Back in 2014, a fledging new startup with a song in its heart and highly dubious nutritional science in its soul, received an estimated $120 million in VC funding. Juicero was founded by Doug Evans, a man with a passion for organic groceries (see above regarding dubious nutritional science) and DRM-laden bagjuice. Now, that beautiful dream is dead. Juicero has announced it intends to exit the lucrative juice-squeezing market and will focus on finding someone interested in buying the company.
The company first launched its $700 juice-squeezer in March, 2016 but later trimmed the price to $400 in January of 2017. Juicero’s claim to fame was its ability to squeeze juice packs (also purchased from Juicero). Each pack had a QR code, each expired after ~8 days, and the machine wouldn’t squeeze juice from an “expired” pack. You know that orange juice in the back of your fridge that’s nearly old enough to drive? It’s full of toxins or something. Such plebian efforts simply would not do for Silicon Valley’s best and brightest.
Juicero made headlines earlier this year when cutting-edge reporting revealed that customers could squeeze Juicero’s juice packs with their bare hands, extracting almost exactly as much fluid (and, one presumes, all that great fluidic nutrition, unless negative ions in the epidermis accidentally counter the positive ions streaming from the tired sack of semi-smashed carrot). The “Infomercial Hands” video Juicero uploaded to counteract this reporting is worth watching in its own right, particularly if you consider it as a work of Dadaist art.
Ironically, the most eye-grabbing “feature” of the Juicero is probably the most justified. It’s not exactly hard to make people roll their eyes at the idea that you need a $700 (or $400) juice-squeezer — but a meticulous teardown of the Juicero itself actually showed that the hardware probably was extremely expensive.
Over at Bolt, Ben Einstein took the device apart, calling it “[A]n incredibly complicated piece of engineering. Of the hundreds of consumer products I’ve taken apart over the years, this is easily among the top 5 percent on the complexity scale.”
Imagine you were launching a product and needed to build something inexpensive, simple, and easy to scale so that you could move it into mass production more quickly once it took off. Now, imagine that you did everything 100 percent exactly wrong. That’s more-or-less what the Juicero is. It has a custom power supply, a custom motor, custom-machined aluminum components, a custom gearbox — custom everything, basically.
Einstein estimates that up to 50 percent of the BOM (Bill of Materials) cost of the hardware may have gone for custom machined parts. There are 10 custom injection-molded parts in the components that collectively keep the door closed. He writes, presciently: “Juicero spent $120M over two years to build a complex supply chain and perfectly engineered product that is too expensive for their target demographic.”
And according to CEO Jeff Dunn’s letter, that’s exactly what happened. He writes:
In order to fulfill our mission, we announced last month that we would shift our resources to focus on lowering the price of the Press and Produce Packs. We began identifying ways that we could source, manufacture and distribute at a lower cost to consumers.
During this process, it became clear that creating an effective manufacturing and distribution system for a nationwide customer base requires infrastructure that we cannot achieve on our own as a standalone business. We are confident that to truly have the long-term impact we want to make, we need to focus on finding an acquirer with an existing national fresh food supply chain who can carry forward the Juicero mission.
Elsewhere, Dunn tries to claim that Juicero’s flash-in-the-pan proves there’s a market for hassle-free cold-press juicing. But to say this misses the point: There was no market for $400 ultra-customized cold press juicers that required DRM bagjuice that went bad after eight days. There never will be. It turns out that the Keurig 2.0 model doesn’t work, and there’s a limit to how much BS even Silicon Valley is willing to fund.
By Joel Hruska on September 4, 2017 at 9:55 am