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On November 20, 2016, A123 commented on From Big Mac to e-Mac: McDonald’s in the digital age :

Interesting read! It’s clear that a lot of changes are coming to this space. Coupons and in-app ordering are clear benefits that are already becoming pervasive. There’s also the possibility for dynamic offerings, pushing a discount to a user that happens to be near a store that is heavily underutilized, for instance. Additionally, within the store, user-facing POS systems could be implemented which could speed up the ordering process and reduce labor costs.

What I’m wondering on the mobile side is what happens once more restaurants begin to get on board. Is it feasible for the user to have 20 apps installed on their device for different restaurants? Or will we see the emergence of a dominant platform with consolidated offerings – and if so – what form will this take?

On November 20, 2016, A123 commented on Chase Cashes in on Mobile Banking :

I agree – this really is a win-win for both the bank and the consumer. Others like Bank of America are doing this too, and the impact is significant. Routine tasks like depositing checks are extremely simplified and reduce labor and costs on the bank’s end. There’s a big effect on the security side too. Tailored notifications can be set up which allow the user to take a more active role in the monitoring of their account with minimal effort. In the case of a suspicious credit card purchase, the bank can easily send a push notification to the user. In turn, the user has the ability to confirm the purchase without having to call the bank, removing what has traditionally resulted in a cumbersome process for the user and costly for the bank. If this trend continues, it will be interesting to see how the resulting lower infrastructure requirements change the competitive dynamic in the space, opening the doors for smaller banks to serve a broader pool of customers.

On November 20, 2016, A123 commented on Zillow: Making Realtors Obsolete :

Great post! Given that few consumers are extremely adept in the real estate market, I think they may be finding benefit in some degree of hand-holding that agents currently provide, such as explaining the rationale behind valuations or forward-looking projections. The problem is the incentive system and inefficiency in the current model, which firms like Zillow really have the potential to disrupt. I like your idea of Zenefits potentially having agents that leverage their data to do the work at a lower cost than a traditional option, giving users the best of both. Really interested to see how this plays out – if they are able to truly establish trust in their appraisals and help users comfortably transition into this new model while limiting the burden of effort on these users, we could see big changes in the way these transactions work.

On November 20, 2016, A123 commented on Too much data :

I agree with a lot of your thoughts – it seems often that some of these devices track data that we can’t actually turn into actionable insights at the average consumer level, leading to them being more a novelty than truly useful. I do think these sensors will see much more success in the preventative medicine space – and it becomes particularly interesting when picturing the long-term possibilities. As some other posts have mentioned, wearable devices could monitor and different metrics in real time and alarm users of risk indicators. This could be not only for acute problems such as heart attacks but also more subtle signs for health conditions, such as monitoring gait or voice as indicators of potential neurological conditions. And if tracking became more ubiquitous its power would continually increase over time – with more data available to process combined with artificial intelligence, we could possibly detect issues much sooner than we do today. One can imagine a scenario where the first line of care are data monitoring centers that receive a report of a flag and can suggest an immediate course of action, with the potential to greatly enhance the efficiency of treatment.

On November 20, 2016, A123 commented on Uberization of Investment and Financial Planning :

Interesting read. Having lived in San Francisco, Betterment and other robo-advisors were popular with people the tech space. The low amount of personalization seems to be the biggest limitation to me, more than an ‘advisor’ it seems to simply create a portfolio that its users can buy into, with only the ability to select the balance between stocks and bonds. I like your idea of having a consultation with a financial planner – combined with more flexibility in the contents of the portfolio, this could go a long way in meeting user’s specific needs rather than a blanket solution. However, too much financial planner time could make it harder for them to keep their fees low. Maybe there is a middle ground where more extensive data collection about the user’s situation, assets and goals can be fed into the system to generate a preliminary (and more customized) plan, which can then be reviewed and tweaked with more limited financial planner involvement?

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area (and a fan of Northstar, Kirkwood and Heavenly), this issue is front and center to many avid skiers and snowboarders. From around 2011 onward the awareness of the reduced snowfall was widespread and has had a real impact on resort demand. This is a very difficult position to be in as a company, as the business is massively impacted by something out of their control.

Diversification is the clearest way to hedge against variation in snow volume, and we’ve seen Vail employ this strategy aggressively as mentioned in your post. Levers to pull at the resort level, however, are harder to come by. Artificial snow, as Mike describes in his comment above, is likely the most direct resource they have. Investment in new technologies in this space will be critical – more cost-effective machines with the capability to cover greater areas efficiently may serve to reassure consumers that their favorite slopes will be open when they arrive. Great read – thanks for the post!

Really surprised about the descent pattern benefits – seems like a simple and powerful way to reduce emissions. On the alternate fuel and modern fleet fronts, looks like Alaska is in a great place. However, airlines in general are in a difficult position on these two, in that many of the factors that drive the improvements can only be influenced but not controlled by the airlines themselves. As you mentioned, using biofuels would require infrastructure that is in the hands of the airports. Aircraft efficiency depends on manufacturers, which can be impacted by airline demand but have extremely long development cycles regardless. In a space like this, it seems critical that environmental standards are carefully coordinated across players in the entire ecosystem, taking into account the possibilities and constraints at each level such that the industry moves forward in alignment.

On November 7, 2016, AZ commented on Tesla’s $7 Billion Climate Change Problem? :

Interesting post! I hadn’t considered the supply-chain impact of extreme weather events. On the increased upfront emissions in constructing a Tesla, I think this is definitely something that consumers should become more informed about. In the long-run though, it isn’t clear to me how big the impact of this will be in comparison to the emissions saved. A 68% increase to 6 tons of upfront carbon dioxide is significant, but according to the EPA a typical car will emit 4.7 tons per year (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-02/documents/420f14040a.pdf). If we look at what this might add up to in a typical car lifetime, the 53% less lifetime emissions from an electric car should produce emissions savings many times larger than the upfront difference. Tesla should certainly try to reduce upfront emissions and be vigilant of changes in tax incentives and regulations, but for now it seems the environmental benefits of their cars far exceed the tradeoff in their production.

Thanks for the post! The possibility of utilizing more drought-resistant grapes is particularly interesting to me. It is already being done with barley, with research underway to develop more water-efficient crops. The wine industry poses an interesting challenge here though. In a space where subtle qualities in the grape will to a great extent shape the quality of the product, will it be feasible to develop water-efficient grapes with the complex attributes desired by winemakers? And even if this is done successfully, will wine from a modified grape be embraced by the consumer? It will be interesting to see how consumers preferences evolve and adapt to the changes gradually introduced by climate change.

Really enjoyed the post and the debate over whether UberPool will be net positive for the environment. On the point of the 8% increase in rides driven by apps that would have otherwise gone to public transportation, my understanding is that this refers to ridesharing in general. While increasing ride volume, hopefully this is somewhat mitigated by the use of low-emission vehicles. However, as for UberPool specifically, I suspect the negative effects are offset by the people that would have otherwise taken an individual taxi or rideshare car and instead now share one amongst several people. I lived in a city where Uber made it much less enticing to own a car, and when UberPool was released many switched from regular rides to shared rides for their morning commute. Given the tremendous shift in ease of transportation brought about by ridesharing and the reality that it is likely here to stay, I think UberPool and similar features are likely to be a step forward in reducing the emissions of these services.