Why Does My Kitchen Look the Same as Don Draper’s?

When we were approached with an investment opportunity by Matt Van Horn and Nikhil Bhogal in 2014, they started with a single, lighthearted but thought-provoking question:

Why does your kitchen look the same as Don Draper’s?

There has been little significant innovation in how we prepare and cook food at home since the microwave oven. In recent years, we’ve been delighted by in-home products like those from Nest and Sonos which have tested the waters of the connected home market and proven that it’s there.

My TV, thermostat, light system, security cameras, and even my 3D Printer is a delight to use. But what about the kitchen? Amy and I continue to complain to each other about how miserable the user interfaces are on the very expensive stuff in our kitchen and the blinking 12:00 on my super high end Miele oven crushed my soul recently. Each year we expect to see something amazing at CES only to encounter proof of concepts from large companies that George Jetson wouldn’t even be happy using.

When we met with Matt and Nikhil a year ago, they gave us a vision for what could be done in the kitchen around the notion of the connected home. Their vision has come to life with their first product – the June Intelligent Oven, a computer-based powerful and easy-to-use countertop oven.

June Oven

This thing works like magic. Except, of course, there is no magic involved, just computers and software and an awesome oven. Some of the biggest brains in hardware and software (from teams like Apple, Google, Facebook, Nest, and GoPro) as well as product designers and chefs, joined forces in a house in San Francisco and worked in stealth for a year. This week they are showing the world the June Oven.

You can pre-order to save a spot in line and they have a referral program to help you and your friends shave a little money off, but I’ll let you read more about that on their site. Also, use the promocode BRADFELD to get an additional $100 off the final shipping order.

This team is fearless. They put a camera in a box that heats to 450 degrees fahrenheit and made it safe to touch. It recognizes the mostly commonly cooked food you put in it and automatically configures itself. The cooking process is live streamed so you can watch and control the oven from the couch.

The Stuff Inside The June Life Oven

It’s just awesome to see it all come together. I just pre-ordered two of them. Join me in the fun.

  • I have mixed feelings about “intelligent” cookware. Like the Pantelligent, a pan that tells you (via an app) when to flip your steak. It feels like we are neutering ourselves of the skills, and frankly, enjoyment of cooking.

    Using the thermostat or smoke detector are not enjoyable, they shouldn’t be, so the more automation the better, but cooking…. entirely different. I certainly dont’ want to raise my kids in a world where the basic skills of cooking and feeding yourself are reduced to “replicator, i’d like a medium well steak please” or some Siri-voice telling me to flip the omelet.

    I can’t say this is the case for the June oven as I haven’t looked at it but I do worry about trading very valuable and basic skill sets for convenience. I can just imagine a dystopian novel plot where terrorists inject an exploit into our June ovens that causes them to undercook food, and all of Palo Alto spends a week on the toilet, markets crash, etc.

    • Klaus Flesch

      But then the terrorists need to make sure that undercooked meat is unsafe. Wait, that is really what our industrial meat production system is guaranteeing, so this will work nicely together.

    • Do you use a microwave? Sometimes you want convenience, sometimes you want something else to take care of it for you, and sometimes you want the experience of doing it all manually. This doesn’t exclude that – it just creates more ranges of opportunities.

      • I do have a microwave. No one in the house uses it. Ever.

        To be fair though, the June oven fits more in line with the set-it-and-forget style of the microwave then then Pantelligent pan which is really just handicapping people.

  • Brad – I’m totally up for a more intelligent oven. I don’t think we still have to live in Don Draper’s world. But for heaven’s sakes, that oven looks like something from Don’s world. The industrial design is ghastly. Unless they are going for some sort of perverse retro vibe, from what I’ve seen the design needs a major rework. I know it’s early days, but the way this product looks is surely going to be important and it just doesn’t look like thinking that through was a priority.

    • This is true, and its ridiculously huge for the counter. Unless you have 24 ft counters like in their video. It also looks too small to replace a current oven. I really have no idea where they want me to put this thing. And wheres the power cord?

    • I’ve seen many photos of it and I think it’s beautiful, especially when side by side with our brand new microwave. So – I guess taste is in the eye of the beholder.

  • I am super intrigued by this! Three things that I love is the ability to cook meat at the right levels (I tend to overcook my meat), being able to watch my food cook as I do other things and having a second oven during the holidays. The price is more expensive than we paid for our oven though.

  • Matt Kruza

    I think a major issue is cost. Twice as expensive as a good stove and a good microwave combined. just super hard to get mass adoption when the economics make no sense. Sure there is a niche, but until economically is competitive it won’t catch on

    • v1 always a toy for the rich. v100 is everybody’s life is better, if it makes it to v100

      • Matt Kruza

        There could be some truth to that. Although, they have just added technology on top of old (they are still heating food at its core), so if yeh long-term the thing is $500 then I agree. I don’t know the underlying material cost well enough, but they certainly will not be cheaper long-term, and most (almost all??) disruptions in the internet / technology age have been so great because of massive price deflation to the end consumer, except maybe when new categories have been made. this is not a fundamentally new product in my opinion

        • The potential massive price deflation is in the intelligence/software. If the food recognition and automatic cooking adjustment is right, then it’s now incredibly cheap to bake perfect cookies, roast pork shoulders perfectly, bake perfect cakes, etc.

          • Matt Kruza

            That is a good point. Hopefully they can do that!

      • Completely agree.

  • conorop

    I’m a big home cook (big meals 3-5 days a week) and have purchased a handful of kitchen devices – almost all of them leave me disappointed. The modern conveniences are no where near worth the additional cost.

    From a UX perspective, my biggest needs are a sophisticated timer, a wider oven, and temperature precision.

    My best kitchen investments were a few cooking lessons and a cast iron skillet.

    • RBC

      +100. An excellent comment!!!

    • RBC

      Conorop has identified the key problems for chefs. I feel most solutions have been forced upon cooks by people who don’t like cook. The bigger problem though is IoT are generally stationary devices. USV portfolio company Veniam were the first people to use the phrase, Internet of Moving Things. For me that is a much richer vein to mine than the kitchen.

    • Cast iron skillet, and sous vide is amazing.

  • RBC

    For a great device, I’d recommend a rice cooker with a timer, it can multi-task to make you hot porridge in the morning.

  • Handshakin Holmes

    This is great, it’s about time!

  • Interesting. Maestro won the New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago. Like seeing tech put into normal things to make it even simpler. Lots of innovation in the food space, from the way we grow it, deliver it, and now cook it.

  • Sigurdur Gudbrandsson

    A very nice oven. and it’s tempting to buy it ..

    I foresee a wave of food-braggers massively instagramming everything they’re cooking .. (I guess it’ll be useful to know if you should show up unannounced at dinner time)

  • Ha! We have a Miele fridge that is impossible! And I have always wondered why every single electronic item needs to have a clock glaring it’s beady blue eyes at me all day and all night.

    This looks very cool – convection ovens are amazing.

    • StevenHB

      So that it can tell you when to replace its outrageously expensive filter, of course. All the manufacturers want to turn your product purchase into their annuity – you know, the Gillette strategy: give away the razor, charge for the blades. Though, in the case of refrigerators, it’s charge for the fridge AND charge for the filters. I’m particularly skeptical that the replacement frequency is unrelated to the volume of water filtered.

      • ha! you are so right!

        • StevenHB

          Ironically, we received yesterday a replacement filter for my mother’s refrigerator. She died in December and had signed up for an Amazon subscription at ~$40 / filter.

          So it’s an annuity in perpetuity.

          • Oh my gosh! You’re on a roll here: “annuity in perpetuity”! Soon we’ll start seeing that in pitch decks!

      • karen_e

        “All the manufacturers want to turn your product purchase into their annuity” [classic line – love it!]

  • The Home control and automation market is ripe for new innovation and new products can take a couple of iterations to find mass appeal. Wonder if June is HomeKit compatible.

    • It will be. And there will be rapid iteration on the software.

  • panterosa,

    #1 – I love this, want one, and want one more because it can make toast!

    #2 – The key problem in kitchens, having design many, especially small one in NYC, is countertops sliding panels and the like, to cover cooktops and so on. I have a system 25 Bulthaup kitchen from long ago, when it was a coveted design thing. They still make most of the smartest design pieces for the kitchen.

    • We love Bulthaup – that’s what our kitchen in our new house is!

      • panterosa,

        bultaup FTW! The accessories are so boss – new drawer inserts. I wonder if you looked into the solar ovens for outdoors?

        http://www.gosunstove.com/

  • Gerald

    Did you invest in the company?

    • Yes – we are the largest shareholder.