Get-Poor-Quick, Done Wrong

Or done right. It’s hard to tell.

Recently I read about a high-tech venture called Juicero. It failed. Big.

I haven’t contributed to the get-poor-quick category here at MR&HBI for quite some time, so if you’re not familiar with it, that’s OK. The conceit of this category is that I get an idea that seems good on the surface, and might actually be good, but that building a business on it would certainly lead to failure.

But all these years, I failed to recognize one simple fact: You can fail and still get rich. You just have to fail with someone else’s money.

Juicero: a high-tech device controlled from your phone, connected to the internet for some reason. After you paid a few hundred dollars for this machine, you could subscribe to a service to get sent bags of stuff. Fruit, specially-prepared veggies and whatnot, and you could put the bags into this high-tech machine and it would… squeeze them. And then you could drink juice.

Were I a venture capitalist listening to this pitch, the first axiom I would apply is “give them the razors, sell the blades.” But I am not a venture capitalist, and before long Juicero had attracted millions of dollars of VC money, presumably on the promise that Juicero would disrupt something. Because disrupting is sexy.

Eventually it came down that consumers realized they could just squeeze the packets with their bare hands, and the ridiculous WiFi-Internet-Bluetooth app-controlled machine could easily be replaced with an iron device with a lever. And the business cratered.

The venture capitalists expressed dismay, saying (I’m paraphrasing) “We expected the ridiculous ripoff to be less easily exposed.”

That is not the lesson I take away from this. See my razor/blade statement above. They thought they were selling squeezing machines, but they were selling juice packets. The high-tech device with needless configuration steps was not the product. Sell a cast-iron enameled device with a lever on the side. Sell a kitchenaid accessory. Shit, give them away. Sell the juice.

I have digressed from my original intent in this episode. I started by using Juicero as an example of failing but getting rich — I promise the techbros who invented Juicero managed to pocket plenty of the idiot investment money — and instead I turned to how to have succeeded at Juicero.

But there are literally a dozen ideas on this blog that eclipse Juicero. Some have, in the intervening years, been implemented to great profit for others. But even if the idea is a bad one, that doesn’t mean you can’t get rich from it. Just ask the folks at Juicero.