• Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, AF commented on Tesla: No More Driving :

I am curious to see how the public perception of self driving cars evolves as their popularity grows. Right now, with few driverless cars on the road, the public seems to be enthusiastic about the idea of not having to get behind the wheel of a car. But as more and more driverless cars accumulate and inevitable accidents grow, the perception might dwindle. Hopefully driverless cars do become a widely accepted thing as I would argue that the greatest benefit to driverless cars is reduced traffic.

The above video shows how a group of cars were instructed to drive along a circular track at a constant speed of 30 km/hr. After some time, the cars begin to get closer together and traffic jams build up. As we’ve seen in earlier TOM classes, this is due to the variability of the driving rate of each car. In 100 years from now, when hopefully all cars are driverless, this variability will be close to zero (assuming cars follow the normal rules of traffic). In that case, traffic not caused by an accident of physical delay will be minimized.

Spotify is always the first app I download on my iPhone when I get it replaced after accidentally smashing it on the ground or upgrading. My motivation for switching to Spotify over Pandora or iTunes was the fact that I could pick and choose individual songs I wanted to listen to and put them on playlists that I could download and listen to offline. In that sense, the Spotify business model was completely revolutionary and created immense amounts of value for music junkies like myself. As you point out, I would say they are only doing an OK job capturing the value that they create.

The music industry is in a tough spot. Even with apps like Spotify, piracy is still huge so it seems like artists are happy to join a huge growing app to gain at least some of the revenue they would lose from piracy.

If I were spotify, I would consider charging for additional features to increase revenue. While there are currently two tiers (4.99 and 9.99), I would consider adding another price of 19.99 that gives listeners preference when buying concert tickets. I’m not exactly sure how Spotify would structure that agreement but my willingness to pay for spotify and for concerts is much higher than 9.99 / month. While I am grateful that they have kept this price for so long, I think it is time they add a higher tier option for people like myself that would gladly pay it for preferred access to seats / concerts in general.

On November 20, 2016, AF commented on M-Pesa: Transforming Kenya with Mobile Money :

I’m curious how the folks that use M-Pesa feel about the 2% transaction fee. While this seems low at first, if nearly everything is transacted using M-Pesa, somebody (either the consumer or the vendor) is losing that 2% to Safaricom. I understand that the system is easy to use, especially with such widespread mobile phone access, but 2% on all transactions can add up. This is great for Safaricom as it sounds like a lot of Kenya uses M-Pesa. But if credit cards (or maybe debit cards?) gained popularity in Kenya and didn’t charge 2%, would Kenyans switch? Also are there any security risks to having money be tied to phone numbers? My instinct says this is not a system that can easily be “hacked” but with little physical currency and so much of the economy transacting via the internet, are there any other security risks?

I am a huge fan of money transfer apps Venmo and Paypal in the States. While this system is slightly different, the concept is similar and definitely creates value for all customers. The fact that I don’t need to carry cash and that the money is tied to my phone number (which hasn’t and probably won’t change) makes sending and receiving money very easy.

On November 20, 2016, AF commented on – Bringing Deliciousness To Your Doorstep! :

I like the idea and motivation for the company. I’ve actually met the founders of this company – great folks.

I would be interested to learn more about the regulations around selling perishable items online. I know grocery stores and amazon are able to do this easily but how do the rules change (if at all) for a small company? If I am some guy in Ohio that cooks and cans my tomatoes, do I need to do any testing before I can sell these canned tomatoes? How do the regulations change if I sell within my county or state to outside?

The benefit to DLSH is that they are just the middle man connecting the local farmers markets with the masses so any regulation is most likely on the producers of the product and not DLSH. But if new rules were implemented or existing ones enforced that made it more difficult to produce and ship homegrown products, that would negatively affect DLSH.

One thing I would like to see is a requests section where people can post what they are looking for. This might go into the forum section described in the post or could be another part of the site. Here, consumers could say something like “I’m looking for a red pepper and green olive tapenade”. Vendors can then see the requests and provide links to products they already have or can say “I can make that. I’ll send it to you next week.”

On November 20, 2016, AF commented on Behind Moneyball 2.0 Stands STATS :

This is interesting. I’m curious to see how real time player tracking will affect the game over time. I know many teams have hand signals or words that they will use to communicate plays they are about to run. If the data are time-stamped (which I’m sure they are), a team could theoretically back-calculate which plays correspond to which signals. While play names and signals can always be changed before each game, having access to physical data can help decode certain plays teams run. With all teams having access to everybody’s playbook, the game might naturally evolve into a more free-flowing, less planned game. In that case, the overall quality of the matches might actually decrease. So while “data” is always good, “transparency” to other teams (at least in sports) is not.

On November 7, 2016, AF commented on Exelon – Leading the World to Zero-Carbon Electricity :

I like how you pointed out that charging your electric Tesla at a station getting its power from natural gas or coal sources is not quite environmentally friendly. To the uninformed consumer that doesn’t know where electricity comes from, an electric car sounds great. But I really like what you said about Exelon creating its own car charging stations. I just read that Tesla is going to begin charging Tesla owners for charging at Tesla power stations (just like paying for gas!). I am envisioning somebody pulling up to a Tesla charging station that says “Tesla – powered by Exelon”. In these specific stations, Exelon could donate or sell or contribute to renewable energy sources for the charging.

I’m not sure if a solar panel on top of a Tesla power station can generate enough power to charge a Tesla (maybe it can – I really don’t know). But any amount of support helps and if Exelon can help Tesla set up the infrastructure to rely on alternative energy sources for its charging stations, that would be great.

The fact that Exelon already plays in the solar and nuclear fields is a step in the right direction for this company.

I couldn’t agree more on the importance of nuclear as an energy source moving forward. The problem is adressing public perceptions of what “nuclear” actually is. People typically think of tragic explosions, nuclear bombs, and nuclear waste when they hear the word nuclear. We need to spent a lot of time and energy educating the public on the pros and cons of nuclear power.

It sounds like TerraPower is using nuclear waste as an input to its reactor compared to traditional plants which rely on Uranium. So, if I understand correctly, TerraPower has a two-fold positive effect on the planet. First, it is finding something to do with the nuclear waste from other plants. This is huge because waste disposal is a huge undertaking for traditional plants. Second, it is creating power that can be used in baseload grid applications. With these two huge benefits, I would make a strong push for TerraPower’s success.

On November 7, 2016, AF commented on BMW’s Hydrogen Fueled Future :

I think BMW should differentiate itself and go all in on hydrogen cars. I would love to see the greenhouse gas emissions numbers for hydrogen-powered and electric cars. The problem with electric cars is that the processes that go into making electricity are still not yet renewable. While there are more and more wind and solar farms, a lot of electricity is generated using natural gas and, depending where you are, coal. So while people love seeing electric cars because they themselves have low emissions, the emissions are just coming further upstream.

Hydrogen-powered cars run into similar issues. While electrolysis is the cleanest method of producing hydrogen for fuel cells, only 4% of hydrogen is produced this way. The other main method is steam reforming from natural gas.

This brings me back to my original question. Say I have one electric and one hydrogen powered car. What is the net carbon output to the environment to make that car go a certain distance? It’s probably tough to measure but would be good to know.

As your figure aptly points out, investment/interest/etc for biofuels was highest about 10 years ago and we don’t hear much about them anymore. There were a couple of chemical engineering competitions when I was an undergrad (ex ChemE Car, National Design Competition) that awarded extra points / special groupings for biofuel projects. I recently checked if those were still part of the competition and it looks like they were removed a few years ago.

While biofuels were a noble idea, I think the algae to fuel yield is remarkably low. The density of algae required on water surfaces could affect the amount of light reaching various depths of water which would then affect the ecosystems below the surface of the water.

There are other non-plant based biofuels (i.e. excess cooking oil, corn ethanol) that could be used instead of algae-based fuel. But these biofuels have their own other logistical issues.

I like the idea of using something other than traditional jet fuel to power planes. I just don’t see it coming from biofuels.

Nice write-up KSong. The thought of not having coffee in 100 years is definitely eye-opening. I like the fact that Starbucks is rethinking the coffee bean itself by investing in designing beans that can withstand harsher climates. I’m struggling to understand, though, if this is something that Starbucks should be doing or if they should contract out. While these guys know coffee beans well, the genetic engineering of the bean seems more aptly suited to a Monsanto/Bayer/Indigo. Regardless, the fact that they are changing the beans themselves is a step in the right direction.

What I’m also interested in is how much land is going to be devoted to coffee beans in the future. You mention Starbucks needs to take a stand against deforestation but 100 years from now when the population is 14B, people are still going to want coffee. And how do you balance coffee vs other essential crops like wheat and corn? I’m hoping we find a solution other than chopping down trees to make more room for crops. Maybe everybody grows their own coffee beans on their roof?