When Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan’s startup “Bodega” went viral, it angered people living in immigrant communities throughout the U.S and especially in The Bronx. Emotions aside for a second, this startup’s concept was to place internet connected vending machines that would sell nonperishable food items in neighborhoods that don’t have a local bodega on every corner, especially places shoppers frequent like gyms, office buildings, and long stretch avenues, aiming to create a more convenient shopping experience
The fear by some that these “gentrification boxes” would replace bodegas was just ridiculous. First of all, landlords love bodegas because they make money and pay rent – how often have you seen a bodega close down? Some NYC neighborhoods have bodegas that have been running for over 30 years. They might change owners, but the bodega never closes down. Secondly, look at the technology-obsessed Japan – it has the highest concentration of vending machines serving all sorts of food items, but they still have over 40,000 convenience stores. The biggest threat to bodegas or any small business are corporate giants, box stores, and mega-chains.
Miguel Sanchez of MetaBronx the first startup accelerator in The Bronx explains that we can and should incorporate technology to our bodegas as evident by the online site – Bazaar, where bodegas and other small business owners can order goods and supplies. The companies receive their items as soon as the next day instead of having to go out at dawn to buy them from warehouses. The technology also informs business owners of inventory trends, and it is free to use. Unlike Bodega, Bazaar has the support of the Bodegueros Association of USA as well local politicians. I spoke with Miguel who shared his investment information with me and his feelings about Bodega.
Who Created Bazaar?
Julian Rodriguez and Yasser Toruno, both Bronx raised.
Did you invest in Bazaar?
Yes. I invested a small amount, and I advise them.
Could it use more investors?
Yes. Julian and Yasser have proven the model works and they are trying to expand to other markets.
Is Bazaar an app or website?
What are your feelings about Bodega and other internet connected vending machines?
They are typical of Silicon Valley startup creating solutions for problems that don’t exist in our communities. We have startups that solve community problems, but they have trouble raising money because they are considered a social play. I believe there is a way to do well and do good and that is what MetaBronx focuses on, startups that can solve the problems of the 99% and make money while doing it. Bazaar has proven it is needed in the community and has clients using it every day. I’m not sure how Bodega’s machines will go over in a place like The Bronx but, that’s another one of our points at MetaBronx. Places like The Bronx are so diverse and are better for startups to test ideas than places like San Francisco. It is hard to understand these communities unless you interact with them.
Can Bodega and Bazaar co-exist?
Sure, but as history, as proven in the end the best tech doesn’t always win. Most times it doesn’t win. Bazaar is a B2B business, so it’s not a direct competitor, but if Bodega forces the closure of small businesses, then it could hurt a company like Bazaar.
Where can business owners sign up?
There is no doubt that this age of rapidly growing technology is going to force small businesses to adapt. Technology such as Bazaar just might prolong the life of our beloved bodegas which were never at risk in the first place.
To learn more about MetaBronx visit http://www.metabronx.com/