Why diversity isn’t just a buzzword. #Bodega Is Life.
Bodega Defense Twitter Is My New Favorite Twitter
If you haven’t been on twitter this week, let me fill you in. So Fast Company dropped this article about how two former google employees essentially created a glorified vending machine that would replace local corner stores (e.g. Bodegas).
Then twitter went fucking ham with #Bodega:
Hell, I even came at Fast Company after reading the article.
Diverse perspectives are absolutely needed in everything we do
The fact that these two former google bros got funding for this venture is pure tomfoolery, and exactly what’s wrong with Silicon Valley. Meanwhile women and people of color struggle to even get crumbs from VC’s.
These gents locked down funding from some notable investors which included: Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital, Kirsten Green at Forerunner Ventures, and Hunter Walk at Homebrew. They even got angel investments from senior executives at Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and Google. Go figure.
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.
You think? Bruh….what New Yorkers you talk to? The gentrifites in Brooklyn? Or the business owners that run these local shops?
This is exactly why teams need women, folks who identify as trans & LGBTQ, people of color etc. When you’re building products, “You don’t know what you you don’t know”.
Diversity isn’t some handout out or a buzzword companies can keep throwing around. It’s valuable perspective. And in a constantly changing world, perspective is reality.
You can’t replace the bodega. Who else is gonna call me papi the second I walk in the store?!?!
The branding sucks, but the product doesn’t seem viable either
Author Helen Rosner of Eater put together a fantastic article sharing how the economics of Bodega also don’t stack up. Bodega, at it’s core, is a fancy vending machine. According to Paul McDonald who spoke to Fast Company and said,
“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.”
Ambitious. However, Helen Rosner makes a great point which is,
At 100,000 units — the scale McDonald and Rajan envision — that’s ten million items that are active at a time, plus reserve products for restocking, plus new products to introduce as the “machine learning” (I’m sorry, I just can’t) cycles out low performers. Across specialized markets and user-informed preferences, the number of SKUs (industry shorthand for a stocked product, rather than an individual unit of that product) that Bodega would be dealing with would quickly climb into the thousands.
So many products, across so many Bodegas, in so many unique configurations poses a set of phenomenally complex logistical conundra: How are the products purchased? Where are they warehoused?
So it seems like eventually, this venture won’t quite work out. The verdict is obviously still out.
Follow your ignorance
We can all learn a lesson from these two Ex-Googlers. Ask for feedback from the people you NEED to hear it from, not the people who might give you the answers you want to hear.
Get input from the people who’s toes you might be stepping on. Collaborate with them. Have coffee with them.
Tech companies, stop hiring the same people. VC’s stop funding the same people.
Here’s a real-life example of a lack of diversity and how it impacted a product. This is from a 2014 NY Times article by Farhad Manjoo.
In 2012, when YouTube, a Google subsidiary, created a mobile app that allowed people to upload videos from their phones, it noticed something odd. About 10 percent of the videos being uploaded were upside down. When designers looked into the problem, they found something unexpected: Left-handed people picked up their phones differently from right-handed people, leading to upside-down videos.
The issue here was one of ignorance — the engineers and designers who created the YouTube app were all right-handed, and none had considered that some people may pick up their phones differently. It’s a small example, but a telling one. If Google’s designers couldn’t anticipate the needs of left-handed people with an all-right-handed product team, how could they anticipate the needs of women with a staff composed overwhelmingly of men?
Now if we take this example and scale it up to the products we use everyday, the impact is clear. If tech companies are 80–90% white, think of all the factors that are being overlooked in what they build.
They don’t know how black women feel. They don’t know how a Latin trans individual navigates the world. They don’t know what it’s like to be a black man driving who clinches his steering wheel when he sees a cop car in his rear view.
So cut the shit Google, Ex-Googlers and any other tech company complaining that they can’t diversify their teams. Hire more women & people of color. You can only hide behind capitalism for so long.