My favorite retail tech startup of 2018 is woman-led, and that part is important
Sometimes the best tech solutions are the lowest tech, and one company promises to break away from the pack of meal solution providers in a surprising way, writes Christopher Walton.
Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Christopher Walton, an independent consultant and former vice president, Target Store of the Future.
Having once held the position as the vice president of Target’s Store of Future project, I am often asked for my opinions on retail technology. The questions run the gamut from voice, AR and VR, all the way to quirky looking robots named Pepper. So as I reflected on the first half of 2018, I was surprised by the tech company that left the biggest impression upon me so far this year.
Surprised and damn proud, as you will see.
The most exciting tech of 2018 was encountered by me at Shoptalk back in March. While I expected to get swooped up in the glitz and glam of voice, VR and the next Pokemon Go craze, I left Las Vegas bedazzled by something completely different. My mind and imagination were captured instead by an upstart company out of North Carolina called Myxx Recipes.
Whenever I walk and evaluate a trade show floor, I always look for two things — universal truths and great people. Myxx Recipes has both. It is a rare find: a woman-led retail tech business (no, that's not a typo) within an industry that needs more women. The story of Myxx Recipes is, therefore, not just a story of great tech, but also a story that also needs to be told.
Let me try to do just that.
As a father of two young toddlers, who each do their best impressions of the kid from the Omen every day, the one universal refrain to which I can attest and will shout from the mountain top like Julie Andrews, is that getting kids to eat regularly and healthy is hard, really f*cking hard.
I have tried everything – meal planning, meal kits, last-second runs to McDonald’s – and I always feel like I need to compromise something, whether it be my time, my money, or my sanity. None of us want to give into chicken fingers, but my kids will never eat wild mushroom ragout and couscous from the likes of HelloFresh, and there just isn't enough time in the day for my wife and I to plan out every ingredient, for every meal, and still respect each other in the morning.
The industry needs new approaches to this problem. Over the past few years, meal kit solutions have abounded. It seems like every week a new one is getting press — Blue Apron even recently signed up to sell their kits out of Costco and Kroger on Wednesday bought meal kit maker Home Chef for $200 million.
But want to know something crazy? Guess what is already a meal kit? A goddamn grocery store. Meal kits are just another compromise solution, in a sea of compromising solutions in our already time-stressed lives.
Our industry needs different answers, answers that better understand the psychologies that are really at play here. Myxx Recipes is a start-up co-founded by two single mothers, and no one understands the psychology of feeding one’s kids better than moms.
Their CEO, Monica Wood, understands the problems parents go through. For much of the past decade, Monica was a single mother whose work took her on the road frequently, often back and forth to Washington, D.C. every week. Whenever she was away, she worried about how well her kids were eating.
Like so many of us, she would fret over last-minute meals and fast food, and she had a family history of obesity to contend with. Getting her kids to eat healthy wasn’t just important, it was vital.
As many single mothers do out there every day (shout out to my mom, who also raised me as a single mother), Monica took it upon herself, found that next gear, and put her years as an economic statistician and a digital product manager to use. Every Wednesday night, Monica and her co-founder and fellow single mother Dede Houston, would meet over a glass of wine and brainstorm ways to use technology to simplify their lives and to help them be better moms.
Out of those conversations, and from the depths of many bottles of Pinot Noir (they insisted I include the wine type), Myxx Recipes was born. And it is different.
Myxx approaches the problem from the perspective of a mom. Families simply go onto a web portal pick their favorite recipes and with a few quick clicks, they can elect to have all the ingredients from a given recipe delivered right to their front doorsteps. One press of a button and everything a person needs comes right to the door, from the retailer of his or her choice. No more shopping lists, no more trips to the grocery store, no more taking kids in and out of car seats, and my personal favorite, no more paying $10 (or more) per serving for home-delivered meal kits.
And that’s all I am going to say about the solution because I do not want this to sound at all promotional. I have much more important fish to fry (pun intended).
The industry needs to take notice of this company for two reasons:
First, Myxx approaches the problem from a different context, from the standpoint of true experience design. Instead of asking consumers to adopt new behaviors, Myxx wants to remove the friction points from what is a decades-old, if not centuries-old, process. Myxx works within how consumers (moms specifically) shop and gives them the tools to simplify the tasks they want to do — like picking recipes and the actual ingredients, because often these same moms are the de facto CFOs of their households too. Moms want control over what they choose to buy and at what cost.
Meal kits, despite the ballyhoo, don’t give moms this control. Meal kits are just frozen pouches or old-school TV dinners packaged and dressed up in a mischievously sexy way. These principles of design, of simplifying what people want to do, rather than asking them to do something entirely new, are often lost in many of the newfangled tech ideas or concepts we see every day.
Second, regardless of one’s taste or distaste (again, pun intended. I just couldn’t resist) for Myxx Recipes’ actual solution, the industry needs to know about this company in no small part because it is woman-led.
There are not enough companies like them within our industry, which is surprising given how much of the retail market women represent. Is it surprising then, that it is two moms, after weekly wine parties, who understand the principles of experience design better than so many of the male-dominated tech solutions we have seen up to this point?
It shouldn’t be a surprise to us at all. In fact, we need more women like Monica and Dede. They are exactly what our industry needs at the exact time we need them most. We should champion them and others like them, whether they are visible now or still lingering in the Brooks Brothers shadows of our trade show floors.
Heck, we should even have entire wings devoted to them post haste at the NRF Big Show next January. Your move NRF. Your move.