Friday, April 21, 2017

Humans 1, IoT 0

Juicero is a heftily-backed little company that makes something called a juice machine. Well, I’ve got a blender, and that’s juice machine enough for me. But my blender is not part of the Internet of Things (IoT), so there’s obviously a lot I’m missing out on. My blender, however, does a number of handy things, like chop, whip, and  puree. And since I have neither the need nor the desire to order it around when I’m not in its presence, I guess I’m good with my old-fashioned blender. Plus when I want juice, mostly what I do is go to the fridge and take out whatever juice I have at the moment, which is apt to be orange, or grape, or apple, or cranberry.

But the Juicero juice machine, which costs $400 (over $300 more than the cost of my blender), is not just about any old juice. It’s a transformative device, and what it transforms (by squeezing) are:

…single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage. (Source: Bloomberg).

Well, refreshing and healthy both sound good. But why does it need it to be part of the good old I of T? Glad that you asked that question. The Juicero is all connected up so that it can read the code on the single-serving packet, check it against an online database, and let you know if the contents have expired or been recalled. Golly, that’s a swell idea. How many times have you looked up and down to find the expiration date on something? They print those in the damnedest places. But here’s Juicero, thinking outside of the juice box so that they can give us a head’s up that our chopped fruits and vegetables are expired and, thus, might not be as refreshing and healthy as one might have desired. Or as Gwyneth Paltrow might have desired, since, it will come as no surprise, she’s a big fan of Juicero founder Doug Evans, who prior to Juicero owned of a chain of juice bars that sold cold-pressed juice. In glass jars, natch.

Anyway, what Juicero does is provide consumers with a weekly supply of bags full of triple-washed and chopped fruits and veggies. (According to their web site, “each plant has a specific chop.” Gwyneth, I’m quite sure, would approve.) Consumers run it through the Juicero squeeze box, and voila: a glass full of cold and healthy.

Juicero has been dubbed the Keurig of juice, and that’s a subscription, razor/razorblade model that investors like. In the case of Juicero, investors including Google’s VC wing and Kleiner Perkins put $120M into the company.

But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands.

And you can squeeze your bags faster than the Juicero machine, although with a small loss of yield.

Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half. The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes.

Sort of like John Henry, the steel-driving man who beat the steam-powered hammer. Except that John Henry died in the process, and squeezers presumably live to enjoy their cuppa.

Juicero maintains that its customers “prefer to use the machine because the process is more consistent and less messy.” Four hundred dollars worth of consistency and less mess. Okay. And don’t forget the IoT.

Founder Evans has:

…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.”

400 custom parts – a buck per part! The human hand has only 29 bones and 34 muscles. Even times two, that’s a lot fewer parts than the Juicero has. So you’d think that the Juicero would go a little faster, wouldn’t you? (As for that comparison to the invention of the mainstream PC? RFLMAO. Or am I just suffering from a paucity of imagination in that I can’t see a future in which almost every home has an IoT juicer in it?)

Anyway:

Juicero didn’t broadly disclose to investors or employees that packs can be hand squeezed, said four people with knowledge of the matter.

Apparently none of them thought to try it for themselves. So some of them are a bit teed off.

Me? I’m with Kurt Jetta,

…who runs retail and consumer data firm Tabs Analytics. “Entrepreneurs may be tempted to have a technology angle when it’s not really there.”

Technology in search of a problem to solve, anyone?

Meanwhile, the product – the packs cost $5 to $8, which seems like a lot for a glass of juice, even before you factor in the machine cost (and they won’t sell you the packs if you don’t buy a juicer) – is only available in 17 states, none of which is Massachusetts.

Packs can’t be shipped long distances because the contents are perishable.

Now that’s what I call a flaw in the model.

Anyway, for $400, plus the cost of the packets, I could have had a V-8. A lot of them.

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A Pink Slip squeeze of affection to my sister Trish for pointing this story my way, and for suggesting the title.

2 comments:

Frederick Wright said...

I love the trend of building internet/bluetooth connectivity into everyday objects that simply don't need them. It is the single clearest sign that this gadget or appliance is of no use to me whatsoever. That $120 million investment was basically a BET against the common sense of the average idiot american consumer.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - You are spot on. Some consumer IoT apps make sense - home heating and cooling, home security, fitness tracking - but most are nuts. And this $120M one is nuttier than most.