Doug Evans, Founder of Juicero

Michael Wolf: What is the news today? What is the product we can buy from Juicero?

Doug Evans: There’s three parts to the Juicero system. There is a very complete software platform that tracks the produce from the farm all the way through the Juicero press and provides visibility and transparency into the ingredients, into the source of the farm, into the nutrition, when it was created and when it expires. We built this software platform that connects to our financial planning system as well as into the cloud, into our website, and mobile and Android and iOS, so we have a full software system that actually comes with the Juicero press. We actually created a very elegant piece of hardware, which is literally one part iPhone and one part Tesla roadster [laughter].

It is a consumer device that has industrial strength and capability, all designed to extract the juice or the nectar from fresh, ripe, raw organic fruits and vegetables. Those fruits and vegetables actually come in the form of a pack, P-A-C-K, so we actually have in the Los Angeles region 110,000 square foot refrigerated LEED Gold-certified processing facility where we receive produce from the farm.

The vision is not to store inventory produce but to take the e-commerce orders and then reach out to our 14 farm partners, source the produce, have it transported to us on refrigerated trucks, and then inside our facility, we triple wash them, chop them, mix them, and put them into these packs. The packs have allowed design in engineering and their packaging a very unique QR code put on them, and that QR code can be read by an iPhone or an Android and the pack also gets read automatically by a scanner inside of the Juicero Press.

Michael Wolf: A lot of companies when they’re entering the space like the kitchen, for example, they’ll create one part of this ecosystem, you guys literally had to create to use literally the lingo we want – value chain ecosystem all the way from sourcing to processing to the press. Was there any other way to do? You feel like you had to do this entire I guess delivery system and press.

Doug Evans: Yeah. In the beginning, after I left Organic Avenue and I wanted to figure out what I was going to do next because I was very hungry and very thirsty, I found a real gap in the market that the quality of juice that I was accustomed to, which was coming right off of a press I could literally in my prior organic kitchen, I could gulp with a glass and that cold press juice pour right into the glass, and I was able to drink it. When I got home, I was wondering like where am I going to get my juice. I looked at the options on the Internet, on Amazon, and Bed Bath & Beyond, and Williams-Sonoma. Basically, all the juicers that were available were using either augers or gears or centrifuges, and they operate at different speeds but fundamentally they were all copies of the same design.

But what I knew from my actual 10 years of Organic Avenue was I learned about cold presses, and all the big juice companies use cold presses. Organic Avenue used cold presses and so I knew the difference between the industrial, commercial juice presses and the consumer ones that were made available via retail. I just saw a big gap. Similar to the spirit of what Apple did with taking the mainframe computer and creating the personal computer, I looked at was it possible to take a mainframe juice press and create a personal juice press, with some of the attributes that makes it easy to clean and making it small so it fits on a kitchen countertop. That was my original design intention.

Very quickly, I was able to cobble together a prototype and we took fresh produce and we chopped it, and sliced it and grated it and wrapped it in cheesecloth and put it in the early prototype and turned it on. Lo and behold, I was able to press the juice out of the produce. That’s what I actually brought to Silicon Valley was a very crude prototype, but the design and my design intention allowed me to make five juices in 5 minutes with no setup and no cleanup. The end product was this new type of juice.

Mike, did you get a chance to watch the video, Juicing is Easy, on YouTube?

Michael Wolf: Yeah. Yeah, that was great. You did a good job with that. From my understanding, it’s the first consumer or home cold press. Is that right? You guys really have essentially created, if you’re using analogy of the personal computer, you’re the first one to create like a personal juice presser for the home.

Doug Evans: Correct.

Michael Wolf: Cold press.

Doug Evans: Cold press. There are a ton of juicers and there are things that call themselves presses but if you look at the press, the destination of like two being pressed together, there is nothing like that that’s not thousands of dollars and more designed for commercial or industrial use.

Michael Wolf: Explain the reason why. My understanding there is you’re bringing a lot of force there, and I think that’s probably part of the challenge to be able to press at the level you need juice. What were the challenges from an engineering design standpoint and getting to a cost reduction standpoint that you could bring it into consumer price points?

Doug Evans: Look, I think you can get a lot of force with the sledgehammer, but you can’t make juice with it. You can get a lot of force with large industrial equipment, so I think the challenge was how can we get this level of force inside a small contained unit with the other caveat of having the electronics and the sensors. It really was a process of not this trial and error but form following function. We had to both develop the packaging and the press, and the interface between the package of produce and the press. There were several concurrent initiatives, not always going in [unintelligible 0:11:30] so we get ahead of ourselves on one end and then have to slow down and put the different items together.

But inside the press itself, there’s 10 printed circuit boards, there’s two motors, there’s several hundred parts, all custom. There are parts inside that are machine, CMC machine. They are stamped. They are forged. They are casted. There’s a lot that went into it, and then there was designing the mechanism to generate the force, which involved literally the casting design of the gearbox that actually could generate the force. Then we had to reduce the size and the weight and move towards aircraft-grade aluminum so that it could be wider and stronger within a consumer footprint.

Michael Wolf: You have this pretty nice feat of engineering, but alongside that, you have a lot of other things. When you work at the back of the plan you drew up, I think you said 39 months ago, where you have this processing plant for all the fresh food that goes into the pods, you have your delivery system, the subscription service and the press, is that all true to the original vision or at some point, did you say, “Okay, we’re going to do our own pods, etc.” I mean how true to the vision are you at this point to where you were 40 months ago?

Doug Evans: I thought in the early days that I would be able to get some help, so I thought that some of the larger plant manufacturers would be eager to partner with me on creating the physical appliance and that turned out to not to be false. Then I thought some of the fresh suppliers would be able to do the cold packing or doing the processing of the produce, and that also proved to be false. I think I had to be able to create like everything because there was a standard that I knew we needed to have and what’s available on any pods. The vision that I had is very true to the vision; the manifestation of that vision has required me to go on quite a curvy path.

Michael Wolf: [laughter] The price point is $700. Some people have said that’s high. Obviously for a new type of device, that’s always a challenge, a new type of device that people are trying to wrap their mind around. Although I think people understand the idea of a juicer, this is different. Who do you think you’re targeting with that price point and then over time, you see that coming down?

Doug Evans: Yeah, I think I’ll answer the second part first. I think the price will definitely come down as we kind of optimize and shift and move way from CMC metal parts to forged and casted parts. The cost will be able to come down as we get to scale. This is the first product. We had to really make sure that it was safe. Almost every tolerance is overbuilt to beyond safety parts, so it’s a very comprehensive safe design. As we can do statistically significant wear tests over time, we can see where we might be able to make things wider or thinner, which should also result in making things less expensive. That’s on the price part.

On the first part was the target customer. I think the target customer today is really people who drink fresh juice or people who are drinking cold-pressed juice. In our research ‑ and we’ve done quite extensive quantitative and qualitative research ‑ that people love fresh juice. Even people who don’t want to like fresh juice end up loving fresh juice and I can elaborate on that in a minute. But fresh juice is really not easily obtained. I love the video that we shot, which is really true, which is why people resonate with that. And so people who don’t want fresh juice and they don’t want to make it end up getting juice in a bottle, and the juice in a bottle are the sheer nature that is put in the bottle is no longer fresh as they make on their own.

The idea of not making juice but actually making a system or a platform so that people could juice on their own and supplying the press and the produce and in a package that doesn’t get contaminated and doesn’t make a mess. The goal was based on this research people on a home juicer were using their juice once or twice a month and people had a coffee machine were using it once or twice a day. If we can make it that easy for them to make juice at home, then we thought that they would do it. I think that’s what helped our investor community feel supportive than some of them you can imagine in a partnership there’s all types of people, there was always someone who loved juice and there was like the juicing hero in a room. Then there are always some people who are like, “I drink coffee. That’s it.”

Invariably, everybody loves the Juicero juice like everyone just loves it. When they were asked, and I really become a fly in the wall in the discussions, because I was asked, “Hey, if juicing was this easy, will you do it?”

People who otherwise wouldn’t drink juice would raise their hand and say, “Yeah, you know what I would. I know I need more servings of fruits and vegetables. I know this is good for me, and this tastes good. I’ll get it. I’ll get it for my mother, or I’ll get it for my wife,” or blah, blah, blah. All of a sudden, you’d walk out of a meeting and there was enthusiasm. That’s what really helped raise this capital and get the momentum behind the machine was that we had early, very early on proof of principle that worked and I had the credibility of being in the juice market before, so there was product, calendar, market fit like that was no dispute that there was a real market and a growing market for super premium cold-pressed juice. Here was a product that made cold-pressed juice in a novel and easy way. There was someone that I felt very fortunate the board and the lead investors were willing to get behind and support me as the leader.

Michael Wolf: Now you guys are originally to start off distributing only in California –

Doug Evans: Yeah.

Michael Wolf: I was wondering about that. Is that because you’re just trying to get all the kinks ironed out or is it because your packaging and your production is there, and if you expand to a nationwide footprint, do you need to have packaging and production facilities in other parts of I guess the country?

Doug Evans: Our primary facility is designed to be able to make millions of packs per week, and I think the United States shipping logistics systems are pretty comprehensive to be able to get to most zip codes overnight anywhere in the country. It is clearly more efficient in some cases if you’re closer to the facility so one could think about building a facility close to Memphis, Tennessee. But I think that the reason our headquarters is in San Francisco and our produce is processed in the same facility in Los Angeles.

Originally we were going to do the test in San Francisco because we had a small quantity food lab here in San Francisco and then when we got this mammoth facility outside of Los Angeles, we were going to do in Los Angeles but we were constantly sending things back and forth up to San Francisco. We just looked at saying you know what, it’s the same effort to do the entire state, but at least this way we can put and order around in parameters so that we can effectively do the testing, in your words, work out the kinks. Then have visibility into what recipes people are consuming, how often like in my last presentation, I said I have no projections because any projection I would make if we were right, it would be because we were lucky, not because I’m smart.

We just wanted to make some assumption and have a thesis that we could control so if this first 2,000 presses that we’re sending out in California, we could then actually have real data that we can then use to model. Then it would not be a good thing if someone bought a press and we didn’t have the ability to send them packs. That’s kind of the walk before we run strategy.

Michael Wolf: Well, I’m up here in Seattle. I’m sure people in other parts of the country are excited possibly to get one. Do you have an ETA for outside of California?

Doug Evans: I would say we’re looking at Q3 and Q4. For you, Mike, I have a meeting up in Seattle on the 12th, so it’s possible we could rendezvous somewhere to taste the juice.

Michael Wolf: [laughter] Taste the juice. I might have to do that. That would be awesome. When we look forward towards the future, are you going to be – Juicero, it’s in your name. I would imagine juice is going to be your core mission. Can you see yourself expanding into other related categories or do you think you’re going to stick mainly with juice?

Doug Evans: Well, I think I too need to sell a lot more than music, and I see the area of what our core competency is in managing fresh, ripe raw organic fruits and vegetables and designing hardware and software that can use it. But Juicero seems like a good name. the domains were available. We should get all the social handle and it almost sounded familiar to me when I came up with the name, so we just went with it. But I think you can expect a lot more, something that are logical and obvious and something that might seem like a stretch in the story.

Michael Wolf: One of the things, you guys are definitely one of the most high-profile stealth companies I think I’ve seen and probably maybe I’m closed too because I’ve been following the connected kitchen and you’re certainly one of the most high-profile stealth companies in that space, but why so secret? Were you worried that people are going to copy the idea? What was the reason for the secrecy?

Doug Evans: I think that I wanted to stay focused and I didn’t know how long it was going to take to do, and I didn’t see any value about talking about things before they were ready, and sort of saying I had really nothing to say like I’m not someone who’s a smart engineer or food scientist. I really don’t want to talk to anybody.

Michael Wolf: [laughter] Well, this has been great. Hey, Doug, I appreciate it on your big day. Congratulations! People can find you at Juicero.com if they want to check it out, right?

Doug Evans: Absolutely, absolutely. Thanks so much, Mike. You’re terrific and it’s an honor to meet you over the phone.