In case you didn’t know, single-serve foods and beverages are a major thing. Plus, millennials are leading the charge toward good diet and exercise. So when startup company Juicero, Inc. thought up a $400 machine designed to make single-serve, fresh-pressed juice from pouches of pre-cut fruits and veggies, people drooled. Investors put up $120 million, and even Oprah sang the machine’s praises, giving them out as gifts.
Buuuuuut, as it turns out, something other than Juicero’s machine can squeeze juice from the pouches, too. You have two of them at the end of your arms, and each of them has five fingers.
That’s right. As Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski of Bloomberg report, you can squeeze Juicero’s pouches with your own bare hands, according to an internal Bloomberg experiment. The revelation has investors reeling and threatens to upend the juicing company entirely. Your business, however, doesn’t have to follow in Juicero’s footsteps–you have the power to learn from what went wrong.
Mistake #1: Stuffing a product with technology to be “innovative”
Until Juicero came on the market, people didn’t have prepackaged fruits and veggies they could squeeze into a drink–they had to buy bottled juice, which didn’t offer as much freshness, or plop unpackaged fresh fruits in a juicer or blender, which lacked convenience. But Juicero’s pouches solve that problem, serving as an innovative concept without the machine’s 400 custom parts, app and Internet connectivity attached. In fact, Kippy Williams, owner of Kippy’s Organic Non-Dairy Ice Cream Shop, pointed out that she wished Juicero would just sell the packs by themselves.
The fix: Embrace that innovation is found in process as much as in product. Ask yourself if you are including the technology because it is trendy or available, or because it actually affects the primary function of the product. Juicero’s app, for example, can tell you which packs you’ve gone through (just in case you couldn’t, you know, check your fridge with your own two perfectly good eyes), but it doesn’t do diddly in terms of actually completing the juicing process.
Mistake #2: Moving under assumptions
According to Huet and Zaleski, those within Juicero, Inc. believe that, out of a desire for consistency and cleanliness, people will want to use the machine despite the fact pouches are hand-squeezable. But as Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post notes, opening a bottle of juice is consistent and clean, too, and the company apparently isn’t backing up their belief with anything quantifiable, such as a survey.
The fix: Make data and verifiability the backbone of your production process. Talk to people within multiple areas and collaborate with those outside of your group before coming to a conclusion about how to proceed. If you have doubts, voice them early on.
Mistake #3: Staying hush-hush
And this one’s the biggie. Juicero representatives reportedly knew that their pouches were hand squeezable, but they didn’t bother to tell that to investors. If they had, it likely would have forced the company representatives to make a more data-driven case for the device (see #2 above). Because that healthy investigation and discussion didn’t happen, investors feel mislead and cheated, and trust is in desperate need of repair.
The fix: Practice full disclosure at all times, and keep your teams smaller to simplify communication channels. Make it a point to give people you’re working with the chance to ask questions at every step and keep you accountable. Even if the final project outcome ends up not in your favor, you’ll have established yourself as a person of integrity that investors can work with in the future. It’s always better to abandon a project than it is to destroy a relationship.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.