NY outraged over startup that wants to replace bodegas


Tech startup Bodega aims to replace beloved brick-and-mortar bodegas with more convenient, automatic-billing "pantry boxes", according to a Wednesday article by business magazine Fast Company.

"I'm not particularly concerned about it", he responded. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.

Solving a problem that doesn't exist to threaten the livelihoods of local bodegas is nefarious enough, but the venture also stands to get rid of arguably one of the most important bodega features-the bodega cat-which they've also co-opted for the startup's logo. It's basically a vending machine.

The end goal of Bodega is to collect data about its customers in specific areas, and then "use machine learning to constantly reassess the 100 most-needed items in that community". In New York, in particular, immigrants have successfully created a meaningful space for everyone, regardless of ethnicity and race.

"Each community tends to have relatively homogenous tastes, given that they live or work in the same place". But apparently, that term is just too cold for McDonald and Rajan, who are instead calling their unrefrigerated boxes filled with non-perishable snacks and sundries Bodegas. Well, the Bodega startup wants to cash in on that sense of familiarity, though McDonald and Rajan won't phrase it that way. "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".

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You shall be launched into the sunI don't think the dudes at Bodega are familiar with what people actually buy at bodegas... 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. And, together with other marginalized people who run bodegas, they're pushing back against this latest tech "enbroachment". No surprise, there's been swift backlash against the Silicon Valley techies and their company, named Bodega after a commonly used term in NY for local stores typically run by immigrants.

This was in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, where hole-in-the-wall convenience stores, many of them owned by immigrants from Yemen, are as common as fire hydrants.

That's not exactly how some on Twitter saw the new bodega rival. Bodegas are already threatened by rising rents and New York's ultra-competitive real estate market, and neighborhoods suffer when these essential services are lost-a fact that seems to be lost on the folks behind Bodega-the-app-version.

Fifty Bodega box locations were unveiled Wednesday on the West Coast, according to Fast Company.