Man using Bodega vending machine

Screengrab via Bodega

Nobody likes this bodega startup that aims to replace bodegas

Do bodegas need disruption?


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

The humble bodega is an essential and beloved part of the New York City experience. You can get anything there at any hour, usually without having to walk far or take the subway, and there are cats. One startup thinks this isn’t good enough, though—there’s still too much messiness and humanity in the corner store, and perhaps this could be removed and replaced with a line of sterile vending machines. Much to the chagrin of actual bodega customers—which is to say, people—this company calls itself Bodega.

In Fast Company profile that introduced Bodega to the world, Bodega co-founder and ex-Googler Paul McDonald laid out his vision: “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.”

The reaction online, from the tech and media people who would presumably be Bodega’s target audience, has ranged from negative to scorchingly furious. Even if the product were Good, which is debatable, Bodega’s branding is being decried as Bad.

And what will become of the “bodega cats,” so frequently present in NYC’s mom-and-pop stores that they’ve become a meme? Can they live inside vending machines? Well, Bodega has a cat as a logo, so I guess that’s something …

Getting a Fast Company write-up is usually a big deal for a nascent startup, but this one might just kill Bodega, or at least force it to rebrand. It’s a tale as old as startups themselves: online backlash, apology, and then failing upward with some other project. Is this Bodega’s fate?

Fast Company itself has even posted a follow-up about the reaction, headlined “Startup Bodega’s glorified vending machines are sparking major Twitter backlash.”

The company announced 50 new machines on the West Coast in the Fast Company piece Wednesday, with plans to spread nationwide—and presumably into NYC—next year. If they’re still around then.

The Daily Dot