Opinion

Painful Truth: Ego and money in Silicon Valley

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Wednesday morning I woke up and learned that an exciting new innovation was coming out of Silicon Valley, courtesy of a pair of ex-Google employees.

Dubbed Bodega, like the corner stores that are everywhere in New York City, it's a simple concept.

It's a box, full of non-perishable products. And passerby can purchase those products and take them out of the box.

Yes. I know.

I have just described a vending machine.

Vending machines have been ubiquitous for more than 130 years. In Japan, there are more than five million vending machines. They sell the ordinary items – pop, coffee, cigarettes, but also sake and beer, and even bulk rice, pantyhose, floral arrangements, umbrellas, and even fish bait.

So what makes the Bodega a technological and business innovation? Well, cameras inside the Bodega box register what's removed and automatically charge you through the app you use to unlock the box.

So to sum up:

1) It is exactly as convenient as a vending machine, which can already take cash, credit cards, debit, and, y'know, coins.

2) It is less useful than a real vending machine, some of which are refrigerated.

3) Its creators believe that it will somehow displace actual bodegas and corner stores.

Like the Juicero (a $400 machine that squeezed bags of expensive juice, but only if it was connected to the internet!) I feel the Bodega is likely to fail.

It's also an example of how hype overwhelms reason in tech.

Business mavens of the electronic world have, perhaps, run out of low-hanging fruit when it comes to phones and computing and search.

Now they're trying to replace real-world businesses, and finding that it's a lot harder to come up with a new idea. From Pets.com to Uber to Juicero, we're getting a long list of ideas that simply don't work better just because you add the internet as a magical ingredient.

I'm just wondering how many years it will take Silicon Valley to figure this out.

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