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June Oven

Cofounders Matt Van Horn and Nikhil Bhogal

Before they invented the June Oven—a countertop smart appliance that counts among its benefits a built-in camera to recognize food, suggest cooking techniques and livestream the entire process to your smartphone—Matt Van Horn and Nikhil Bhogal had honed entrepreneurial chops. Van Horn previously cofounded Zimride, now known as Lyft, and Bhogal helped build the original iPhone. (Thank him for camera features like tap-to-focus and panorama processing.)

“Over time, though, we both ended up working at a social network called Path,” Van Horn explains. “And while the company was great, we, like many innovators today, missed the opportunity to work on something more tangible—to create a physical product.”

Basically, they wanted to invent something. Only issue? They didn’t know what.

“We spent pretty much every evening brainstorming in one of our apartments,” Van Horn continues. “And as it would get later, we would get hungrier and end up procrastinating in the kitchen… [Laughs] It’s a scenario most entrepreneurs can relate to.”

What they discovered during those late night food breaks was shocking: Their own kitchens looked markedly similar to those on their favorite TV show, Mad Men. The most modern piece of technology in both scenarios? The microwave, a now 50-year-old piece of technology. Surely, they thought, someone could do better. Why not us?

And that’s how two guys who had barely used a kitchen appliance, let alone made one, disrupted the industry in 2016.

This $1,495 smart oven is disruptive AF

“If you look at early marketing for the microwave, it looks awesome: high quality meals in seconds; working professionals creating meals on the fly. But that invention didn’t deliver on its promise. All it really offered was soggy TV dinners…

We felt there was unrealized potential in this idea of a countertop appliance, even though we weren’t initially sure what it would look like. Eventually, though, we put our heads together and started from scratch—built a sort of dream appliance that has the best elements of an oven, a microwave and all that modern technology has to offer.” – Van Horn

So, is it an oven? Or a microwave?

“Say you want to make a chicken cutlet. Before you even close the oven door, our HD camera will recognize what the dish is and make a suggestion on how best to prepare it—everything from the ideal rack placement to oven temperature to estimated cooking time. All you, the chef, have to do is press play. And once it’s cooking, not only will that camera let you watch the entire process on your phone, but the core thermometer inside the cutlet will let you remotely monitor the chicken’s internal temperature. The June Oven tells you when it’s reached that perfect 165 degrees, then reports that experience back using a similar technology to Tesla—which means we’re using data from existing ovens to improve our cooking skills over time.” – Van Horn

Walk us through some of those "smart" features.

“We were both renting at the time we came up with the June Oven, and what we realized is that in order to get a better kitchen, you really need to buy a home. So, it’s not just the matter of paying for a better oven—you have to drop $1M on a house first. With skyrocketing real estate prices and Millennials buying later in life, we felt it was important to do the countertop thing. A nice kitchen shouldn’t be something you wait 20 years for—an idea the larger companies seemed to be missing.” – Bhogal

Why was it important that the June be countertop?

“Complacency sets in when companies find a predictable, solid revenue stream… and the kitchen appliance industry is still riding a post-World War II revenue wave of electric ovens and microwaves. They haven’t caught up to the nearly 10-year-old iPhone, for example, which seemed like a huge missed opportunity. [Legacy companies] are simply too conservative and operate on too long of development cycles for them to keep up. That’s where having the fresh perspective of two entrepreneurs who have never built an appliance, but who know how to build products for modern consumers, came in handy.” – Bhogal

Why not Viking? Or GE?

It’s a scenario we’ve seen played out time and time again: legacy business disrupted by scrappy innovator. You would imagine they would have picked up on the trend.

“What it really comes down to is that a business can only have one master,” Bhogal finishes. “And for large companies, that master is often the company itself—the need to meet internal goals and stay on course for something determined long ago.”

Being small means you only have one master: the customer. And that’s when disruption sets in.

In conclusion.


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