Sometimes, it’s the Internet of stings.
Juicero, a startup that sells a pricey juice press, found that out firsthand. The company’s Wi-Fi-enabled machine produces cold-pressed juice out of packets sold exclusively to owners via subscription.
Received as both Silicon Valley cautionary tale and commentary on conspicuous consumption, Juicero’s story was chronicled this week in a Bloomberg News piece.
The article pointed out how the original pitch — specialty juice, at home, by way of the Internet of things — excited venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Major investors, including Google’s venture capital arm, poured money into founder Doug Evans’ idea, wagering the subscription model could strike gold like it did with Dollar Shave Club.
In all, the company raised some $120 million.
But Bloomberg says investors’ confidence waned once it emerged that people didn’t actually need the press to get juice from the packets but could simply squeeze it out by hand.
And it says there were other revelations:
“[A]fter the product’s introduction last year, at least two Juicero investors were taken aback after finding the packs could be squeezed by hand. They also said the machine was much bigger than what Evans had proposed. One of the investors said they were frustrated with how the company didn’t deliver on the original pitch and that their venture firm wouldn’t have met with Evans if he were hawking bags of juice that didn’t require high-priced hardware. Juicero didn’t broadly disclose to investors or employees that packs can be hand squeezed, said four people with knowledge of the matter.”
A video accompanying the article showed that hand-squeezing the packets produces roughly the same amount of juice as the machine, which initially retailed for $700.
The price has since been lowered to $400. Even so, the costly contraption elicited a fair amount of Internet snark.
On Thursday, Juicero’s CEO offered a full-fledged defense of his company’s product and offered refunds to “any Juicero customer — new or old — who feels that we aren’t making it easier, more enjoyable and delicious to form a healthy habit.”
Writing on the blog site Medium, Jeff Dunn also highlighted several points he said showed that “the value of Juicero is more than a glass of cold-pressed juice. Much more.”
Dunn touted the device’s connectivity. He said, for example, that the juice bag’s QR codes allowed the company to remotely intervene in case of a product recall.
“We know hacking consumer products is nothing new. But how can we better demonstrate the incredible value we know our connected system delivers?” Dunn wrote.
He also advised against hand-squeezing the company’s juice: “What you will get with hand-squeezed hacks is a mediocre (and maybe very messy) experience that you won’t want to repeat once, let alone every day.”
For his part, Evans has been silent since the chorus began.
The Juicero founder, who admits he isn’t tech-savvy, at one time pushed the Juicero as a game-changer.
“I said, ‘I’m going to do what Steve [Jobs] did,’ ” Evans told tech news site Recode last year. ” ‘I’m going to take the mainframe computer and create a personal computer. I’m going to take a mainframe juice press and create a personal juice press.’ ”
Prior to launching Juicero, Evans had invested in a cold-press juice shop in Brooklyn, N.Y.