Catherine Lee's Profile
Great post! Given that there are so many companies competing in the ‘connected home/device’ space, I think it will be interesting to see which model wins out: having the absolute best performance / being first mover on one specific product (e.g. Nest for thermostats, Jawbone Up for exercise and sleep tracking) or owning an entire environment (the home, or the office) with a series of connecting products that are fast-followers. The Family Hub tech you mentioned for monitoring food storage and recommending purchases appealed to me in particular – becoming a part of a core activity for families is a great way to embed yourself into consumer lives.
Thanks for the post! I am one of those shoppers who would really value details on water usage and farming practices (though admittedly I may be part of a small population), so if Infor can help Whole Foods provide more product information across the supply chain, I think that would further bolster Whole Food’s reputation for being a socially and environmentally responsible company – that being said, I would not be willing to pay an additional premium on top of Whole Food’s already high prices to access this information. Whole Foods would have to bet more on driving increased revenues from better understanding consumer purchasing behavior and offering recommendations to related products based on shopping history.
There are two differences I noticed between Foodera and Silicon Valley delivery startups that I found really interesting – the first is your explanation of the VAT difference, and how restaurants can pocket the 12% that consumers are not aware of. That is a substantial boost to margins for the restaurant, which seems to allow Foodera to charge a higher cost of using the service (30% of order value) than US startups. I also thought that their network of “freelance bikers”, where Foodera only provides the delivery gear was smart – because it minimizes their liability and any capex. The only downside might be managing the ebb and flow of biker supply and demand – to which maybe ‘surge pricing’ for food delivery might be a next step.
While I agree that Zocdoc is a useful platform for patients to search for and book appointments more efficiently, I don’t think it has been successful in becoming the “yelp” for doctors – the vast majority of doctors on Zocdoc all have a similar high 4-5 star rating, unlike in Yelp where you do see ranges in ratings from 1-5. Perhaps because there is no incentive for a doctor who receive a lower rating to stay on the platform if there is a cost to being listed, or maybe it is hard for a patient to assess the “true quality” of their care – because unlike a physical good or a restaurant experience, health problems tend to be fairly unique and requiring significant experience to resolve. There have been a number of other startups that aim to solve the issue of credible recommendations, but most have been targeting the corporate sector by establishing a “best doctors” network accessible through an employer insurance plan.
I’m also on the side that Uber net-net is reducing emissions versus increasing them.
1) Uber’s pricing policy drives consumer behavior, in particular they currently charge more for single-rdier uber trips vs. uber pool – the more they widen that gap, the more appealing carpooling will seem to consumers. However you could argue that this would only work if all ride services agreed that encouraging pooling is important (not only economically but socially) and set a wide margin, because otherwise you could shift demand towards certain ride companies that don’t structure rides this way.
2) I agree with Ross’s point that existing public transportation is deficient in many regions. I would add that by making rides-on-demand available, you disincentive a lot of potential car buyers from owning their own vehicle, which would generate more emissions over the car’s life cycle.
You mentioned that International Paper is looking to reduce its reliance on specific raw materials. They should look at a Chinese company called Nine Paper Dragons, the world’s largest manufacturer of environmentally-friendly recovered paper, to consider incorporating some of their processes and increasing the proportion of recycled paper into IP’s products. Since one of the concerns was how IP could stay competitive in a price-sensitive market particularly from Chinese producers, it would be interesting to find out how Nine Paper Dragons has been able to win business and stay profitable ($290M net profit in 2014).
I am a big fan of Waste Management’s push towards waste-to-value and recycling initiatives, but I do wonder how the economics of these various projects pan out. The methane-gas to electricity projects are usually fairly low yield, so I wonder if it is only corporate or government players who can afford to invest in these kinds of projects (because of longer term capital and reputational benefits) as opposed to private investment funds. On the recycling end, I’m also curious what the unit economics of reselling the various waste streams are – e.g. plastic vs. metal (as Robert Nesbit mentioned).
Regarding the first comment questioning whether Musk is truly in the game to solve climate change or looking for profits – I think he is genuinely seeking to solve the challenge, he is just also very pragmatic about what needs to happen (e.g., lobbying for regulatory support, shifts in his own corporate strategy) for his actions to affect society more broadly than just what his company can achieve. He successfully democratized the residential solar market with SolarCity, the installer/finance business he started (and also a business that takes advantage of tax credits) — because when his financing model proved successful, a lot of copycats jumped in, helping stimulating improvements along the value chain.
Klabin is setting a great example of responsible sourcing. The increase in e-commerce is driving up demand for boxes and delivery cartons at an alarming pace, which will require multiple players along the supply chain (from production of packaging, to usage and ultimately delivery of products requiring the packaging) to reduce waste. Klabin is innovating on the production side, but it is also important for companies that buy carboard boxes and other paper products to minimize how much packaging they need – e.g. an American company called Packsize has invented machinery that customizes each box size and configuration to what a particular product requires real-time as the orders come into the factory. I think companies need to cooperate vertically to maximize impact.