If you remember anything about Bodega, the startup that puts automated micro convenience stores closer to consumers, you probably remember the problems with its name.
In short: people hated it, and by extension, the company, for epitomizing a tech bro culture that insists on “disrupting” existing neighborhood institutions with cultural insensitivity, all while overhyping what some believed to be a glorified vending machine.
The Bodega founder apologized in a corporate blog post in September of last year (the same day the company announced itself) and the startup seemed like it was destined to fizzle out like so many others.
But here we are, almost a year later, and the company isn’t just still around, it says it’s expanding. Only now it goes by the name Stockwell. This slipped under our radar, but thanks to a heads up from our Spoon Slack channel we came across a Stockwell blog post dated July 18, 2018, in which Co-Founder and CEO, Paul McDonald explained the name change:
“Coming up with a name for what we do — bringing every day essentials to consumers quickly and easily — was a challenge. The inspiration for our former name, Bodega, was, we thought, an homage to the local corner store, the people who ran it, and their place in our collective conscious. We were wrong. We reviewed the feedback thoughtfully and ultimately decided that our new name, Stockwell, was a better expression of our mission and our unique offering to consumers — a store open 24 hours, filled with the things they need, located right where they live, work and play.
Over the next weeks and months you’ll see our evolution into Stockwell, including an incredible new app for shopping with us. We’ll continue to celebrate small, local brands and also bring you products you know and trust. And of course, Stockwell will personalize your store to fit your community’s needs.”
For the uninitiated, Stockwell’s vending system uses a combination of mobile app and computer vision, a la Amazon Go, to keep track of what you take from it and charge you accordingly.
Setting aside the deeper societal implications and missteps made, as Spoon writer, Allen Weiner, wrote about
Bodega Stockwell last year: “It’s worth noting that the concept of providing last-minute necessities is not a new idea. Catering to the immediacy of meeting a consumer’s specific needs on the spot in itself is not a bad idea and there are many successful applications in place.”
Humanless retail is on the rise. Byte is doing something similar with smart fridges and lunches for offices, Briggo is installing its automated Coffee Haus in places like airports to make grabbing a latte on the go a little easier, and Robomart is working to bring the convenience store to you.
Stockwell fits well within this trend. There are places where its vending system makes sense, such as college dorms and corporate campuses, where there may not be a convenience store nearby or open at all hours.
But a good idea isn’t always enough. Will this re-branding bring redemption for Stockwell?
I think there’s an opportunity for Stockwell to partner with (or get acquired by) someone like an AirBnB. Qvie debuted a tiny vending system for AirBnB hosts, but having a micro-convenience store for stuff travelers forgot at home — or a curated selection of local packaged foods they should try — would be a nice add-on and potential additional revenue source for hosts.
Hopefully people don’t hate that idea.