Bodega AI automated 'Mom and Pop' stores

Occurred: September 2017

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Bodega AI, a business that sought to automate the sales of non-perishable corner store items through in-office vending machines, caused controversy after one of its -ex-Google founders went on the record to say their intention was to disrupt and replace neighbourhood mom-and-pop corner stores (also known as 'bodegas').

Bodega AI co-founder Paul McDonald quip to Fast Company that 'centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you,' resulted in an immediate backlash from social media users and bodega/corner store owners.

Much of the backlash centred on the choice of name, which some regarded as cultural appropriation, marketing hype, and on the sense of community and belonging that traditional corner stores help provide. 

'Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal,' McDonald responded in a blog post. Rather, Bodega’s intended to 'bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist.'

Bodega AI was renamed Stockwell shortly after the fracas.

Operator: Stockwell/Bodega AI
Developer: Stockwell/Bodega AI

Country: USA

Sector: Retail

Purpose: Sell non-perishable products

Technology: Computer vision; Machine learning
Issue: Business model; Employment 

Transparency: Marketing