Ben Weisman

  • Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on How does Blockchain technology apply to Diamond? :

Thanks, Ting! This is really cool, and I had no idea people were trying to use blockchain for this kind of application. I guess my questions are similar to those of Akanksha and Haibo. The diamond industry is already super consolidated, and yet it’s still really easy for conflict diamonds (or at least those from unscrupulous/sanctioned sources, like those in Zimbabwe) to make it into the market. How would this technology overcome the underlying human problem that diamond companies face? Companies have already agreed not to buy conflict diamonds, and yet they do, knowingly or unknowingly, at a point relatively close to the original source. I think in order for this to work, the diamond would have to receive some sort of inscription (if that’s possible) at the mine, and be logged into the blockchain at that point; there would need to also be some sort of verification process for location.

On November 20, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Connected sensors for water quality testing :

Great post, Rob! This technology seems really cool. The main thing I’m worried about is that the most disadvantaged households will not really have access to either the product or to remedies for poor water quality. In Flint, for example, it was households that weren’t using water filtration that were most affected, and only with significant public outrage were things actually done to improve quality (despite having super visible evidence of the contamination). It’s unclear whether disadvantaged communities in other locations would have access to either the technology or the relevant information, and if they did, what they would be able to do to improve quality. Have you thought about whether there might be some sort of market for nonprofits focused on environmental/water quality, who might have the resources and the clout to make an impact? Not really sure how that would work, but just a thought.

On November 20, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on CVS: From Consumer Value Stores to Consumer Value App? :

Great post, Wis! I remember (I think) from the Catalina case that CVS was one of the biggest retailers that didn’t use Catalina’s products (in favor of an in-house version). Do you see many opportunities for CVS to use customer data and its app, in conjunction with coupons and other incentives, to encourage healthier behaviors? It would be really cool if, instead of just using customer data and coupons to claim greater value for itself and manufacturers, CVS decided to encourage customers to make healthier choices. Not sure exactly how they would do this and what kind of deals they would offer, but it seems like there’s a real opportunity to ‘create shared value’ here.

On November 20, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on M-Kopa: Disrupting African Retail Banking :

Great post! Any thoughts on how the M-Kopa model could be expanded to the SME sector? I think your general lessons are great, but apart from power/comms related products, it might be hard to apply the model (at least the first step) to many rural businesses (i.e., how do you cut off someone’s access to agricultural products using a sim card?). Of course, the household sector in Kenya (and the rest of mobile-payment-enabled east Africa) is probably large enough to support sustained growth, but it seems like there could be a lot of opportunity to break the traditional microfinance model in favor of something like this. Regardless, this is really cool!

On November 20, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Currenc-E: M-Pesa Transforms Kenyan Economy :

Thanks for a super interesting post, David! I <3 M-Pesa, and haven't thought about it from this perspective, so this is really cool. One question that I've been struggling with recently involves the potential for abuse of M-Pesa by terrorists and other illicit actors. There are allegations that al Shabaab and other al Qaeda affiliated groups have used M-Pesa to transfer funds across borders and within countries in east Africa. As a result, some of the banks that underly the system have begun to think about how to limit their exposure, in large part because American and European authorities have become increasingly aggressive in holding banks accountable for violating anti money laundering regulations. Do you think M-Pesa will be able to develop effective ways to a) know and verify their customers and b) monitor transactions for suspicious activities, both of which would add significant friction to the system?

Super interesting, Mike! Hits a little too close to home. I was really fascinated by the info you provided on new growing techniques and varieties. I think that could be really promising, particularly the shade grown coffee (I’ve had a lot of shade grown coffees that are really awesome). Have you (or Starbucks) given any thought to the possibility of expanding growing areas into new regions (further north in the northern hemisphere and south in the southern hemisphere), or higher up in altitude on both sides of the world? I know a lot of wine producers, particularly in northern Europe, are beginning to prepare for how they can grow in different places (and planting grapes both as experiments and to ensure that there are vines in place when the temperatures are right for the kinds of wine they’re trying to produce). I’m curious whether coffee is similar, though I would assume the marginal gains might be less because coffee is probably less temperature-sensitive/finicky than wine grapes (despite the disease susceptibility). Regardless, I’m hoping none of this happens and nothing gets in the way of our coffee supply.

On November 7, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Reformation: Making Sustainability Trendy :

Great post, Tracy! Those figures at the beginning are pretty staggering. You mention that increased regulation would lead to an increase in the price of clothing. Do you think this might be a desirable outcome? It would force consumers to internalize the environmental costs of their clothing, which are currently an externality borne only by the environment and those unfortunate enough to be harmed by environmental degradation and climate change. Higher prices, even at the lower end of the market, would force people to think twice about buying as much clothing as they do and would encourage them to seek out more durable options. Though this disproportionately affects lower income consumers, I think this would be necessary to drive the real behavioral changes that are necessary (in addition to the production changes that producers need to undertake). Thanks for sharing this! It seems like a really cool company.

On November 7, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Can banks save the world? The case of Bank of America :

Great post, Eugeniu! As a former regulator, I’m of course intrigued by your discussion of the robustness of BoA’s balance sheet to climate change risks. Stress testing for these risks seems like an interesting idea. Do you think loans and other assets should be given some sort of climate score (or one for susceptibility to regulatory changes, and one for susceptibility to actual environmental changes), and then they could test various levels of environmental regulation and climate change? My only fear is that every asset would likely have fairly idiosyncratic environmental risks associated with it, and thus it would be pretty difficult to model how exactly climate changes would affect the default likelihood. Regardless, I think it’s a really cool idea and something they’re going to have to start considering… Thanks!

On November 7, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Maersk: Shipping’s Unique Relationship with Climate Change :

Super interesting, Billy; thanks for this! I think the point about changing shipping lanes is really fascinating. I wonder to what extent changing weather patterns might force changes as significant as the opening of the Arctic shipping lanes – it seems like climate change might drastically alter certain wind and storm patterns on a permanent basis. This, combined with geopolitical shifts, particularly in Asia, could really change the shipping routes available to a company like Maersk at a time when demand is also shifting where they need to go. Definitely will be worth watching how they deal with all this!

On November 7, 2016, Ben Weisman commented on Coca-Cola – Corporate Greenwashing or Genuine Change? :

Thanks, Rajit! This is really interesting – seems like a prime example of ‘creating shared value’ through rethinking production and supply in light of a changing environment. I’m really curious if you came across anything discussing Coke’s plans to address issues with water supply in current production areas that might be severely impacted by climate change. In other words, are they worried that it might become impossible to source water in certain regions or countries where climate change would virtually eliminate fresh water supplies? If so, how are they thinking of addressing that, given that Coke is available in basically every country? I’d imagine being forced to close plants by the local population would be bad, but so would having to ship Coke from further away (particularly given the GHG emissions that would entail).