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On December 4, 2019, Sarkis commented on Symrise and IBM: New Fragrances Created by AI :

Well considering I wrote about Watson I feel the duty to comment on this post! I really like that you focused on the tension this raises between human and machine – from my own research, I felt that IBM goes to great lengths to incorporate human intuition into its AI. I wonder to what extent the perfumer’s intuition is being baked in as a “hybrid” approach or whether the AI runs more standalone according to certain metrics set by perfumer. The former approach seems to more in the spirit of collaboration, but the second is more what you would get “out-of-the-box” meaning faster to get up to speed and simpler from a process perspective to implement. Would be interesting to see how that machine – hybrid approach is being implemented and whether it has implications on other industries.

On December 4, 2019, Sarkis commented on Kensho – made in the Square, trades on the Street :

I’m very excited to see this post! I’ve followed Kensho throughout the years, one area where they seemed to initially struggle in terms of customer adoption was product complexity. Users needed training to really understand how to use it. Based on what you’re describing it seems like their business model has shifted more to a B2B (in strategic partnerships with S&P for instance) than a B2C play. If so I wonder what a Porters analysis would say about how attractive this industry is and where it would lead us to in terms of growth. For instance, you mentioned the bargaining power of customers, I imagine S&P would probably like some form of exclusivity and is big enough to enforce it (vs competitors) thereby potentially limiting Kensho’s growth prospects.

Love the post! It got me thinking about one of my close friends who started his career in the QA portion of a giant software company. These traditionally are career tracks and I wonder a) how receptive would software engineers like him be to his workflow being potentially automated away b) how receptive software developers in the next part of the workflow process be to the prospect of this technology evolving and getting smarter and potentially automating parts of their process as well. Is this just an inevitable change that software developers would have to accept and the organization will embrace or will Test.AI face headwinds in getting adoption due to potentially misaligned incentives?

On November 13, 2019, Sarkis commented on Kreditech: Loans based on Facebook posts? :

Great post! I think its very telling that the company is focusing on developing nations where credit scores are less prevalent. I wonder whether this is their long term strategy or a means of showing a proof of concept/gaining validation. I’ve spoken to people in insurance for instance in the US and did not get this sense that this would be adopted given the many privacy concerns and regulatory requirements for transparency. Is it the same in Germany and if so what does it mean for Kreditech’s growth strategy?

Love this post! I hope we do discuss this tomorrow because its such an important topic and potential area for growth. I totally get how this can make the learning processing more efficient and personalized. That said I wonder if there is more to our learning in math class than just math. Are we not also learning how to learn and how to interact with others? The idea of gamifying math while fun seems to detract from the struggle of learning math, and maybe there is some value in that especially as we progress in our lives and no longer have games to fall back on? Do we want to encourage students on the computer with their headphones on – especially when so much of their time is already in front of computers – instead of interacting with each other in class? Just a couple of tradeoffs to think about, more broadly I think what’s in part at stake is the balance of the human and data-driven elements of learning.

On November 13, 2019, Sarkis commented on 23andMe, who does it profit? :

Super interesting! The ethical concerns you raise reminds me of a case we did in Strategy class called Earth Bank Codes. The company is building a genetics database for animals in the Amazon,but unlike 23andMe compensates those who help build the database. Others like the Human Genome Project make such data publicly available given its great utility as a great public good. I wonder if there are elements from these models on how data is collected and distributed that 23andMe can leverage without jeopardizing their existing business model.

This is really incredible – I never thought there could be another platform enabled car company in the era of Uber and Lyft. Two things that come to mind are 1) what will be the competitive response of rental companies like Hertz as Getaround seems to target the same “job-to-be-done” or value proposition 2) how will the business model need to adapt when people don’t drive (i.e. when there are autonomous vehicles)? (1) seems to me to be the more immediate threat – would a rental company like Hertz consider acquiring a company like Getaround? Could they build a similar capability considering they have a large pool of fixed assets as their disposal? (2) is a bit of a longer-term threat, but the likes of Tesla who are planning on rolling out their fleet of autonomous cars have articulated a world where no one would own their cars. Would the likes of Tesla or other car companies be better positioned to capture value in this space given their deeper pockets, fixed assets, and deep expertise? How would Getaround be able to compete in what to them seems to be a sustaining (not disruptive) innovation?

On October 17, 2019, Sarkis commented on Yelp: A Recipe for Success :

Great post! I especially liked the final picture 🙂 I wonder what effects the growth of businesses around Google Maps, Trip Advisor, Seamless, and UberEats to name of few are having on network effects of Yelp. Have we reached a steady state where all these platforms can mutually co-exist? Or will the continued growth of its competitors ultimately undermine Yelp? One reason I can see for this concern is that a lot of their competitors offer additional services to capture more of the value chain – Seamless you can see the ratings and also directly order (so why use Yelp in the first place). Google maps have ratings as well as the ability to provide you accurate directions and proximity to your food (which can also be leveraged to autonomously deliver that food to you). Network effects are a vicious cycle until they are not, is this a sustainable business or is it simply a matter of time?

On October 17, 2019, Sarkis commented on GoodRx or GreatRx? :

Really loved the comprehensive analysis, what strikes me after living in NY for a while is the consolidation of pharmacies down to a few players. It seems almost a duopoly between Walgreens and CVS, (Walgreens acquired Duane Reade which was the other big player in pharmacies), so I wonder how can a platform thrive in such an environment? I could see the case where it empowers smaller players to be discovered and offer better prices, but there is also just the convenience factor of having a Walgreens and CVS in what seems to be every other block on NYC. The bigger point I guess is that I would be curious to see how well Good Rx’s business model handles these competitive pressures (you mention vertical integration being a threat) and whether its value proposition is stronger in certain markets over others (and if so what those markets are).

On September 24, 2019, Sarkis commented on Are you loyal to bricks-and-mortar? (Wells Fargo vs. Revolut) :

Great post Ivan! I think Wells Fargo maybe in a bit of trouble. I wonder however if the same can be said about other banks – I know that JPMorgan, for instance, is very active in the digital space. They have programs to seed startups that may complement their digital platform and use their large existing customer base as a competitive edge for market testing. Goldman Sachs perhaps took a page out of Revolut’s playbook and launched its own digital platform. What’s very interesting is that Goldman did not have a physical presence prior and used digital (and its collaboration with Apple Pay) to launch into the consumer market. I wonder if the fate of the smaller firms is acquisition by maybe the very Wells Fargo that is looking at its competitors and wanting to play catch up?

On September 24, 2019, Sarkis commented on Podcasting: Wayne’s World v.s. Corporate Media :

I really enjoyed this most not only because it is a great introduction into podcasting but also because I’m actually working on a podcasting project in another class of mine! To build off of Short Apple’s comments, I wonder who is best positioned in the competitive landscape to take on podcasts and why? One could argue Spotify who is a leader in music and recently acquired a couple startups in the space. On the other hand, Apple has its native podcast app and a platform in iTunes, and most importantly the wallet to acquire or license original content. To me it comes down to is there enough of a market opportunity to move the needle in revenue for a large firm like Apple. We are already seeing that Netflix is feeling the squeeze from Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, and Apple TV. Could the small players really keep up if firms like these with existing capabilities, relationships, and intellectual properties decide to really enter the podcast market?

On September 24, 2019, Sarkis commented on Peloton’s Fast Clip :

Great post! I personally love to spin so this one is very close to home for me. As someone who does pay the absurd $30 per class to attend my SoulCycle class – I very much understand how Peleton can offer better value. That being said, I don’t use Peleton for the reason that I love to be part of the group during the spin class. There’s a sort a strength in numbers in seeing everyone push around me, I feed off their energy. I have the sense that a non-trivial number of people share that view. As we think about Peleton sustaining growth, do you think it will need to expand into the physical market (sort of how Amazon did vs Walmart) or do you strongly feel that this is more a Netflix vs Blockbuster movie – and people like me just have a bit of nostalgia and will ultimately get behind the superior technology?