Culture

Juicero Investors Squeezed as Company Calls It Quits; Founder Flees to Burning Man

Juicero, a home juicer that received $120 million in funding from some of Silicon Valley’s big venture firms, has just shut down and will try to find a buyer for its business. It’s hard to imagine that a company could raise so much for so little, but even more surprising was who the investors were: Google Ventures, Campbell Soup Company, and Kleiner Perkins among the list.

Venture capitalists (VCs) normally invest in high-tech companies that involve complex technologies that are trying to solve important problems or create entirely new businesses. But in this case, there was less technology in the product than in a coffee pot. More likely what compelled them to invest so much was greed. Some saw this as the next Keurig, the company that sells millions of one-cup-at-a-time coffee makers and expensive refills.

Juicero was the brainchild of Doug Evans, who owned a chain of juice shops. The premise of his invention was to offer “juicepack” cartridges or pouches that contained fruits and vegetables that sold for $4 to $6 each. They required the $700 machine to turn them into healthy juice drinks.

The machine was to have special capabilities to squeeze the fruits and vegetables in the pouches into juice using four tons of pressure. Evans claimed that cold-pressing the ingredients, much like he did in his stores, was much healthier than using a conventional blender that generated heat.

He enlisted a highly regarded industrial designer, Yves Béhar, owner of Fuseproject in San Francisco, to design his juicer. In a Wired article, Behar described the challenge:

“The big challenge was finding a way of applying up to four tons of pressure against a pre-prepared pack at the push of a button. “We had a lot of different concepts,” Béhar says. “Some were pressed using styles of gears, some were using more of a vertical system, pushing up.”

“This is where the aluminum plays a big role: it’s aircraft grade aluminum, Béhar says, and is strong enough to provide a lot of pressure on the other side of the square press. That’s the extent of the UI—open the door, pop in a pack, shut the door, and push a button. All the user sees is juice squirting into a glass.”

It took two years to complete the product.

As Juicero was rolled out, Evans expounded on his product and himself, likening it to a Tesla and himself to Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. While there was resistance to the price, the product received lots of interest and plenty of skepticism.

Last October, a new CEO was brought in to replace Evans — Jeff Dunn, a former president at Coca-Cola Company. Shortly after that, Juicero lowered the price of the machine to $400 from $700.

But four months ago, a startling discovery was made that escaped the notice of the investors — and apparently the designers as well. Two reporters for Bloomberg News, Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski, discovered that the cartridges could be squeezed by hand and the expensive appliance was not needed.

As they reported in April,

Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device.

And now this past week the company has decided to shut down. They announced:

“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,” the San Francisco-based company said.

The company did say that it would offer refunds for the next 90 days in this letter posted to customers on its Web site.

To our loyal customers and partners,

Since our launch 16 months ago, we’ve been grateful for the support you’ve shown toward our mission of bringing more fresh produce into people’s lives. Juicero has grown so much thanks to your loyalty. 

However, today, after selling over a million Produce Packs, we must let you know that we are suspending the sale of the Juicero Press and Produce Packs immediately. 

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.

For the next 90 days, we are offering refunds for your purchase of the Juicero Press. Please contact [email protected] by December 1, 2017 to request a refund for your purchase. If you have an active Pack subscription, you will receive your final delivery next week (week of September 4th). 

As we enter this new chapter, we also want to express the deepest gratitude to our employees who have poured their hearts and souls into developing, launching and growing Juicero over the past 3 years. Words alone cannot express how humbled we are by their commitment, ingenuity and talents; they have showed true care for each other, our amazing customers and our shared mission. While this decision will affect them personally, we’re committed to ensuring a fair transition for all. We could not be more proud of our team and are excited to see the positive impact they will continue to have in the world. If your company is hiring and has interest 

in talking with any of our employees, please contact us at [email protected] In a short period of time, you’ve validated that there is national demand for easier access to fresh produce and hassle-free cold-press juicing — thank you again for coming on this journey with us. 

Thank you, 

The Juicero Team

Meanwhile, founder Doug Evans has been living it up at Burning Man, an annual hippie festival in the Nevada desert. He’s posted several pictures on Instagram over the past few days:

This product is not only a case study of foolishness and greed, but it’s also indicative of a growing number of products coming out of Silicon Valley that are unnecessary, expensive, and being made because they can be, rather than to solve a real problem. Imagine what better use that $120 million could have been put to.