The Juicero controversy this week left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Juicero billed itself as a top-of-the-line juicing machine with a top-of-the-line price point – $400, down from the original $700 – warranted by the unique design and process by which the machine did its thing.
However, Juicero has a problem: extracting juice from the packets is as easy as giving the pouch a firm hand squeeze—no $400 squasher needed.
In light of reviews by Bloomberg and others, it began to seem that the pricey at-home juice press is little more than a glorified Capri Sun squeezer for the Whole Foods crowd.
While its product is perhaps unique in the normal Silicon Valley milieu, Juicero appears painfully similar to many ambitious venture-backed companies, down to soaring rhetoric, near-mythic origin story of its founder, huge sums of venture capital raised, and a PR disaster to call its own.
That the company’s initial userbase (to our knowledge: mostly venture capitalists, fancy-pants creative studios, and yuppies who go on and on about that one time they, like, totally found enlightenment at Burning Man) was instantly risible did not help.
Notably, none of this would have caused such a fuss if Juicero didn’t also happen to be the most-funded hardware startup of 2016. The company raised nearly $120 million in venture financing from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, GV, and over a dozen other investors since its inception.
Let’s take a look at the fourteen other companies in the nutrition, food processing, cooking, and food and beverage categories into which Juicero’s investors have also deployed capital.
Other Food Companies Juicero’s Investors Have Invested In
With the exception of the Campbell Soup Company, First Beverage Group, and Acre Venture Partners, none of Juicero’s 13 other investors listed in Crunchbase specialize in the food and beverage industry. Despite that fact, Juicero’s investors have racked up exposure to a wide array of companies in the category.
GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) has a fairly diverse portfolio that includes several companies connected to the food and beverage space. The firm participated in food analytics and molecular food standardization company Clear Labs’s Series B round. In a similar space, GV also invested in Rise’s Seed round. The venture firm was also an investor in the Series A and Series B rounds of Blue Bottle Coffee, the high-end coffee chain. However, GV’s biggest moonshot investment in the food industry may well be in the Series C round of Impossible Foods, which manufactures plant-based animal protein substitutes that tastes remarkably like meat.
Thrive Capital, another one of Juicero’s investors, has committed capital to a couple of companies in the food space, mostly on the delivery and meal kit side of the industry. Thrive was involved in the Seed round of high-end food delivery startup Maple, and it participated in one of Gobble’s venture rounds.
Other food-related investments made by Juicero’s investors include:
- Kleiner Perkins invested in Beyond Meat’s Series E round.
- Aspiration Growth invested in meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron’s Series D round.
- First Beverage Group invested in alcohol delivery company Drizly’s Series A round.
- The Campbell Soup Company invested in Habit, a nutrition tracking and digital coaching app. The company is the only recorded investor in $32 million venture round.
- Vast Ventures invested in Washington, DC-based fast casual chain Sweetgreen’s venture round.
- Melo7 Tech Partners invested in the Seed round of Wine ‘n Dine, a restaurant discovery app.
Although there are plenty of companies in the food and nutrition space that have squeezed capital out of Juicero’s investors in the past, the juice company’s investor syndicate has relatively little exposure to comparable companies in the beverage space.
Investments In Beverage Companies From Juicero’s Investors
Two beverage companies have also received funding from some of Juicero’s investors. Ripple Foods, makers of dairy-free alternatives to milk using ingredients derived from peas and other plant-based sources, raised money from GV, which led the company’s $30 million Series B round.
What might be the only other investment that combines physical products and the food and beverage industry is Soma, in which Vast Ventures invested in its Seed and Series A rounds. That said, Soma’s premium line of minimal water filters and various containers ranging from pitchers to water bottles is a far cry from the complexity of what Juicero is trying to build.
Although Juicero will likely weather this PR storm, skepticism will persist. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put a company back together again, especially if it wasn’t quite together to begin with.