Two Former Google Guys Are Launching a BODEGA Startup and We Call Bullshit

Sep 13, 2017
10:22 AM

If there is ONE PERFECT 2017 EXAMPLE of how gross cultural appropriation and Silicon Valley gentrification elitism can be, we present BODEGA, a new startup, which according to Fast Company, “sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store.”

The concept was created by two former Google dudes, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Raja, and as Fast Company says, “an app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the ‘store.'”

And as you might expect, the f-ing logo is a cat. Get it?

As McDonald told Fast Company, “The vision here is much bigger than the box itself. Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”

And, as Fast Company reported, McDonald doens’t think the BODEGA name will be a problem: “I’m not particularly concerned about it. We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no’. It’s a simple name and I think it works.”

Oh, please. And THIS is the vision you have? A nice vending machine?

Let’s just ignore the fact that not only is he blatantly stealing BODEGA for a commercial venture that is nothing about a bodega, this McDonald guy is essentially suggesting that he wants to get rid of a cultural institution that goes beyond just things to buy. As many have said previously and with more eloquence, bodegas are not just corner stores. They are so much more, and if you don’t get that, you never will. (Psst, we doubt that the new BODEGA startup can make us a baiconeggancheese or give us advice about our relationships.)

But hey, let’s just demolish it all, right? Because we have shiny new marketing videos and we really aren’t selling things from a shelf or a vending machine. It’s a bodega, get it?

Hit it, Gollum:

UPDATE: The BODEGA Dude (or better yet, the BRODEGA Dude) responded to the fact that almost everyone on social media thought this whole idea was stupid AF. As part of McDonald’s post said:

What’s with our name?
In Spanish, “bodega” can mean grocery store, wine cellar, or pantry. In many major cities, it’s come to mean the mostly independently-run corner stores that populate the city and serve the community. Like NYC’s bodegas, we want to build a shopping experience that stands for convenience and ubiquity for people who don’t have easy access to a corner store.

Is it possible we didn’t fully understand what the reaction to the name would be?
Yes, clearly. The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. When we first came up with the idea to call the company Bodega we recognized that there was a risk of it being interpreted as misappropriation. We did some homework — speaking to New Yorkers, branding people, and even running some survey work asking about the name and any potential offense it might cause. But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.

Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning, we apologize. Rather than disrespect to traditional corner stores — or worse yet, a threat — we intended only admiration. We commit to reviewing the feedback and understanding the reactions from today. Our goal is to build a longterm, durable, thoughtful business and we want to make sure our name — among other decisions we make — reflects those values. We’re here to learn and improve and hopefully bring a useful, new retail experience to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist.