In the hardware startup world, the margin between success and failure can be razor-thin. Malachy Moynihan knows a thing or two about both: He was the Chief Product Officer at infamous kitchen hardware startup Juicero, and also led the charge for Amazon’s Echo and Fire TV devices.

At the Smart Kitchen Summit yesterday, he sat down with the Wall Street Journal’s Wilson Rothman to talk about why some tech products succeed — and why others become a cautionary tale.

So how did Juicero go from a startup darling with $120 million in funds to, in Moynihan’s words, “the poster child for Silicon Valley excess and VC ineptitude?” The infamous Bloomberg story may have been the nail in the Juicero coffin, but according to Moynihan there were significant hurdles much earlier. Getting 20 packs of cold-pressed juice to customers every week is a very expensive process that doesn’t have an efficient supply chain in place. “The logistics just don’t scale,” explained Moynihan, which other companies (such as meal kits) are struggling with to this day.

“We should have stayed in the commercial space,” said Moynihan. “We really went after a fully branded experience… with lots of money spent on Facebook doing influencing.”

Moynihan finished with three takeaways for new hardware startups:

Always think about your consumer first.
“If there’s one lesson I learned from Amazon, it’s to always think first about the customer, said Moynihan. To make a successful product, you have to engineer a perfect consumer experience with the minimal amount of friction. Take the Amazon Echo: It cuts out the step of typing on a phone or computer, and reduces the amount of appliances you need on hand.

The first product doesn’t have to be perfect.
“Think very very deeply about the really critical features that you have to have — and the ones that would be nice to have,” said Moynihan. You don’t have to get everything into the first iteration of your product; patience is key. Patience for failure, patience for roadblocks, and patience for consumer acceptance. “The path to a lot of these products is: ‘It won’t work it won’t work it won’t work — oh my God, it worked!” said Moynihan.

Cultivate the press.
That last one may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s important nonetheless. Good press is critical to the success of any product — especially a consumer-facing hardware one.

Look out for more posts on the panels, companies, and news from the fourth Smart Kitchen Summit!


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