Behind The Controversial Company That Wants To Replace Corner Stores With Connected Lockers

Behind The Controversial Company That Wants To Replace Corner Stores With Connected Lockers
Food & Beverage

Bodega, a startup offering automated boxes for shoppers to make small purchases around their neighborhood, was met with derision from corner store customers

Jennifer Passas
  • 19 september 2017

For many Americans, the corner store or bodega is part of everyday life. It’s the place where everything from a toothbrush to cat litter can be bought at most, if not all, hours of the day. Two men who used to work at Google came up with a concept to replicate this convenience with tech, which consists of a pantry box that can be placed anywhere from office spaces to college dorms.

Bodega, founded by Paul McDonald, a former product manager at Google, and Google alum Ashwath Rajan, created an app that enables you to unlock its pantry box. Cameras with computer vision register what a customer has decided to take from the box and charges for them automatically.

The co-founders have secured funding from heavy-hitting investors including Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital, Kristen Green at Forerunner Ventures and Hunter Walk at Homebrew. They also have support from senior executives at Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Google.

The box has been tested in 30 locations in the Bay Area in apartment lobbies, dorms, offices and gyms. The contents in the pantry box can be changed depending on the location so that it serves the audience. McDonald and Rajan have recently unveiled 50 new Bodega locations on the West Coast and have plans to expand nationally soon.

While the idea responds to the growing desire and expectations of consumers for immediate availability, a Fast Company feature about the company sparked a fierce reaction among devotees to neighborhood businesses, which are often operated by immigrants, for the community and personal care they provide. The company’s use of the word “bodega” also raised questions of cultural appropriation.

Bodega

For many Americans, the corner store or bodega is part of everyday life. It’s the place where everything from a toothbrush to cat litter can be bought at most, if not all, hours of the day. Two men who used to work at Google came up with a concept to replicate this convenience with tech, which consists of a pantry box that can be placed anywhere from office spaces to college dorms.

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