About a week ago, news broke that True Ventures, the early stage venture firm behind such well-known tech brands as Automattic (the company behind WordPress), Fitbit and Ring, has recently taken a shine to the smart kitchen
True made a healthy $12 million A round investment in Brava which, according to its founders, is building a connected kitchen appliance. While it isn’t Juicero or June money, $12 million is a big chunk of change for a connected kitchen appliance, which made us wonder what exactly the company has cooking.
Media CEO Enters The Kitchen
A quick survey of Brava’s founders and employees on Linkedin tells us they’re a collection of executives with lengthy resumes in the media, gaming and consumer IoT spaces, but not a whole lot of appliance or culinary experience.
The company’s CEO is John Pleasants, a long-time entertainment and content CEO that has spent the majority of his career in interactive entertainment, including stints at Disney, Electronic Arts and, most recently, heading up Samsung’s content group. Just two months ago Variety wrote about Pleasants departure from Samsung and how it signaled the effective end of company’s media ambitions.
Brava’s other co-founders include Thomas Cheng, Brava’s COO, who previously helped lead hardware for smart home startup August, and Dan Yue, the company’s Chief Product Officer, who had worked at Playdom, a social gaming group within Disney, under Pleasants. Yue also was a co-founder of an organic meal kit delivery service, Green Chef, which makes him the only cofounder with food on their resume.
The rest of the team includes a mix of folks who either worked with Pleasants in the past at such stops as Playdom and other folks who cut their teeth at consumer IoT brands such as August Home.
What’s Brava Got Cooking?
While Brava has been cryptic on its website and in comments to reporters, they have given some hints.
First, they have made it clear they are on their website and through statements from Pleasants they are making a product for the kitchen.
We also know from Techcrunch’s interview with Pleasants the product could be more affordable than some of the other high-profile connected kitchen products from the likes of June and Juicero. According to CEO Pleasants, the first Brava product is “…for everyone. We’re aspiring to [produce something that is] well-regarded and high-quality but not for the superrich.”
Pleasants’ comment also indicates that Brava will most likely debut with a single consumer-facing product rather than coming out of the gate with something more industry facing “platform” or a suite of products.
And then there are the clues so obvious when you see them, you should probably just go with it: When we emailed Brava to see if we can talk to them, the response came from an email address with the domain name “bravaoven.com.” In fact, bravaoven.com redirects to the company’s website bravahome.com.
So, is Brava making a smart oven?
Possibly. In fact, probably. If you put together the concept of mass-market pricing and something resembling an oven, a safe guess would be the company’s first product is some sort of standalone countertop device that features connectivity and other advanced tech.
The last clue is an important one, and it comes from Jon Callaghan, who in his introduction post about Brava at the True Ventures blog asks, “The whole home can be connected, but does every part really need to be?”
This is an important question that also serves as a potential clue as to what Brava is doing. As we’ve seen with the June Oven, the biggest advances with what they are doing have to do with things like image recognition and new heating elements, things that could be paired with connectivity to create a useful product, but these are not advances that derive their primary value from a Wi-Fi connection.
Chances are Brava’s first product could and probably will have connectivity, but as we’ve learned following the smart kitchen pretty closely, the reinvention of cooking and the kitchen is something much bigger and broader than just adding Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Ultimately, what direction Brava’s product takes is just pure guessing at this point. Given co-founder Dan Yue’s relationship with meal kit delivery company Greenchef, this could feature a Tovala-like pairing of a meal service with hardware, or it could just be a consumer grade combi-oven or something similar to the June.
No matter what Brava is up to, we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out. The company has indicated they plan to ship sometime in 2017, making a CES reveal in January likely.