Juicero: A $700 Juice Box for the Kitchen That Caught Silicon Valley’s Eye

The New York Times
By David Gelles
March 31, 2016

In recent years, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists have funded all man­ner of improb­a­ble ideas. An app that lets ran­dom peo­ple call and wake you up. A bath­room scale that posts your weight on Twitter.

And then there is Doug Evans’s brain­child. With no expe­ri­ence run­ning tech com­pa­nies and a bun­gled juice-​​bar chain under his belt, he has extracted a remark­able $120 mil­lion in invest­ments from Sil­i­con Val­ley titans, includ­ing Google Ven­tures and Kleiner Perkins Cau­field & Byers, and big com­pa­nies like Camp­bell Soup.

His pitch: a $700 machine that makes an 8-​​ounce glass of juice.

Mr. Evans is a raw-​​food evan­ge­list, although “occa­sion­ally I eat steamed veg­eta­bles, to not be dog­matic,” he said. He wears shoes made of hemp. But even as Sil­i­con Val­ley retreats from its recent boom, this unlikely entre­pre­neur has per­suaded top investors to throw their money at one of the most enig­matic start-​​ups in years.

His com­pany, Juicero, opens for busi­ness this week. But what is it?

Is it a juice-​​ordering app? Is it just another kitchen-​​counter con­trap­tion? Or is it a 111,000-square-foot food pro­cess­ing fac­tory, staffed by dozens of hourly work­ers, wash­ing and slic­ing up fruits and veg­eta­bles in Los Angeles?

It is all of these things. “It’s the most com­pli­cated busi­ness that I’ve ever funded,” said David Krane, a part­ner at GV, for­merly Google Ven­tures. “It’s soft­ware. It’s con­sumer elec­tron­ics. It’s pro­duce and packaging.”

Many of the tycoons who inhabit Sil­i­con Val­ley are obsessed with health and longevity while har­bor­ing the con­vic­tion that tech­nol­ogy can improve any­thing, even one of nature’s most ele­men­tary food­stuffs — in this case, juice. And they believe that niche trends, if prop­erly dis­rupted, can become billion-​​dollar mar­kets. Juicero is the lat­est expres­sion of these techno-​​utopian impulses.

It is also the lat­est exam­ple of an unproved start-​​up rais­ing enor­mous sums of money. Born in an ear­lier era in the Val­ley, the head­ier times of 18 months or so ago, Mr. Evans’s idea cap­ti­vated some of the industry’s most ambi­tious investors. In today’s more con­ser­v­a­tive financ­ing envi­ron­ment, such a pitch might not get funded.

No mat­ter. In com­ing days, Juicero starts tak­ing orders.

The machine itself is a white plas­tic slab roughly the size of a food proces­sor. To get some juice, you insert a pouch that resem­bles an IV bag and press a but­ton. A cou­ple of min­utes later, a thin stream of vividly col­ored liq­uid squirts into a glass.

For health nuts will­ing to pay a pre­mium, Juicero promises the pla­tonic ideal of juice. Plus, the machine never needs to be cleaned.

But get­ting from farm to glass involves a daunt­ing mix of hard­ware, code and food pro­cess­ing. The arrange­ment relies on a smart­phone app, always-​​on Wi-​​Fi, QR codes, high-​​tech pack­ag­ing and an army of work­ers slic­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles in very par­tic­u­lar ways.

Ulti­mately, how­ever, what makes Juicero so spe­cial is not quan­tifi­able by con­ven­tional sci­ence, said Mr. Evans, the founder and chief executive.

Not all juice is equal,” he said. “How do you mea­sure life force? How do you mea­sure chi?”

To read the full arti­cle, visit the New York Times.