As HBO’s Silicon Valley returns to skewering the tech world this week, the real Silicon Valley is here to remind us that no writer’s room could ever match the tech industry’s ridiculous antics.
For the past couple years, investors have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a startup called Juicero.
The company makes a "smart home" device that squeezes disposable packets of liquified fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into cups. It was billed as the Keurig of the pressed juice market — a curious goal considering that company has floundered for months — and hailed as one of the hottest hardware ventures in the valley.
That is, until Wednesday, when Bloomberg reporters brought up a simple question: Why does one need a web-connected device with a $400 price tag to empty a drink from a bag?
It turns out the Juicero containers can be just as easily prepared by hand as with the dispenser — in fact, sometimes more quickly.
The Juicero is a 400 solution to people who have trouble getting the straw in their Capri Sun
— Jae Bearhat (@fussybabybitch) April 19, 2017
But wait, the company — or rather, "a person close to" the company — told the outlet when confronted with their product’s seeming irrelevance: What about the machine’s state-of-the-art QR code reader that syncs with an online database to ensure ingredients haven’t spoiled or been recalled?
That’s definitely a must-have function, and not at all something that can be learned from a quick glance at the expiration dates printed on the packages.
Investors who spoke anonymously with Bloomberg seem to have also noticed the obvious redundancy. They grumbled that the founder had promised a more groundbreaking invention capable of taking on solid chunks of fruits and veggies.
But a working prototype was never presented when venture capitalists poured $16.5 million into the company in 2014, according to the report. Nor were these flaws apparently addressed when the company pulled in another $100 million over the course of two subsequent funding rounds.
It’s certainly not the first time hyper-competitive investors have pulled out their checkbook before being entirely sure that the concept they are backing is actually plausible.
HBO’s Silicon Valley returns Sunday.