Juicero: The Pulpy Silicon Valley Parody That Wasn’tWant a shot of wheatgrass with that b.s.?
This story from The New York Times’ Sunday edition reads like a spoof on a particular blend of preciousness, entitlement and utter disconnection with reality—plus a hefty dose of venture capital to potentiate the mix—that’s all too common in Silicon Valley.
It’s the mind-boggling tale of how one man, inculcated into the world of juicing during a relationship with a vegan, managed to take the already-evangelical juicing culture to absurd new levels while raising staggering amounts of cash. Introducing Juicero—the gadgetized, ridiculously complicated, bespoke juicer for the Tesla set.
It is also one of those articles that provides its own commentary in the telling (it’s also a couple days overdue to be April Fool’s material). To wit:
And then there is Doug Evans’s brainchild. With no experience running tech companies and a bungled juice-bar chain under his belt, he has extracted a remarkable $120 million in investments from Silicon Valley titans, including Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and big companies like Campbell Soup.
His pitch: a $700 machine that makes an eight-ounce glass of juice.
Mr. Evans is a raw-food evangelist, although “occasionally I eat steamed vegetables, to not be dogmatic,” he said. He wears shoes made of hemp. But even as Silicon Valley retreats from its recent boom, this unlikely entrepreneur has persuaded top investors to throw their money at one of the most enigmatic start-ups in years.
His company, Juicero, opens for business this week. But what is it?
Is it a juice-ordering app? Is it just another kitchen-counter contraption? Or is it a 111,000-square-foot food-processing factory, staffed by dozens of hourly workers, washing and slicing up fruits and vegetables in Los Angeles?
It is all of these things. “It’s the most complicated business that I’ve ever funded,” said David Krane, a partner at GV, formerly Google Ventures. “It’s software. It’s consumer electronics. It’s produce and packaging.”
Turns out Juicero sprang from the ashes of a former company Evans started with a former girlfriend. After both of those chapters concluded, Evans was left bereft … of his juice:
In 2012, Mr. Evans and Ms. Mari, who are separated but remain friends, sold a majority interest in Organic Avenue to a private equity firm. Shortly after that, both were ousted. (The company was eventually sold to another private equity firm, which shuttered all the stores.)
Upon being fired, Mr. Evans said, he had a problem. “For me, I was just wondering: How am I going to get my juice?” he said.
He bought every juicer he could find, but he was never satisfied. “It didn’t have the magic that I was accustomed to.
So he resolved to create a miniaturized version of the industrial presses he had used at Organic Avenue. Working with freelance welders and machinists, he built prototypes in his Brooklyn kitchen. By 2013, he had a working model, albeit one that occasionally blew apart, sending pieces of metal and food scraps flying across the room.
He approached Ms. Mari and some of the original backers of Organic Avenue, who invested enough money for him to keep going. “Then I got an introduction to a partner at Kleiner Perkins through a vegan fashion designer who knew someone at the Humane Society who knew them,” Mr. Evans said.
Isn’t that just how it all starts, though? Despite how venture capital has slowed to a relative trickle in recent months, Juicero is just getting revved up, even becoming the preferred pulverized liquid nutrition delivery system of the fancy French cafe chain Le Pain Quotidien.
Et voilà—starting this week, for the low-low price of $700, health-conscious consumers can throw in a “pouch that resembles an IV bag” (cost: $4 to $10) and work Juicero’s magic with the help of a smartphone app, a robust Wi-Fi connection, and, as the paper put it in what could be the most significant extract from the whole article, “an army of workers slicing fruits and vegetables in very particular ways.”
Still want a shot of wheatgrass with that b.s.? Meet Juicero.
—Posted by Kasia AndersonWait, before you go…
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