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On November 19, 2016, Austin commented on Fidelity vs. the Robots: The War for Millennials :

Great article; really enjoyed. A few questions arise however – some of which, admittedly because I may just be ignorant on some of the products. For one question though, is there a concern that if these robo advisers reach critical mass in retail investors, that there’s a possibility markets could lose efficiency? For eg., I imagine millennials have relatively similar amongst them, and thus, is it likely that most of the robo produced portfolios are always going to suggest the same equities? And thus, either over-buying particular stocks? Maybe this is simply not a concern given the amount of money that would be deployed, but interesting to think about.

On November 19, 2016, Austin commented on Caterpillar and the Internet of Big Things :

Great Article, Laura. Very well put. CAT is definitely making serious efforts to innovate. Quickly. I worked across the hall from Uptake while at a startup under the same incubator in Chicago, and just in the 6months I was there, they likely hired ~70-100 people, most of whom had data science degrees, PHDs, or other technical expertise. My question would be for CAT however – are they investing the money in the right areas? I agree they need to innovate, but their biggest earnings problem during the mining downturn was an infrastructure issues (globally, their plants were ~40% of capacity utilization, measured on just a 2shift schedule). With a very weak market (mining, petroleum, and a strong US dollar) working against them, are they being responsible to shareholders by investing heavy cash into more speculative projects, rather than rightsizing their value chain portfolio? Great article though … I hope you get chosen!

Great article, John Smith. I actually worked for Disney back in 2012, and they were just on the verge of rolling this out within the next year. There was definitely great buzz, and excitement. However, I remember one of the concerns was that with the program, it was going to limit opportunities for “magical moments”, which basically were opportunities where cast members (i.e., employees within the parks) would be able to deliver customer service over and above expectation to make someone’s day. For example, if a kid lost his fast past card while in line, and got to the front, the cast member had the latitude to say, “don’t worry, this one’s on me”. Do you think this is a justified concern?

On November 19, 2016, Austin commented on How Netflix Became Chill :

Great article Ross; very interesting. Where do we currently stand on the battle between the ISPs and the content providers (i.e., Netflix, Google, HBO, etc.)? I followed this back when FCC was investigating the issues around bandwidth throttling (i.e., Net Neutrality) where they ruled this illegal; however, have not kept track much since. Have the ISPs responded with significant rate increases then, or if not, is this a threat in the future that would impact Netflix’s growth plans?

On November 19, 2016, Austin commented on Why VR could mean the end of Art museums :

I agree with your thesis that the experience surrounding the visit of museums can be quite annoying. In your article you did not mention the risk of piracy, which is something museums should be worried of in my own opinion. Doing some research, I already found an occulus Rift VR file for visiting the Mona Lisa room, for free ( Does this seem like it could be concern?

On November 7, 2016, Austin commented on Climate Change & Major League Baseball: A Strikeout? :

Home run of an article, Andy. Really enjoyed it. A few thoughts I have which you piqued. First, for the rising sea level potentially threatening stadiums, is this possibly going to turn out to be a bad thing for the everyday fan? For example, many baseball owners are looking for ways to expand revenue streams outside of the traditionally large and consistent media channels (relative to other sports, baseball is by far hurting the most in terms of viewership/ratings, see link below). One way they’re doing that is by upgrading stadiums, facilities, etc., and pricing up tickets and concessions. Thus, is it possible that this ‘fear of our stadium falling into the sea’ argument could be used a justification for owners to vacate perfectly good – sometimes historic – stadiums in lieu of newly constructed ones? This could be waste of perfectly good infrastructure, as 25 out of the total 30 teams play in stadiums built since 1989, many of them since the year 2000. Do baseball fans really value sitting in a nicer seat with gourmet nachos $40-50 more per ticket, especially when the sport generally involves the family experience, so could be upwards of $300 incremental cost to a family of five? Until I sign a contract anywhere close to that of Joe Mauer’s, I certainly would be fine in the older seats. Also, many stadium projects receive city tax payer money, which is arguably a misappropriation of funds. Second question, is your sensitivity to the summer heat and nighttime games a result of your Twins sitting in the basement of the AL Central?!?!


Interesting article – thanks for sharing. A few thoughts I have as a result. Firstly, the connection between diversification and scale. Your conclusion that Vail (and other resorts) have resultingly consolidated makes sense; however, is this really an improvement to the bottom line, rather than a smoothing of annual revenue metrics. In my mind, owning and operating a ski resort is simply a function of how many people you get through the door, and then the cost to serve each individual customer. Any individual ski resort can see huge scale, given that the majority (again, in my speculation) of the cost per customer is fixed. Yet, with an issue like weather volatility, for any given year, there are winners and losers – e.g., resorts in the far west get snow vs. NE snowfall is down. Without being a weatherman, I’m not entirely sure if this is true, but in the case that it were, owning ‘winning’ resorts and ‘losing’ resorts for any given year, wouldn’t necessarily be a great bottom line optimization play given such huge fixed costs of ownership of the mountain. Obviously there are a lot of assumptions baked into the above, but just thinking through the strategic scenarios and implications. Really neat stuff!

On November 7, 2016, Austin commented on Tesla: Profitable? It depends on the climate. :

Wow, great article Zach. Really interesting. A few thoughts I had come up: first, is the production and sale of ZEV credits to other OEMs in fact a viable business model for Tesla? Obviously no, but I think more that question, is maybe, could it ever be a viable business model? One thought as a result could be fore Tesla to focus on this as a core product strategy, and pivot to designing their EV’s as ultra low cost, high volume, and likely low quality, just to fit this role. Although I don’t know the economics behind the ZEV’s, or Tesla’s inherent vehicle cost structure, there is (possibly) a minimum cost per car which this strategy could become attractive. Certainly counter to anything Tesla would ever want to do based on their company values and Musk’s beliefs; however, an interesting thought to discuss.

Great article, Olivier. Thanks. As you point out, most oil and gas companies advocate for an increase share of gas production. The way they present this is that it would yield significant environmental impacts. However, looking at discoveries over the last decade it appears that oil and gas companies are discovering more gas than oil, even though oil discoveries are much more valuable ( So isn’t this “all for gas” positioning more of a move to turn a negative situation into an opportunity than a true belief in the need to reduce carbon?

On November 7, 2016, Austin commented on Will Climate Change Lead to Higher Food Prices? :

Very interesting piece, and leaves me with a few thoughts. First, some would argue that the urgency of this issues (and some others) isn’t necessarily as high as many think. The statement that by 2080, crop yields will deteriorate, perhaps isn’t as urgent, given it doesn’t necessarily account for technological advancement. With over 64 years of runway in front of an increasingly innovative and educated population, improvements in technology could yield significant help to mitigating this concern.

Second, I’m curious as to your thoughts on if you heard someone push back on your solution to the issue with creating financial products. Although economic theory would suggest that this is possible, we’ve all seen that what looks good on paper, doesn’t always translate to reality. Additionally, would these effects be compounded in lagging markets, where they don’t have dominant or sophisticated financial system relative to the rest of the world. Thanks for the piece.