As HBO's Silicon Valley returns to skewering the tech world this week, the real Silicon Valley is here to remind us that no writer's room could ever match the tech industry's ridiculous antics.
For the past couple years, investors have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a startup called Juicero.
The company makes a "smart home" device that squeezes disposable packets of liquified fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into cups. It was billed as the Keurig of the pressed juice market — a curious goal considering that company has floundered for months — and hailed as one of the hottest hardware ventures in the valley.
That is, until Wednesday, when Bloomberg reporters brought up a simple question: Why does one need a web-connected device with a $400 price tag to empty a drink from a bag?
It turns out the Juicero containers can be just as easily prepared by hand as with the dispenser — in fact, sometimes more quickly.
The Juicero is a 400 solution to people who have trouble getting the straw in their Capri Sun
— Jae Bearhat (@fussybabybitch) April 19, 2017
When the Bloomberg reporters confronted the company — or rather, "a person close to the company" — with the product's seeming irrelevance, the source pointed to the machine's QR code reader as proof of its usefulness.
The feature scans a unique image on each packet and syncs with an online database to determine whether ingredients have spoiled or been recalled.
That's definitely a must-have function, and not at all something that can be learned from a quick glance at the expiration dates printed on the packages.
The company was also apparently already aware of the flaw but it argues that the manual option is messy and inconsistent. That doesn't seem to be the case in the video Bloomberg shot of both processes.
Investors who spoke anonymously with Bloomberg seem to have also noticed the obvious redundancy. They grumbled that the founder had promised a more groundbreaking invention capable of tackling solid chunks of fruits and veggies.
But a working prototype was never presented when venture capitalists poured $16.5 million into the company in 2014, according to the report. Nor were these shortcomings a deal-breaker when Juicero pulled in another $100 million over the course of two subsequent funding rounds.
It's certainly not the first time hyper-competitive investors have pulled out their checkbook before being entirely sure that the concept they are backing is actually plausible.
HBO's Silicon Valley returns Sunday.