Two Bronx Natives Want To Help Bodegas, Not Make Them Obsolete

September 15, 2017, 6:34 PM UTC

The internet rallied in defense of bodegas after two ex-Google employees announced a startup that aims to automate your bacon-egg-and-cheese and render your bodega obsolete. But there’s another bodega-centered startup in the mix.

Rather than replacing the corner store with the corner vending machine, one New York-based venture wants to use technology to support neighborhood bodegas.

Bazaar, founded by two sons of Latinx immigrants who grew up in the Bronx, aims to empower small business owners to make better decisions by acting as a middleman between wholesalers and the bodegas, mini marts, and restaurants that buy from them.

“It’s literally the opposite,” founder and CEO Julian Rodriguez said, comparing the Bodega startup to his company’s mission. “They came to sort of disrupt and displace. We use tech to fend off things like this, to empower the bodega owners.”

After working other technology jobs, he and co-founder and CTO Yasser Toruño, wanted to build something that would give entrepreneurs in their community tools to run their businesses more efficiently.

Business owners can make purchase orders directly through Bazaar’s site and have them delivered the next day, eliminating the need to make runs back and forth to out-of-the-way warehouses (and often in the family minivan, Rodriguez said).

“We thought ‘What can we do to solve problems in our own community?’” said Rodriguez, whose parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic and whose uncle owns a bodega.

They also use data from customers and the United States Department of Agriculture to train algorithms that recommend when and what to buy based on past purchases and price fluctuations.

Once a store owner places an order on the marketplace, Bazaar handles transporting the good from the warehouse to individual storefronts.

The company has so far raised $1 million in seed capital from Gotham Gal, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and Lattice Ventures. The company is fine-tuning its operations in New York and plans to expand the model to new cities.

Meanwhile, Bodega‘s co-founders have apologized for the backlash their name caused Wednesday. They said they “did their homework” about the branding of the startup, but they “may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.”

The company has raised $2.5 million and plans to move ahead with its plans despite the public outcry earlier this week.

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