Squeezing value out of Silicon Valley

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Silicon Valley is famous for its successes. Many of the world’s most innovative companies are based there, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Tesla.

But for every Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, there are thousands of others who do not strike it rich. And often their stories of struggle are just as gripping as those of the tech titans.

It is hard to develop a great product and find a market fit whilst also attracting investors, building a team, and paying the sky-high rent landlords in San Francisco now demand.

And so usually I am sympathetic when things do not go to plan. Being an entrepreneur is famously tough, especially in the early days.

But every now and again a story emerges from Silicon Valley that cannot help but raise a wry smile.

The latest example comes courtesy of a company called Juicero, which sells pouches of finely cut fresh vegetables and fruit. The twist is the pouches only work when placed within a $400 internet-connected juicing machine.

At least, that is what investors thought they were backing when they pumped a staggering $120 million into the company last year, with visions no doubt of building a kind of Nespresso for juice (with added wifi).

But things are looking a little less rosy after some journalists at Bloomberg Technology noticed the pouches did not, in fact, need a internet of things machine to get juice into a glass.

Instead – wait for this – they could be squeezed by hand.

This created a storm of negative publicity which the CEO of Juicero, Jeff Nunn, quickly attempted to quell with a post on Medium.

Unfortunately Nunn’s article managed to highlight some of the very worst tendencies in Silicon Valley, chief amongst which is hubris.

It was perhaps too much to expect of the CEO to admit Juicero is a just a fancy subscription business with some unnecessary proprietary tech and a big marketing budget.

But describing customers who squeeze the packs by hand as “hackers” is just daft. And talk of a “mission” to solve the nation’s nutrition and obesity challenges with $8 juice pouches that are only sold to customers with a $400 machine is, well, a bit rich.

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