Juicero: When silicon valley gets it wrong

Juicero: When silicon valley gets it wrong

We’ve all heard of those lucky venture capitalists or investors who got in early with the likes of startups such as Facebook and Snapchat. But what about those who aren’t as fortunate?

Like those poor suckers who just invested in Juicero.

The juice machine maker, likened by some in Silicon Valley as the next Tesla or Apple (lol get it?) attracted a whopping USD $120 million in venture capital from the likes of Google Ventures and Campbell’s Soup.

So what makes a Juicer worth $120 million? Well Juicero isn’t just your normal juicer… remember this is Silicon Valley! Juicero is a subscription based internet connected smartphone app controlled organic juicing machine!

To help put things further into context the company was founded by Doug Evans, who has somewhat of a colourful past. Not only does Doug claim the lofty title of a “raw vegan evangelist”, he’s also previously referred to himself as the “Steve Job’s of the juicing market”. Need we say no more…

But check out the video to see how it works in detail:

I’m assuming Doug is joking about having juice “literally” running through his veins, but either way Juicero looks cool right? I’d buy one. And investors agreed, tipping the company to disrupt the juice market as we know it.

However there was one small problem. The machine is completely and utterly useless.

According to a report last week by Bloomberg, apparently you don’t actually need a $399 machine to squeeze the juice out of the packet. Rather you can just use your hands. Kind of embarrassing for a company that just spent $120m on product development right?

The year’s not even over yet, but I’m calling it. Welcome to the most pointless product of 2017.

The internet loves a bit of good old schadenfreude and the reaction from consumers and investors has been utterly brutal. Especially given the price for a kitchen appliance that effectively does nothing.

Some have even called the company a downright scam.

A Juicero will currently cost you USD$399, which is about $527 in Australian dollars (it was originally released at $699 then downgraded). I have no idea if this expensive for a juicer or not, but a quick 2 minute scan of Harvey Norman’s latest catalogue shows that an average Juicer is roughly about $300. This definitely puts Juicero in the very premium end of kitchen appliances.

But then there is the ingredients. Forget buying fresh fruit from Woolworths or Coles. You’ll need to sign up to Juciero’s subscription model where pre-made juice satchels are delivered to your door at a cost of about $6 to $10 each. I wanted to compare this to other cold press juice prices, so I searched for the most expensive and pretentious cafe I could find. Fortunately this was in Manly so I didn’t have to look far. A similar sized takeaway organic juice only cost $8.

That’s the same average price for a Juicero? And I didn’t even need a $399 machine to make it.

Oh and did we mention that Juicero needs to be constantly connected to Wi-Fi to work? The machine receives “real-time” updates and reads QR codes on the packet. Good luck if you try to use an expired juice packet as the machine won’t juice it. Even more the reason to to squeeze it with your hands.

Juicero went on the defensive, releasing a statement from CEO Jeff Dunn. I honestly only made it halfway through the statement before I lost interest. It waffles on and there’s a whole heap of marketing mumbo jumbo about how the machine adds to the “great experience” and helps “close the loop”. And Juicero has announced that any dissatisfied customers can return their machines within 30 days for a full refund.

But this whole saga raises a few questions. Why would a company release a $399 juicer that effectively doesn’t do anything? Are consumers stupid enough to buy it? Does a juice company really need a $120 venture capital investment to disrupt the juice market? Is Doug Evans a revolutionary or eccentric nut job?

Juicero isn’t necessarily a bad product nor does Evans appear to be a bad entrepreneur (at least we think). They’re just out of touch with the consumer. Juicing is messy and time consuming, Juicero’s purpose was to try and solve this. But the end product misses the mark. A “subscription based internet connected smartphone app controlled organic juicer” is Silicon Valley at it’s worst. It’s indulgent and unnecessarily.

Juicero highlights a current problem with Silicon Vally venture capital. VC’s can get over excited by anything with the mere suggestion that it can disrupt an existing market. They chase deals and pay absurdly overvalued amounts for companies that bring little value to consumers.

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But for all the machine’s problems, our hats go off to Juicero for at least creating recyclable bags. Unlike Nespresso’s instant coffee machines which create a large amount of non-recyclable plastic waste, Juciero’s juice bags are 100% recyclable. Just simply mail-in your used bag free of charge.

We hope you’re taking notes Nespresso.

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