Time to call it quits on changing the world
Reality and an economic downturn have brought us back to earth
Once upon a time in December 2021, a new startup from a lauded and successful serial entrepreneur tried to completely change how people eat with a new model. Wonder, which I’ve previously referred to as the startup that makes you dinner in a van outside, paid top dollar for concepts and recipes developed by famous chefs and restaurants. Operating in just a few wealthy New York City suburbs, Wonder’s employees manned a fleet of custom kitchen vans that arrived curbside to prep customer meals and deliver it hot and fresh to their front doors.
It was an ambitious idea, backed by close to a billion dollars in capital, including a reported December 2021 $500 million from investors. It was new! Different! Game-changing! …until it wasn’t. In early February, Wonder conceded it was ditching the vans in favor of a model we’ve seen before: vertically integrated ghost kitchens in Manhattan. (In this context, vertically integrated means one company handles the cooking and distribution of the food.)
"The trucks were working well," Wonder founder and CEO Marc Lore told Insider, before explaining the company’s pivot to something that can grow faster. "We just found a better way to offer a higher quality customer experience and at the same time make a better profit margin.”
But a smattering of ghost kitchens preparing meals from a few handfuls of concepts is remarkably less innovative, even with a star-studded roster of chefs. Now, people are rejecting the undesirable costs of the so-called innovation that wants to change the way we eat. In Wonder’s case, some residents complained about noisy vans idling in otherwise idyllic neighborhoods. In other cases, pandemic-era demand has waned. Right now, incremental change is better business.
Most big technology companies of a certain era set out to fundamentally change how the world does something.
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