You know that searing anger and frustration you feel when you think you have one more coffee pod (or energy bar, or teabag) left, but instead you’re greeted with an empty container? Meaning you either have to a) do without, or b) hightail it to the store and hope you’re not late for work?
WePlenish wants to make sure that terrible experience never happens to you again. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based startup has developed an IoT-enabled container which uses sensors and WiFi to automatically reorder pantry staples through an integration with Amazon’s Dash Replenishment service platform. Yesterday they launched a Kickstarter to try and raise $50,000 for their minimum viable product (MVP), dubbed ‘the Java Smart Container.’
When you receive a smart container, you’ll download the WePlenish app and enter in your chosen product for the container — anything from K-cups to snack bars is fair game. WePlenish then uses their patent-pending volume measuring technology to keep track of how full the container is at all times.
When the supply drops below 25%, they send you a Push notification to make sure they’re good to go ahead and reorder. At this point, you have a choice to stop the order or add extra items to your delivery.
As you use it, the smart containers also use a Nest-like algorithm to learn your consumption patterns. But WePlenish does have safety nets in place, so they can trigger an order even if you have relatives in town who are depleting your coffee supply at a much faster rate than normal.
So are WePlenish’s smart containers that much more useful or efficient than other grocery reordering methods? Using Amazon Dash buttons and voice assistants is easy, sure — but you still have to do something. “They require the user to take action, to remember to place the order,” WePlenish co-founder Ro Grosman told The Spoon. The Java Smart Container takes you out of the equation entirely.
“We believe that the smart home technology should work for you. The automation should be seamless,” said Grosman. Which means, if their product works well enough, customers won’t have to think about it at all. “We want people to almost forget about it and let it order for them,” he emphasized.
Of course, seamless automated ordering is what Amazon had in mind with their integrated, in-device replenishment platform. The question is — for WePlenish and Amazon’s Dash platform — do you need an IoT-powered device to reorder for you, or would it be better to simply create a “subscription” through Amazon or other providers to ship to you on the regular (Amazon being Amazon, they have both bases covered).
Some will remember WePlenish from a 2016 Amazon announcement about a new crop of Dash Replenishment Service partners. The company was one of a handful of companies that Amazon had signed up to integrate Dash, and while Amazon has since put much of its focus in the intervening time period on voice ordering with the runaway success of Alexa, there are companies like WePlenish still pushing forward with Amazon’s integrated re-ordering platform.
WePlenish is Grosman’s second startup. Prior to WePlenish, Grosman founded a company called GoDataFeed in 2007, which is an ecommerce multichannel marketing platform. He still serves as executive chairmen. WePlenish and GoDataFeed are closely tied through a technology backend as well as through some employees; according to Grosman, he started WePlenish with a few GoDataFeed employees and has since grown the newer company to about 20 employees.
WePlenish isn’t the only food tech startup edging in on the grocery replenishment space. British company Pantri (finalist in the Smart Kitchen Europe startup showcase) is developing a maker platform to connect smart appliances with grocery delivery companies, and PantryChic (a SKS 2015 Startup Showcase veteran) has a patented system which stores, dispenses, and reorders dry pantry goods like flour and sugar.
Despite the name of their inaugural product, Grosman says they anticipate that their containers will be used for a lot more than just coffee. “Our goal is to moderate the entire pantry,” he said — and beyond. Grosman told The Spoon that WePlenish plans to eventually offer in-fridge grocery ordering.
The Java Smart Container, which has already entered into production (a good sign for those leery of Kickstarter hardware fails), will be available on Amazon this fall for $39.99, but early backers can snag one for $20 through Kickstarter. According to Grosman, WePlenish has about twenty total employees and is largely self-funded, but he did say the company has taken an undisclosed amount of private investment.