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Thanks Majken! I think if Harper Collins is going to pursue sales of books directly to the consumer, then they need to have some differentiator that will allow them to attract customers from more established B2C sellers like Amazon — and in the end, I think the answer is bringing content creators in-house. In the end, I think it comes down to incentives for authors to publish in this way. For example, Amazon offers a platform for up-and-coming authors to publish, but terms are heavily in Amazon’s favor if the books ever do make it to the publication stage. It seems to me that if Harper Collins can sign some of these authors to contracts with favorable terms, then they may begin to build a small in-house content creation group that could help them to get some momentum going. I’m interested to see how this plays out!

On November 20, 2016, Ben commented on Idolizing nerds: Putting the “e” in sports :

Thanks Sylvia! I agree that the monetization problem is a difficult one, as Twitch offers a hassle-free way to stream these events without paying, and changes to this model might be met with community backlash. I would have concerns as well about advertising, as any attempts to “interrupt” the experience with commercialization like this could be met in the same way.

Additionally, how sustainable do you think the current situation is with LoL being the only offering? Larger game studios may be much more amenable to commercialization (working with ESPN, advertising actively, etc) and this could be a big threat to Riot and League of Legends. I’m interested to see how this will play out!

On November 20, 2016, Ben commented on Rolls-Royce: Embracing IoT on a wing and a prayer :

Thanks Mitch. This post brought me back to the good old days of interning on an engine platform for GE, and a lot of what you touch on is at the forefront of the industry’s mind. A 1% improvement in engine efficiency is massive (fluid dynamics sims on turbine blades often are targeting improvements on the 0.1% or 0.01% scale) so in my opinion, real-time feedback on efficient flying to pilots is the quickest win here. Raw fuel efficiency during a flight is dependent on many things that the pilot could conceivably control — rate of ascent, altitude, air speed, etc — so minor feedback on these points would allow active decision-making on fuel efficiency vs. something like faster travel to make up for a late departure. Additionally, the rules currently in place from the FAA and other regulatory bodies require certain flight patterns that exacerbate fuel inefficiency. The current gradual step-down in altitude on descent, for example, burns much more fuel than a long, slow, gradual descent would. With some rule changes, the pilot could have even more freedom on how the plane flies, and feedback would allow fuel savings to be realized. Good post!

Thanks Matt! The commentary on when the league will allow the use of this technology during games is interesting — it seems to me that wearable tech is becoming a crowded market, and I wonder if a larger and more established player than Whoop (FitBit or even a new branch of Nike, for instance) could develop something similar and use superior market position to pressure the NBA into rejecting Whoop. Additionally, I could see teams developing some of this analysis in-house as a competitive advantage. That would put Whoop’s value proposition at risk if internal data scientists used generic wearable sensors and developed programs on their own. Great post!

On November 20, 2016, Ben commented on WAIT A MINUTE, I WILL PRINT… YOUR EAR :

Thanks Iryna. I’ll really be interested to see how this plays out — I think that adoption and regulation are two big hurdles, as you mentioned, but I think once this technology becomes more mainstream the next challenge will be scaling it so the average person has access. I wonder if this technology will be, at least at first, only accessible to the wealthy and therefore beneficial to only a few people with the need. Additionally, I also wonder what ethical issues the public at large will take with “machine creation” of organs. I could see this potentially getting some pushback from special interests like religious groups, who have already voiced significant opposition to stem-cell technology in several cases. Very interesting post!

On November 6, 2016, Ben commented on Levi’s, Cotton, and Climate Change :

Thanks Rob. I think that the most compelling option here is crop science — is there a way to get cotton to grow with less water, or to increase yield per acre? To me, the cotton crop presents a great candidate for genetic engineering, as cotton is not a food and so might be subjected to less regulation. Without scrapping their primary brand identity and differentiation factor by moving away from cotton, it seems that Levi’s needs to examine this or else raise prices to compensate. Has there been any attempt on the part of the garment industry at large to fund some of this genetic engineering research?

On November 6, 2016, Ben commented on Fluorochemicals: so hot right now :

This is interesting! The properties required for a fluid to be used as a refrigerant are special, and so I have difficulty believing that the industry will ever develop a fully biodegradable refrigerant to fully offset the potential environmental risk — though I’m no expert and efforts might be underway. With HFOs being developed the next step for HVAC appears to be what you mentioned: finding some method of power free of fossil fuels. It seems to me that compressors needed for air conditioning could be run on a solar panel, especially with the technology developing as it has. Once solar pricing comes down, and once HFOs are commonplace, perhaps smaller AC units could be marketing in developing countries with a minimal effect on price.

On November 6, 2016, Ben commented on Autonomous Taxis to Join the Fight Against Global Warming :

Thanks Levi! I think it’s very interesting that the Singaporean government is on board with these trials — by extension, they’ll be first on board once the business is ready to launch at scale. I think this is hugely important for the future of driverless cars around the world. Yes, the US has a number of initiatives and a lot of active research on driverless cars and how to scale the concept, but I worry about the tendency of things like this in the US to take way too long to be approved through regulation. I think if a country like Singapore can experiment a little with this first, it will be a positive example to look to when convincing regulatory bodies in the US and other large countries that something like driverless fleets can be successful. I’ll be interested to see how this company does!

On November 6, 2016, Ben commented on Coca-Cola – Corporate Greenwashing or Genuine Change? :

Thanks Rajit. While I think Coke’s investment in water conservation is admirable (even with “only” a billion dollars vs. $44+ billion in revenues in 2015 alone) the greenwashing point concerns me since they need to maintain their efforts. The incident you mentioned in India makes it seem like the corporate effort to save water is being applied only selectively, rather than comprehensively across all the company does. While there have definitely been some benefits, a massive company like Coca-Cola cannot afford to be lax in their efforts — global warming is materially affecting the world’s water supply already and will only get worse. It seems Coca-Cola needs some more ideas.

Thanks Andres. To address Michael’s concerns above, Elon Musk was involved with SolarCity from the beginning (the founders are his cousins) and so it seems to me that there may have always been some coordination with Tesla. Tesla’s branching out recently into home battery packs and (last week) solar-capable roofing tiles bears this out — it would surprise me if SolarCity’s invested stonewalled the merger. The big X-factor here is the Gigafactory — it must become operational and fast if Tesla’s growth strategy is to continue. Demand for Tesla cars is high and will only get higher as the Supercharger network expands, but hitting a price point to get competitive with larger automakers in the absence of significant federal subsidies is only possibly if the batteries can be produced at scale. It’s been complicated to even get the Gigafactory approval from a regulation standpoint. Once the factory comes online, Tesla may find itself having to deal with material availability for its batteries. There’s only so much Lithium available.