A startup has caused Twitter to show its claws.
On Wednesday, Fast Company published a profile on a startup founded by two ex-Google employees who ― as the site’s headline read ― want to “make bodegas and mom-and-pop corner stores obsolete.”
Their product is a 5-foot-wide pantry, controlled by an app, that stores non-perishable items one would find in their local convenience store.
Ashwath Rajan and Paul McDonald, who founded the startup, would like to install the pantries in apartment buildings, offices, dorms and gyms.
They’re also calling the product “Bodega” and the logo is a cat.
Bodegas, which take their name from the Spanish word for grocery store, cellar or warehouse, are corner stores commonly ran by New York City’s Latino and immigrant communities.
Aside from selling milk, diapers and delicious breakfast sandwiches, they oftentimes house a cat. The stores are also typically viewed as the heart of immigrant neighborhoods, where employees know the names of all their customers and vice versa.
With this in mind, Fast Company asked McDonald if he felt that using a name like “Bodega” for a product that aimed to make real bodegas obsolete was culturally insensitive.
“I’m not particularly concerned about it,” he responded. “We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no’. It’s a simple name and I think it works.”
Many people on Twitter disagreed, causing the word “Bodega” to trend on Wednesday.
Rajan and McDonald have responded to the backlash on Medium, saying they were not trying to put corner stores out of business and that they’re aware the name “Bodega” could be interpreted as “misappropriation.” Still, they insist they did their homework.
“But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people,” they wrote.