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On November 20, 2016, Brittany commented on Under Armour: Playing the Digital Game :

Margaret, I think you’re spot on in asking how Under Armour can leverage the tools it has acquired to create resonance with its customers in order to capture value. The last line of your article makes me wonder whether all of UA’s hardware newly acquired technology platforms will actually translate into increased purchases of athletic apparel. Our marketing case on Nike suggested that the critical foundation of Nike’s success was its product offering. UA’s attempts at creating “smart” clothing clearly haven’t gone well, but I’m wondering how UA’s general apparel compares to Nike’s (or that of other competitors) in terms of quality and performance. As you noted, Nike’s apps place the brand front and center; while I use Nike Running Club, I don’t purchase Nike products because of the app. It seems like UA may be making an assumption that greater uptake of its software/ hardware will translate into increased apparel sales, but I’m not sure I’d agree with that.

I’m pretty frightened by the statistic that millennials “trust” user-generated content 50% more than other media sources, given that UGC is not fact-checked (I’m at least assuming it’s not!). Would you recommend a greater reliance on UGC across TIME’s 100 brands, or do you think this strategy is more appropriate for its millennial-oriented brands (e.g., Hello Giggles) only? In taking a quick look at TIME’s brand portfolio, many of the publications seem to target a different demographic. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on other strategies TIME should pursue outside of catering to our generation.

On November 20, 2016, Brittany commented on Robotic surgery: revolution or gimmick? :

What an interesting article! I agree that robotic technologies like the da Vinci system present an exciting opportunity in the healthcare system. Given that this device received FDA approval in 2000, though, I’m wondering why we haven’t yet seen a larger overhaul of traditional surgical methods? From what I can tell from Intuitive Surgical’s website, it sounds like a fairly large proportion of routine minimally invasive procedures are now conducted with the da Vinci system, but given that the technology has been around for almost two decades in a healthcare system where high spending is the norm, I’m surprised it isn’t more pervasive. Is the most significant barrier cost, or are there safety concerns associated with the device? I found a few articles online (e.g., that call into question the safety of these technologies – where faulty or broken instruments are responsible for patient injury or death – but I’m curious how the average risk level of a traditional laparoscopic surgery compares statistically with that of surgery conducted by the da Vinci system.

On November 20, 2016, Brittany commented on Can a Smart Thermometer Stop the Spread of Contagious Illnesses? :

Qian Qian – What a well-written post on a fascinating start-up. As you rightly point out, achieving the “early detection, early response” holy grail will require getting Kinsa in the hands of as many users as possible. At the risk of suggesting something very paternalistic, I’m wondering whether one solution to Kinsa’s economic success (and to more effective public health responses to infectious disease) is for Kinsa to partner with government so that distribution of the devices can occur primarily via the public sector? I imagine this would be fairly difficult to achieve in the U.S. given the fragmented nature of the healthcare system – and presumably especially controversial in the political context in the next several years – but perhaps a country with a socialized system (e.g., NHS in the UK) would be a better place to experiment. If the government were to subsidize the cost of a Kinsa for every household, or provide it for free for households below a certain income level, this would solve your first criterion for Kinsa’s success (driving uptake). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts/ concerns about this.

On November 19, 2016, Brittany commented on AdhereTech and the Smart Pill Bottle :

Ethan, thanks for this interesting article! AdhereTech seems like a potential game-changer of a product – I was astounded to read that the annual cost of nonadherence in the U.S. healthcare system can reach $300 billion. I’m curious to more fully understand the company’s claim that this technology increases adherence by over 20%. What was the baseline measurement for a patient’s adherence rate prior to using the smart pill bottle? How is AdhereTech confirming that a patient actually takes her medication after opening the pill bottle? Countries outside of the U.S. are exploring similar technologies to monitor adherence, and a concern that’s often raised is that while a smart pill bottle can track if/ when a patient removes a pill or dose, it cannot confirm that she actually swallows the medication. I’m wondering whether the AdhereTech team has faced similar questions and what sort of data its collected to support its statistics on adherence improvement.

On November 7, 2016, Brittany commented on Planet Labs: A Satellite Startup Takes a Flight to Feed the World :

Eunji, this is a fascinating, well-written post that has generated some great discussion. Questions that Hannah and Sam raise below around whether farmers in developing nations will be able to access and act upon data provided by Planet are important, especially given that the majority of the world’s food supply is produced by smallholder farmers. I’m curious to understand how Planet intends to market and sell its product, especially to farmers in low- and middle-income countries, and to know what you would recommend as an optimal approach? Pricing and revenue recognition models that we have discussed in FRC (subscription!) come to mind.

One related question I had – and one that links to Luke’s concerns about security – is whether Planet has negotiated or intends to negotiate specifically with governments in developing countries to disseminate the data it collects about agriculture? In the global health space, sensitivity of data is a constant concern; governments rarely want to share specific information about programs with external parties, as data – even in the aggregate, not at the patient-level – may show that programs are not performing as well as one expects. Do you think Planet will run into any data sensitivity challenges as it expands its reach?

On November 7, 2016, Brittany commented on Another red bus goes green for London :

I think you rightly identify that one of the biggest challenges TfL will face will be to scale its green initiatives to meet the 60% emission reduction target by 2025. You seem to suggest that the progress made thus far – a 10% reduction in traffic, a 5% increase in cycling – provides a solid start but is not sufficient. With respect to cycling, in particular, do you know what TfL has done in order to encourage behavior change among commuters (aside from simply improving the cycle road network)?

One question that comes to mind in thinking about London’s medium-term future is whether this 60% target will remain relevant and reachable in light of the city’s continued sprawl into Zones 4-6 (and potentially beyond)? If London’s population continues to grow and put pressure on existing infrastructure, it seems as though Joana’s suggestion of adopting more radical measures to reduce emissions may be necessary. Do you have any thoughts on what additional extreme measures might be? I’m thinking along the lines of Londoners having greater flexibility to work from home, but I’m also wondering how TfL would approach this and similar ideas. With whom would TfL have to partner to make changes that are well outside the scope of managing the tube, buses, and bicycle lanes?

Jasper, thank you for the insightful post! I think it’s great that you chose to inquire beyond the headlines to understand whether Starbucks is walking the talk, so to speak. Your third suggestion – that Starbucks should essentially conduct an analysis akin to activity-based costing to understand how individual products contribute to the company’s overall emissions – is creative and very thought-provoking. I’m wondering how realistic execution of this exercise would be in light of Eric’s question on whether Starbucks is genuinely concerned with countering the effects of climate change as a core component of its business strategy or whether it’s paying lip service to the issue in order to please customers. I suppose one place to start would be to understand where sustainability truly sits within the organization and how it affects decision-making at the highest strategic levels? Sam’s parallel between Starbucks and IKEA is on point; IKEA made the decision to incorporate sustainability as part of its growth strategy and seemed to allocate staff/ resources accordingly. I’m wondering whether Starbucks’ internal org chart would look similar, or whether it would mirror Siemens’ compliance department prior to its legal challenges (where the compliance department seemed to function merely as an afterthought with respect to the rest of the business)?

On November 7, 2016, Brittany commented on Chocolate Challenged at the Origin :

Zach – What an interesting (albeit extremely concerning) post! I find Barry Callebaut’s dual focus on increasing cocoa yield and improving farmers’ financial health to be an interesting, effective strategy in the smallholder farmer (or small to medium-sized farm cooperative) context. However, it seems like the yields still fall far short of the potential volume of 1,500 kilograms per hectare. I would be curious to understand what additional changes farmers or cooperatives must implement in order to significantly improve toward this potential yield. Are there inherent constraints on yield in the smallholder context, where increased investment in what you call straightforward techniques will only result in diminishing marginal returns, and more dramatic changes are required? Questions about the economic efficiency of smallholder farming, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are becoming increasingly important as climate change-related challenges put more pressure on natural resources. There’s a strong argument that “leapfrogging” from family-owned farms to large farms (plantations) should not be pursued, as it will result in mass unemployment (See:, but I wonder to what degree smallholder farms must scale up – and how quickly – in order to stay profitable under the pressures of climate change? I’d also be curious to know Barry Callebaut’s position on this question specifically in the Ghanaian context, where the environment may not be conducive to producing cocoa in the next 15 years.

On November 7, 2016, Brittany commented on When Climate Bites | Controlling the Spread of Dengue Fever :

What a fascinating article highlighting the threat infectious diseases will continue to pose in an increasingly interconnected world, especially under the pressures of climate change. Building off of Andrea’s comment above, I’m curious to understand how Sanofi intends to price (or has already priced) Dengvaxia. As of April 2016, the company stated that it had not yet decided on pricing, but according to the head of the Vaccine Unit at Sanofi, the vaccine would remain “affordable” and its “economic value will be higher than its cost” ( Given that Dengvaxia took decades to develop, I imagine Sanofi will have to carefully consider how to recoup its R&D costs; how will the company balance this consideration with providing rapid access to a vaccine that’s urgently needed, especially in developing countries where patients’ ability to pay is likely very low? Linked to the question of what is the “right” price is who, ultimately, will pay if patients cannot afford the vaccine? In the infectious disease space in global health more broadly, prevention, treatment, and program costs are often shouldered by donors (e.g., the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria covers a significant percentage of the cost of many countries’ HIV, TB, and malaria programs). Is it realistic to think that a multilateral donor or individual governments will step in to pay?