Silly-con Valley: Juicero Isn’t the First Dumb Startup

Anthony Cuthbertson

When Doug Evans founded his startup in 2013, he imagined his journey might take the course of another Silicon Valley luminary. “I’m going to do what Steve [Jobs] did,” he said in an interview with the tech news website Recode. Their products might not be the same—Jobs pioneered personal computers, while Evans was hoping to pioneer personal juice presses—but the business model for Juicero mirrored that of Apple’s, and Evans hoped the results would be the same too.

He wasn’t the only one to think so. Juicero raised $120 million in funding from the likes of Google, while popstar Katy Perry was among the celebrities endorsing the “game changing machine.” But four years after its inception, the startup and its founder face ridicule after customers noticed a major flaw with the juice presser. Rather than needing the “three to four tons of pressure—enough to lift two Teslas” that the $400 WiFi-enabled machine apparently produces, the juice can be squeezed just as effectively with a person’s bare hands.

juicero silicon valley startup dumb

The Juicero has received millions in funding but customers are questioning its functionality. Juicero

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Evans may take some comfort in knowing Juicero isn’t the first not-so-smart device to be mocked by the media and dismissed by the tech industry. Bill Gates once described half of Silicon Valley startups as “silly,” claiming that only around a dozen would ever prove to be important to society. Listed below are some of the silliest.

DigiScents iSmell

The problem with computers is you can only experience them with your eyes and ears. This was the thinking behind the short-lived startup DigiScents when it came up with the iSmell device, which connected to PCs by USB and delivered odors to users depending on the websites they were visiting.

digiscents ismell silicon valley dumb

The iSmell device. Why just look at and listen to your computer, when you can smell it? DigiScents

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The device was hailed by Wired magazine in 1999 for its potential to “launch the next web revolution,” and DigiScents was able to raise $20 million in funding. But ultimately the idea never went beyond the prototype stage

Yo Messaging App

In 2015, messaging apps were hot property. Facebook had recently acquired WhatsApp in a deal worth $19 billion, while SnapChat was in the process of raising half a billion dollars in funding. To stand out from the competition, Israeli developer Or Arbel decided to simplify the messaging experience by limiting its functionality to just one word: Yo.

The app proved incredibly popular, with more than 3 million downloads helping it reach number three in the iOS App Store. The startup raised $2.5 million in funding, and while it still exists, its popularity has plummeted as the novelty of one-word conversations inevitably wore off.  

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Jupiter IO 3 Vaping Smartphone

Modern smartphones have evolved into technological Swiss Army knives, offering an all-in-one camera, torch, alarm clock, calendar, dictaphone, banking and communication device that can fit in your pocket. It makes sense, then, to extend its functionality to that of e-cigarette—or so Jupiter IO 3 figured with its idea for a smartphone you can smoke.

smartphone vape silicon valley

This smartphone is both sleek and smokeable. Jupiter

The 3G-enabled smartphone with an integrated vape pen was shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in 2016, with attendees unable to actually discern whether it was an elaborate—and expensive—joke.

“We have worked tirelessly to integrate texting, talking, surfing, and vaping into one spectacular, innovative technology,” the device’s website states. “The applications are limitless. We feel that Jupiter will change the world as we know it.”

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