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On December 13, 2015, Damian Kastil commented on Wikipedia: Information in the 21st Century :

Wikipedia was a great example to focus on. Even if it is known and used by everyone, I don’t think the site gets nearly enough credit for what it has achieved. The creation of a community-sourced repository of insights that is constantly expanding is such an exciting realization of the internet’s potential. The breadth and depth of content is impressive and, even if most teachers don’t encourage students to rely too much on Wikipedia, I have been able to clarify even complex math and physics problems through the site’s content.

The single accomplishment that impresses me most is the “strong community dedicated to ensuring quality”. It is impressive that they were able to set up an system that, on the one hand, always anyone to edit any article on the site, but on the other hand, enables the broader set of users to determine its relevance and validity. I believe there are many more potential applications of this type of “social curating and certifying”. It feels like a powerful tool for organizing the collective knowledge on the internet.

On December 13, 2015, Damian Kastil commented on Hai Di Lao: Service Beyond Imaginations :

First and foremost, this makes me want to eat at Hai Di Lao! I am very intrigued by the waiting area that spoils you with hand massages and free drinks, and could see how that draws many people in. Especially when you’re out shopping and walk in without a reservation, the opportunity to begin the “experience” before you are even brought to your table sounds like a great way to maintain a steady in-flow of guests.

The focus on a dining “experience” as supposed to just the food does remind a lot of Benihana (though this noodle dance might even beat their chopping skills). Another parallel is the deliberate focus on streamlining processes. It seems like the owners have a very concrete mission to manage costs and quality, while providing a differentiated, entertaining dining option. The restaurant business is known for its high failure rates, and playing at a premium price point with a unique appeal seems like a savvy way to increase odds of survival.

Without having been to Hai Di Lao or anything like it, my only concern relates to how scalable this model is. Can you really preserve a vibrant, customer-centric dining experience when you reach a large number of locations? With 130 eateries, they must be faced with this question already. Maybe the solution os the block on franchising, and therefore an inherent preference to grow more slowly, but deliberately.

On December 13, 2015, Damian Kastil commented on Bonobos: A Better Fitting Model for a Better Fitting Pant :

I like that you focused on how Bonobo “straddles the line between digital and physical retailing”. In doing so, they have come up with a very interesting way to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded e-commerce space.

When I was living in San Francisco, I noticed the exploding popularity of Bonobos among even just my friends. Several went to the guide shop in the Financial District to get fitted before ordering online. The ingenious implication of this free consultation is that it lowers the barrier to order clothes online. While generous return policies have become common place, a much better solution for both seller and buyer is guaranteeing that everything will have that “perfect” fit. I appreciate the clear focus on men and pants too. Men are an underserved segment in online fashion retail, and emphasis on pants probably keeps SKU complexity at a manageable level. From an operations perspective, it is smart that they keep no inventory at the stores, leveraging the high margins of e-commerce, while preserving a brick and mortar experience. I bet we will see more players creatively straddle the digital/physical line in retail.