Entrepreneurs

Former Google employee apologizes for sparking rage with a 'Bodega' app

For two former Google employees, the launch of their new app may not have gone exactly as planned.

Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan released an app called Bodega on Wednesday, which seeks to disrupt convenience shopping, reports Fast Company. Almost immediately, city dwellers rose up in defense of small neighborhood stores both on social media and in the real world.

McDonald responded to the heated reaction with a blog post on Medium.

"The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined," he writes. "Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning. And we apologize to anyone we've offended."

McDonald defended the business, too. He argued that it set out not to eliminate traditional bodegas but to supplement them.

"Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal," he writes. "Corner stores have been fixtures of their neighborhoods for generations. They stock thousands of items, far more than we could ever fit on a few shelves."

Here is what the company does, according to Fast Company: Bodega sets up "pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've picked up, automatically charging your credit card." The company plans to put them in offices, apartments, gyms, and college campuses according to its website.

There are currently 30 live Bodega locations in the San Francisco area. TechCrunch reports that Bodega has raised $2.5 million in financing.

The company is facing some serious criticism. For example, Frank Garcia, chairman of the National Association of Latino State Chambers of Commerce, says just using the name "Bodega" is offensive.

"The 'bodega' name is a very important name in the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community," Garcia tells CNBC Make It. "It has always been a house for immigrants to buy in. With all of the anti-immigrant issues, I think using the name 'Bodega' is an issue."

When first asked by Fast Company, McDonald said he wasn't worried about the name.

"We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97 percent said 'no,'" he tells the publication. "It's a simple name and I think it works."

And then there's the Twittersphere. The word "bodega" is trending thanks to the app, and people — many of whom see local bodegas as part of their communities — are not happy.

Fast Company notes that the company's cat-shaped logo is a reference to the "bodega cat" meme.

Others pointed out that the idea is not exactly innovative.

One of the founders told TechCrunch that, until now, "there's really only been two options: you can go to the store, or you can order something online. What we're trying to do is introduce a third option, a new way of buying things. Shrink the store, bring the best parts in a smaller form factor and bring it to where you are."

This article has been updated.

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