Friday April 21, 2017

How Juicero Evolved from IoT Tech Investment Darling to Mockery of Human Laziness

Juicero is the latest Internet of Things (IoT) device to catch flak from not only the press and public, but also the very investors that backed the startup. The device is touted as a juicer that squeezes bags of fruits and vegetables with more force than necessary to lift the weight of two Tesla cars. The catch is that the content of the bags that are placed into the machine contains the finely shredded pulp of fruits and vegetables. So all the machine effectively does is squeeze these bags of pulp to extract the juice into a cup. Bloomberg showed how using the power of ancient tools called human hands with appendages identified as fingers and opposable thumbs, the "juicing" time is significantly reduced. Needless to say investors are not happy with this revelation. The saving grace for the company is that the formerly $700 Juicero machine has been reduced to $400 and you can only order the juice bags if you are registered as owning a machine.

Some investors are still wowed by the machine after figuring out on their own that the packs can be squeezed by hand. "There is no doubt the packs can be squeezed without the machine," Doug Chertok said. "I’m still a huge fan." Commercial customers who paid a $1,200 premium for a machine still hope that the company will sell the bags of juice separate from the machine to attract more customers. I would love to know what investors Alphabet (Google), Kobe Bryant, and others think of possible ROI from this venture.

So what made these business luminaries invest into such a questionable business model? The power of success from other venture capitalist fund projects such as Dollar Shave Club and Nespresso, combined with the desire to find the next big thing, seems to have been the culprit. Also they invested heavily into the machine after being shown 3D-printed renderings of the product without ever seeing a working prototype. Another criticism of the machine is it's immense bulk compared to the 3D-printed renders. Business Insider found that the company is now offering refunds if you mail your machine back to them. The new CEO Jeff Dunn has an article up on Medium explaining why his machine is still revolutionary.

Evans, 50, follows a diet of mostly raw, vegan foods. Technology was a new thing for him, but he picked it up quickly. He said he spent about three years building a dozen prototypes before devising Juicero’s patent-pending press. In an interview with technology website Recode, he likened his work to the invention of a mainstream personal computer by Apple’s Jobs. "There are 400 custom parts in here," Evans told Recode. "There’s a scanner; there’s a microprocessor; there’s a wireless chip, wireless antenna." In fundraising meetings, Evans promised a revolutionary machine capable of squeezing large chunks of fruits and vegetables, said two people who agreed to invest in the company. Evans secured funding in 2014 by showing 3D-printed renderings of the product without a working prototype, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they signed nondisclosure agreements.