The Innovation Choke Point
Posted at 8:00h, 16 May 2017 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide, said the Guardian, last week, citing Juicero, the $400 juicer with pre-sold packet of diced fruits and vegetables that the machine transforms into juice. “But it turns out you don’t actually need the machine to make the juice,” the Guardian noted. “On 19 April, Bloomberg News reported that you can squeeze the packets by hand and get the same result. It’s even faster.”

Oops, and thanks for paying (sic).

“$120 million to build an over-engineered juicer says a lot about the state of Silicon Valley today. There’s now so much money sloshing around San Francisco’s technology world that even seemingly outlandish ideas can attract lavish funding,” said Vox, but then again, Juicero is not just any juicer, even if you can get the same results by squeezing the bag by hand: it’s a connected device, and there’s the magic word – ‘connected.’  Juicero will let you know if you’re low on raw ingredients and won’t process the ingredients if they were past the sell by date. What to speak of the fact that if there was a recall on any of the products that happened to have been delivered to you, it wouldn’t work in that case, either.

And in our humble opinion, this is where they jumped the shark: we live in an age where people supposedly want to ingest foods that are as close to natural as possible, rather than arriving pre-cut/shredded. Are there people who are that busy or important or – hopefully, not that extraordinarily self-indulgent – that he/she can’t open a refrigerator to see what’s running low and if that is the case, time to re-examine that work-life balance thing. But chances are, that sort of person would own a refrigerator that is aware of its contents. Or might simply want to consider signing up for a Soylent subscription and be done with it.

While we disagree with the Guardian piece, on balance, there is no doubt that what started as the information superhighway – the web – and the promise of a Brave New World, was somewhat eclipsed by/devolved into the Social Web, or the me-me-me web, to a large extent, since everyone has their social footprint and rather than merely having the information out there available at one’s fingertips, the information that’s being disseminated and collected is all about you and it’s really too much information. That’s being volunteered and collected.

Some very well known investors put up $120M (including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures) for a connected juicer. Not exactly a game-changer, unless they were counting on a 10x return through a, say, KitchenAid acquisition. Of course, they were no doubt counting on the Dollar Shave Club subscription model.

“VCs are anti-innovation by design. They want a big payday for their partners on a short timetable, typically looking for start-ups headed for an exit – an IPO or an acquisition by a bigger company – within three to five years. This isn’t a recipe for nurturing actual breakthroughs, which require more patient financing over a longer timeframe. But it’s a good formula for producing nonsense like the Juicero, or overvalued companies that serve as lucrative vehicles for financial speculation,” contends the Guardian.

Forest through the trees: these investors who are and have been powering the self indulgence and the me-me-me web are also investing in AI, connected devices and more sophisticated forms of data collection, pivoting from me-me-me to more-more-more – information, that is, which would make it more about power and control. Remember: Google Ventures invested in Juicero. Look at who, and there’s your insight into why.

According to The EconomistThe world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.

There are those who contend that we live in a simulation, and considering that there are people out there who rarely leave the house, or barely interact when they do find themselves in a social gathering, yet who can claim to have thousands of so-called friends/followers – some of whom may or may not be actual humans – it may not be too far from the truth, in some cases. Funny how we live in a world where devices/homes/vehicles or means of transportation, even juicers, are becoming more and more connected, as is the world itself, while people themselves are seemingly becoming more siloed. Including the Silicon Valley investors, to whom the Guardian article refers. Being siloed is not limited to the undersocialized.

And therein lies the disconnect. Onward and forward.