Juice runs out for Silicon Valley start-up hard pressed for results

Juicero sold a $945 Wi-Fi-enabled juicer in a bold bid to capitalise on the hype around the so-called Internet of Things.
Juicero sold a $945 Wi-Fi-enabled juicer in a bold bid to capitalise on the hype around the so-called Internet of Things.PHOTO: NYTIMES

MONTEREY (California) • From the moment it started, Juicero stood out as a symbol of Silicon Valley's insular excess.

The firm sold a US$700 (S$945) Wi-Fi-enabled juicer, trying to solve a problem that did not exist. It also raised some US$120 million and attracted huge attention.

But on Friday, it said it was shutting down operations - joining the hordes of other Silicon Valley start-ups that could not deliver business results to match the hype.

Started by a health fanatic with a chequered history as an entrepreneur, Juicero devised an elaborate scheme to deliver small glasses of expensive cold-pressed juice to kitchens around the US. The machine scanned codes printed on pouches of chopped produce to help assess the freshness of the contents inside. Mr Doug Evans, the founder, hired engineers, food scientists and fashionable industrial designers to work alongside him.

It was a particularly bold bid to capitalise on the hype around the so-called Internet of Things and interest in the juice business.

Mr Evans believed there was a legion of customers who, once they tasted his juice, would find it superior to the many varieties that can be bought at convenience stores, juice bars or even Walmart.

Top venture capital firms, including Google's venture capital spinoff, as well as big companies like Campbell Soup invested heavily in the company.

But from the start, there were signs that Juicero would struggle to succeed. The company slashed the price of its press after a few months. Plans for nationwide distribution were slow to materialise.

Last October, Mr Evans stepped down as chief executive and was replaced by Mr Jeff Dunn, an experienced natural food executive. In April, Bloomberg published an article and video demonstrating that Juicero's expensive and highly engineered press was essentially unnecessary. Reporters squeezed Juicero's produce packs using their bare hands, and extracted just about the same amount of juice as they did using the press. Last month, Juicero said it was working on further reductions to the price of the press and the pouches.

But the company said it was unable to do this on its own and decided to shut down. It suggested it would look to sell itself to a bigger company.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Juice runs out for Silicon Valley start-up hard pressed for results'. Print Edition | Subscribe