Is the new 'Bodega' startup just Silicon Valley bullshit?
via AP

Is the new 'Bodega' startup just Silicon Valley bullshit?

Join the conversation and vote below

Two Google alums just launched Bodega, a startup that installs pantry boxes in apartments, offices, dorms, and gyms. Bodega promises convenience at your doorstep, but many fear it could put mom-and-pop corner stores out of business. Others say it's a solution in search of a problem. We have vending machines already. This is just Silicon Valley once again concentrating wealth in the hands of the few. Defenders say you can't stop innovation. What do you think?

The Votes Are In!

Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, represents thousands of bodega owners. He thinks the the startup is immensely disrespectful to the immigrant communities who've owned bodegas and been part of local communities for many decades.  

“I would ask my members not to allow these machines in any of their properties in New York State,” Garcia says. “And we would ask our Hispanic community not to use the service because they are not really bodegas. Real bodegas are all about human relationships within a community, having someone you know greet you and make the sandwich you like.”

Many people are attached to their corner store. Undercutting immigrant and family-owned local businesses with vending machines strikes many as mechanized gentrification. It will harm many, detract from a neighborhood's character and enrich just a few.

But defenders say the Pony Express employed plenty of people and was no doubt considered an important part of the economy. Innovation isn't about sentimental attachments to the old ways. If it were, Kodak, Blockbuster, and Borders would still be around. Evolve or die.

Others say bodegas are worth defending. They provide a service vending machines can't.

Others detect more than a hint of noblesse oblige in the outpouring of affection for bodegas.

Helen Rosner says the whole idea is stupid and hasn't been thought out in the first place. This idea is going to go the way of Juicero.

Inside of that lives a peculiarly Silicon Valley syllogism: Success is heightened by outside skepticism, therefore outside skepticism may be an indicator of success — Hossain later tweeted that he thinks the Bodega idea “has merit.” But I’m more stuck on that word, “audacious.” I think Hossain means it to be about boldness and daring, which are qualities that remain to be seen — if the startup fails, it won’t have been bold and daring, it will have been foolhardy. But I think by another meaning, Bodega is already audacious: It is rash and thoughtless. It’s ethically and culturally bankrupt, but it also seems to be poorly constructed and unsustainably scaled. So it’ll be the other kind of bankrupt, too.
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