Teforia, the maker of a $1,000 internet-connected tea brewing machine, announced on Friday that it was shutting down effective immediately. The company touted the quality of its award-winning product, but said that “we simply couldn’t raise the funds required” to “educate the market” about it.
In some ways, Teforia’s shutdown is reminiscent of Juicero, the maker of a $400 “smart” juicer which shuttered in September. Both companies’ core products were remarkably pricey – Juicero’s machine was originally $700 – making them convenient symbols of both widespread income inequality in the U.S., and of a strain of investor gullibility when it came to anything remotely techy.
Back in 2015, we wondered whether the $5.1 million in seed funding Teforia had accumulated at the time was a sign of investor over-enthusiasm for connected kitchen devices. Despite our skepticism, the company went on to raise another $12 million in a 2016 Series A round – thought that’s still nothing compared to the more than $118 million in bad bets placed on Juicero by the finest minds in venture capital.
There were big differences between the two products, though. Juicero, infamously, shut down after a Bloomberg report found that its juice packs could be squeezed almost as well by hand as by the Juicero machine. In other words, the thing wasn’t really a “juicer” at all.
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Teforia’s device, by contrast, appears to have done a sterling job of brewing drinks, in part thanks to an algorithm that tracked brewing temperatures and times for different types of tea. A few negative reviews focused on the machine’s price, but it was named Best Tea Brewing Device (Electric) at the June 2017 World Tea Expo. And aficionados aren’t shy about shelling out for high-end tea or coffee machines: one commercial “smart” coffee and tea infuser, the Bkon Craft Brewer, sells for a reported $13,000.
It seems plausible, then, that Teforia’s problems raising further capital could actually be blamed on Juicero. Negative coverage of the juicer in recent months has likely left investors skittish over high-end connected beverage devices, even though Juicero’s problems were very much of its own unique making.
That’s a rough ending for Teforia, but there’s a short-term upside for tea drinkers: the last few Teforia machines are now on sale for the downright reasonable closeout price of $199.