Many users criticized the startup on Twitter, claiming that the name was appropriative and that the company’s apparent mission to replace small mom-and-pop businesses was concerning.
Now, in a Medium post titled “So, about our name…”, CEO and cofounder Paul McDonald wrote that the social media criticism was “far beyond what we ever imagined.”
McDonald also said that there “was a risk” of the name “being interpreted as misappropriation.”
He added: “We apologize to anyone we’ve offended … We intended only admiration.”
Bodegas and corner stores are close to the hearts of many city dwellers, and many people tweeted passionate defenses of them. McDonald says it was never his intention to put local stores out of business.
“Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal,” McDonald wrote. “[They] offer an integral human connection to their patrons that our automated storefronts never will.”
Instead, McDonald says that Bodega is designed to put tiny automated stores where there is currently little or no retail offerings, like apartment lobbies, gyms, and college dormitories.
“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,” he wrote.
The idea is to place interactive pantry boxes full of nonperishable goods in convenient spots so you can just grab and go. An app unlocks the box, and camera sensors see what you take to charge you accordingly.
Both McDonald and his cofounder, Ashwath Rajan, are former Googlers. The startup has raised venture capital from notable investors like Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital, Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green, and Homebrew’s Hunter Walk. According to a story by TechCrunch, the total amount raised was $2.5 million.