone to enjoy.
The founder of the company, Doug Evans, quoted that the machine produced enough force to lift two Teslas. The juicer itself was originally priced at $700 but changed to a more ‘affordable’ $400 when launched to market. The fruit and veg packs ranged between $5 - $8 and they were delivered to the customers door through a weekly subscription service. This was the clincher; investors loved the business strategy where a one-time purchase of a piece of hardware ends up in repeating purchases of consumable packages. Relevant examples like Nespresso and Dollar Shave Club made funding in these venture capitals easy. Therefore, Juicero was one of the top funded US hardware start-ups in 2016.
After gaining more funding from top organisations like Google Ventures, the company launched in 2016. It was celebrated in the start-up industry; New York Times even provided a flattering profile on them. However, this wouldn’t last long…
Jeff Dunn replaced Doug Evans when the company gained traction, as he was a former President at Coca Cola, and he would be the one that could help Juicero stand out in the food and beverage sector. Jeff released a statement to Medium in April 2017, just as rumours festered saying that the juice packets could be squeezed by hand and achieve the same results. Here’s what he had to say:
"You won’t experience that value by hand-squeezing Produce Packs, which to be clear, contain nothing but fresh, raw, organic chopped produce, not juice."
However, the public didn’t buy this and tried this for themselves. Bloomberg was one of the companies to record their results, read their full article here. They found that hands were quicker, but the device was slightly more thorough. Bloomberg hand squeezed 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half, whereas the machine generated 8 ounces in about two minutes.
Jeff Dunn tried to combat this spreading issue by stating that Juicero had other properties too:
Basically, if a product is recalled or the pack is out of date, the IoT connected device will be fed this information. The consumer will be fed this information via Juicero’s app and it will also not produce the drink. Sounds handy right? But there’s a sell by date printed on the packs, so you can just look for yourself. Also, making this device IoT poses the risk of users being hacked whilst raising another concern; if your Wi-Fi is down, can you still make the juice? The final criticism the company faced was that the fruit packs could only be shipped to selected states, so if you lived to far from their headquarters you couldn’t have their product due to the ‘raw’ ingredients and short shelf life.
The beauty of the internet and free speech called this out and on September the 1st 2017, Juicero released a statement that they were suspending manufacturing and issuing refunds as:
it became clear that creating an effective manufacturing and distribution system for a nationwide customer base requires infrastructure that we cannot achieve on our own as a standalone business
They vaguely stated that they want to create a long-term impact and can clearly see that there is a demand for the product, but they need to go away and work on another route to take.
Digital First love innovation and new ideas that make life that little bit easier, but companies nowadays are seeing this trend and are trying to profit with unnecessary ideas. The success of Juicero is a symbol of how absurd The Silicon Valley has become; funds are being raised to help businesses provide solutions to non-problems.
We say go ahead and be innovative but learn from the Juicero story.