Sizzle/Fizzle

Kohl’s Sizzles, ICOs Fizzle And Juicero’s Cold-Pressed Sales Run Dry

Sizzle

Kohl’s: Brick-and-mortar stores are the new battlefront for Amazon, and Kohl’s is the latest beneficiary. The physical retailer is joining forces with the online juggernaut and is debuting a “smart home” experience across 10 stores in Chicago and Los Angeles.  Folks can buy Amazon products directly at Kohl’s, including smart home offerings — cementing, perhaps, Kohl’s as purveyors of cutting-edge technology. Can you spell coopetition?

Recommerce market: Buying pre-owned items ain’t just for cars. The recommerce market, which is focused on returned and (gently) used items, has been big business, where in China those sales are worth $60 billion. Research from Fung Global Retail & Technology shows that smaller players are likely to vie for a piece of the pie that is 90 percent dominated by Alibaba and Tencent-backed firms. Venture capital interest and investments have been on the rise, so growth is in the cards.

Alexa, mind the kids: Voice apps for the most vocal among us — which would be children, of course. Alexa is debuting a slew of skills aimed at kids. SpongeBob unnerve you? Get ready for more unnerving. Elmo, you’d thought, was from days past? Get ready to see red (fur) again. Audio games (and parental controls) abound and will bring a whole new generation into the voice platform fold.

 

Fizzle

ICOs: A ban in China seals the perception that the risks may outweigh the benefits in these new financing vehicles. Scams abound in initial coin offerings, and China deems them illegal in terms of fundraising, with investigations starting into dozens of firms.  ICO may stand, to investors’ chagrin, for “I Could’ve gotten Out.”

Payment security: We all want payments security, but how far will we go to get it?  Not far enough, it seems. Roughly half of firms fall short, Verizon found. When it comes to PCI compliance, efforts need to get up to snuff across lines of defense that range from firewalls to user authentication. Finger pointing? Look at retail and hospitality, sectors that lag in compliance efforts and where hackers love to feast.

iPhone 8: Might the newest offering from Apple come out a bit bruised? The iPhone 8 is coming out next week, but consumers may give the arrival a bit of a “meh.” Wall Street analysts at Piper Jaffray said in research to clients that in a survey of several hundred users, 16 percent will seek to upgrade to a new phone this fall, only slightly better than last year, and 24 percent will “maybe” upgrade, which is lower than the 29 percent tally last year.

 

Fizzle of the Week: Juicero

Before we get into the myriad ways fresh juice startup Juicero managed to propel itself into the annals of the more spectacular startup flameouts, firmly securing this week’s Fizzle Award, we would like to give a small shout-out to the minor sizzle that issued from Juicero’s ashes.

Truly, it has been a banner week for juice-related puns.

The Los Angeles Times stated the company learned there was such a thing as “bad press,” and Forbes detailed how they’d “felt the squeeze,” along with a handful of other news outlets delighting in pointing out that the maker of the $400 gadget was shutting down because they just didn’t have the juice to continue.

Juicero made a splashy and very PR buzz-filled entrance to the market a mere 16 months ago with a fresh juice machine promising to change the world of cold press juice as we know it. Well, as long as one was willing to purchase its proprietary juice pouches and a $700 piece of Wi-Fi-enabled smart hardware (to do what?), but still.

The price tag, however didn’t scare off investors — who liked Founder and “hipster-vegan” Doug Evans’ pitch — and thought that selling “smart juice” had a future. The idea (we’d say Kool-Aid, but this is a juice machine) that venture capitalists drank up en masse was that Juicero could do for cold press juice what the Keurig machine did for home brewing gourmet coffee. Google’s venture capital arm was among the investors that threw millions at the project.

And when asked directly why any sane person would purchase a $700 cold press juice machine of their very own, Evans was adamant that this was more than just a machine; it would change one’s way of life.

“It’s this intersection of fresh, organic agriculture and desktop technology to make it easy so that you can make a juice in two minutes,” he noted at a conference last year — before noting that the “monster of a machine” had 10 printed circuit boards, a scanner, microprocessor and a wireless chip and wireless antenna, all battened down by “latches that support 16,000 pounds of force.”

This explanation was less than satisfying to many. Karen Webster noted in her article on the curse of the startup cool kids that the concept behind the $700 juicer was roughly on par with the invention of “the boiled egg squarer” and that it was unlikely to ever merit the $90 million that had already been invested in it.

And, as it turned out, all of those things Evans pointed out were completely irrelevant to the activity of making juice.

When Bloomberg put their reporter’s grip head-to-head against the machine, they found that hand-squeezing a Juicero bag produced roughly the same amount of juice as using the machine — and actually did it slightly faster.

Oops.

Just like that, the smart juice investors had been drinking suddenly started to look and taste a lot like Kool-Aid.

To their credit, Juicero did try to recover.

The firm’s CEO, former Coca-Cola executive Jeff Dunn, offered consumers a full refund.

“While it is never easy to face some of this week’s headlines and critiques, we’re still learning, listening and improving, and we confidently stand behind our promise to help people on their journey to health,” Dunn wrote in a Medium post the day after Bloomberg’s piece ran.

Dunn also largely sidelined Evans, removing him from a day-to-day role in the operations of the firm. Juicero also cut about 25 percent of its workforce and worked to get a redesigned and much less expensive machine into the market.

But, alas, it was just not possible. This week the firm was forced to announce that it was shipping its final juice packets and switching off the lights.

“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,” the CEO wrote on the company website.

Dunn acknowledged that Juicero’s ambition to scale up “requires infrastructure that we cannot achieve on our own as a standalone business.”

The firm has stated that it will continue to look for a buyer to continue to bring its cold-pressed vision to the world.

But for now, Juicero is a confirmed fizzle: a startup with a big vision, whose reach was far longer than their grasp.

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