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[dupe] Juicero founder defends machine (bbc.com)
40 points by planetjones 37 days ago | hide | past | web | 56 comments | favorite

previous discussion of the response this article talks about: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14160191

what is going on with all this coverage of a tiny company with an expensive product? is there some kind of media conspiracy going on? I'm legit asking. This story is now running in like 10 different high traffic media sites in the last 24 hours and I had literally never heard of it before this morning. Nor do I care.

so can someone clue me in? it smells like there's some weird behind-the-scenes manipulation going on here. something off about this.

It's basically because this reads like a real-life plot arc from "Silicon Valley," a parody of Silicon Valley. This company makes a $400-$700 machine that basically squeezes a Capri Sun pouch of fruit juice into a cup for you, and the company has raised $120M in venture capital, even though you could just squeeze their "proprietary juice pouches" with your hands (or, like, buy normal juice and pour it).

Probably there's more to what the machine does, etc., but the story has legs because it's so absurd-sounding and reads like an indictment of how out of touch Silicon Valley actually is with what qualifies as a good idea.

The product is expensive, extraneous, bad at what it does, easily circumvented, and the reaction to it by the CEO and investors is hilarious and a very good look at the absurdities of the current app-and-hardware world we have found ourselves in.

People love a good laugh, and some Schadenfreude helps. Whats not to like?

Because that tiny company somehow roped in $120mm in funding. And after Bloomberg did a story on it, people realized how absurd it was.

Keurig is huge. It's a money machine. Why not spin that into another market? Maybe you'll land an easy flip: build it, prove it, and get acquired by the company behind Keurig or some other food product/service mega-corp. Cha-ching.

This is reasoning by analogy rather than from first principles.

Most people reason mostly by analogy and so therefore most investors reason mostly by analogy. Reasoning by analogy is why these kinds of bad "X but for Y" or "like X but Y" ideas get funded. They look like other successful ideas by simple pattern recognition. Add in a team with good credentials (secondary indicators) and a founder who sends solid alpha-primate signals (matters little unless sales are in-person) and what's not to like?

To see why "Keurig for Juice" is a bad idea, we have to look at it from a first principles point of view.

Fruit is perishable, and the taste of juice is highly dependent upon the freshness of the source fruit. As a result a juicing machine is really only going to be competitive with pre-packaged juice if the fruit is fresh. Fresh fruit juicers already exist, but they're not super-profitable since there is no recurring revenue angle. You can buy fresh fruit at any supermarket or farmers' market, and indeed doing so is likely going to give you fresher fruit than getting it from a specialized vendor.

Fruit is also heavy. It's mostly water. That means shipping it around is expensive, especially when you factor in the need to preserve it at a low temperature (dry ice? thermoses?). That means competing with supermarkets and other experts in food shipping (or local farmers, etc.) is going to be very hard and shipping costs will eat your margins.

All that means a Keurig for Juice has to be expensive. That means it has to be a premium product. Premium customers for a juice machine are only going to be interested in it if the juice it produces is very good and very fresh. That in turn amplifies all the problems above in a vicious cycle. In the end you're left with the very top of the premium market, and that market is more likely to buy their premium juice from a restaurant or, at the very top, have their in-home maid/nanny/whatever make them fresh squeezed juice from locally grown fruit.

Coffee is different. Coffee is somewhat perishable but nowhere near as perishable as fruit, and it's far easier to package and preserve. It preserves for a long time at room temperature. It can sit on store shelves. It's also small and light and easy to ship.

Keurig works because it makes sense from first principles. It's easy to package coffee in a cartridge and it's fairly easy to build a machine to brew it. The result is something more convenient than drip coffee and customers like that, and the cost of doing this is not prohibitively high for either supplier or customer.

Fruit fails for the aforementioned reasons. Keurig for fruit makes no sense.

Reason from first principles, not by analogy.

Reason from first principles, not by analogy.

Reason from first principles, not by analogy.

Because it's seen as a proxy for the perceived out-of-touchness of Silicon Valley in general

If you want to go all conspiracy theory on this, you can go with the "There is no such thing as bad publicity", and this amount of coverage ironically could even get some sales on the product, or some attention on the company at the very least, even if it's in the context of mocking it.

Had it not be for the fact apparently you need the machine for the privilege of buying juice pouches, I would even say some people might see the value of buying the pre-packaged juice and then squeezing it themselves, feeling good for having saved "400 dollars on an expensive machine", while still causing some revenue impact for the company that now has pivoted to selling only the juice pouches, maybe even as a subscription service.

"There such thing as bad publicity" - this is what I learned, too.

Compared to this company, is so sad to see other projects not taking off because they fail at the funding stage (for one of the many reasons they might not control).

This story is everywhere for the same reason it's a top story on HN. Startup scandals are entertaining and tech people love rubbernecking.

Side note, Olivia Zaleski has made a name for herself with these kinds of stories.


A few reasons:

- it's funny

- it plays into popular conception that Silicon Valley is largely out of touch with the real world

Not everything is a conspiracy (and Juicero really does not want this publicity)

1.- The company received tons of funding.

2.- Investors were shocked the machine is not needed.

so...relevant to investors and the few thousand (is it even that many?) owners of the product.

International press coverage in BBC, Bloomberg, Forbes, TechCrunch, etc. seems vastly out of proportion of the importance of this story.

the media response to this has been so rapid and so extreme that it makes me think conspiratorial thoughts, like someone has a vested interest in their demise and pulled some levers to create this media shitstorm.

Investors put $120 million in the product.

This kind of behavior is well understood among techies. We all know about the "DRM printer ink" issues. I think most "average joes" don't really get it. DRM on juice packs is something they can wrap their brains around. I'm imagining this is the first time non-techies are encountering this in a way they understand.

Not a media conspiracy, just a media echo chamber/feeding frenzy. Now that the story's picked up, everyone wants to cover it to get attention. It picked up originally because it's funny and because people like making fun of dumb silicon valley excesses.

From a marketing perspective, good press or bad press. It's still press and it gets the word out.

For every X group of people who don't want this, there will be Y person who will think it's a good idea and they will purchase the product.

Look at the segway, still made the owner millions.

Also sent him flying over a cliff to his death, so kind of a mixed bag.

Huh? Dean Kamen is still alive.

Jimi Heselden was the one that fell over the cliff; he had become owner of the Segway company after buying-out the founders.

Segway was later sold to a Chinese company which itself was subject of a patent action by Segway. Good manoeuvre.

In a word: Glee.

I still find it surprising they managed to attract 120M funding. Sometimes the thing itself is not noticeable but the circumstances of its existence are. And then it can teach us something about reality. Or the reality of other people.

Apparently some people thought this would become as big as Nescafe. You don't need a machine to pour juice, you need one to brew coffee. So it seems investors let themselves be fooled to think that the juice would be "special".

It's because this juice machine was a hilarious idea to begin with, a $700 juice presser, and now that it's not even doing it's job, it's not hilarious.

Because people enjoy stories about Silicon Valley hubris.

I think this is the standard "look - something absurd and stupid!" news story that goes viral. All the news outlets are milking it for clicks. I'm pretty sure today is the last day you'll hear about it.

I can't get over this quote from a Bloomberg article on this: '[Juicero founder Evans] declared that his juice press wields four tons of force — “enough to lift two Teslas,” he said.'

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-04-19/silicon-v...

Classic case of overengineering for no reason, when it has been discovered that the packets can be squeezed by hand and yield almost identical amounts of juice.

Not so much of overengineering, but of a failure to properly segment the market and find product-market-fit. Remember, they're putting some serious markup on those pouches (like any "capsule"-style product e.g. Keurig/Nespresso), so they could probably sell the pouches and app (for those features like reminding people to drink before it goes bad) by themselves and make a decent enough profit that way to serve as a foundation for future growth.

The $400 machine could then be marketed as the premium, upmarket option - allowing you to freeze the pouches, allowing you to get pouches with fruit and vegetables that are harder to squeeze by hand, etc.

Now, the pouches are probably too expensive anyway, and the $400 for an upsell is also probably too expensive anyway, and Jeff Dunn probably raised too much, too quickly (forcing those kinds of high prices), but... that's a different matter.

Well, at least it wasn't "enough to lift MY two Teslas"

Day and Night Teslas. Always be playing offense!

"Hmmmm, what's an object that's heavy but still shows off my high-tech credentials..."

The killer quote for me is:

"It’s incredible to come to work everyday alongside hardware and software engineers, food scientists, designers, farmer partners, and all our other team members who are committed to building a new way of delivering raw, plant-based nutrition."

Companies like this and Keurig that trash our planet to deliver a sub-par product to people who can't be bothered to do it right all deserve to go out of business. Buy a Breville and go to the farmer's market, god damn it.

Well said. I'd add Soylent to that list -- they started with sustainable food and now they are pushing Soylent Drink which is basically a throwaway bottle for every 400 calories.

Has anyone cut open one of these juice packs? It sounds like it's mostly pre squeezed juice and a bit of cut up fruit and veggies.

So not only is the machine unnecessary, you can drink from the bag?

It's the SV version of a Capri Sun?

Here's a video of the insides of a bag: https://vimeo.com/214030931

Thank you! I'm surprised out of all the articles I read, none of them actually showed what's inside.

That's exactly what it is.

It sounds like the chunks that have to be later pressed is to present the illusion of freshness. If one wants juice, why can't one have the juice fully "pressed" at the factory, if they insist on the juice being extracted by pressing, and just pour the juice into their cup? (Or have a drinkable pouch, maybe like what is available for baby food, now)

I was wondering that myself. Root vegetables like carrots and beets would be really difficult to press by hand.

I really want somebody to cut one of those bags open - it's almost certainly already filled with juice. It seems unlikely that a person could manually squeeze the juice out of raw fruit this way.

Produced by Juicero though.

Seems legit enough, but it's still a classic information problem.

Posted by another HN user: https://vimeo.com/214030931

And certainly not from something that needs to be masticated to release the liquids - like greens/kale/carrots.

the whole thing reads like a solution desperately looking for a problem.

would've been refreshing to instead read, "this is an unnecessary gadget for rich juicebros-- get over it."

"This is just like a Keruig, of course this will eventually work out, look how much money they are making on coffee!"

Yes, but coffee is filled with caffeine, a very addictive drug, and juice is not. Look at herbal cigarettes, how many people smoke those daily? If you want these DRM thingys to work, make them actually addictive.

Was Juicero a YC company?

Sounds like Nespresso or Keurig for juice. The amount of coffee in both are fractions of what you would use in a real espresso machine or pour over. Those companies are probably minting money and so everyone is going to do this for 'X'.

How the heck did it walk enough to end like this is the underlying question, more a SV sit-com than business, then the farcical reactions and some rage from probably legit but unknown and unconnected players worldwide.

Is there any nutritional value or improved taste to be gained by squeezing a pack of (already mostly pulverized) produce, versus just receiving regular deliveries of relatively fresh juice?

CEO defends his product because that's his job.

News at 11.

My favorite part of the article -

> "There are industries giving people diabetes. The leader of the free world just invited Kid Rock to the White House. I think we can give Jeff Dunn a pass on selling veggie juice to software engineers."

What's wrong with Kid Rock anyway?

Nothing is inherently wrong with kid rock. I think the source of that quote was arguing that a lot of bandwidth is being given to a story about a luxury appliance whereas other stories are likely more deserving of that bandwidth.

he seems like a bit of a jackass, but I've never met him, so I don't really know. mostly though is the question of why Kid Rock should get invited to white house to meet personally with the president. It's just an obvious and absurd case of political tribalism.

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