Bodega Startup Slammed as Social Media Backs Mom and Pop Shops

Tech startup Bodega drew outrage from the social media community Wednesday for appearing to go after the business of small corner stores.

The startup wants to install — basically everywhere — pantry boxes unlocked with a smartphone and filled with necessary items. Whatever is removed will be automatically charged to the credit card associated with the account.

The concept is part vending machine, part hotel mini-bar, and aims to be even more convenient than its namesake, the tiny corner stores found in many New York City neighborhoods that offer necessities and staples people often need between major shopping trips.

Co-founder Paul McDonald said in a Fast Company interview, “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.”

The startup aims to use technology — probably AI-influenced data gathering — to pinpoint products customers at specific locations are likely to want. A construction site, for instance, would offer different products than a site near a dance club.

On the Bodega company blog on Wednesday, however, McDonald said he wasn’t trying to put corner stores out of business, but instead wanted to “bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist.”

McDonald acknowledged the backlash generated by the concept and apologized for “hitting a nerve,” but stopped short of promising a name change. “We commit to reviewing feedback and understanding the reactions from today,” he wrote.

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