Tracy, thanks for an interesting read! While I think TaskRabbit fills in a void within its industry and certainly provides value for the consumer, I have a few concerns regarding the future viability of this company: First, the switching costs appear to be low in this sector; in other words, what is stopping other entrants in the market and what is stopping end users from switching from one entrant to another? I think we will may even see a trend towards more specialized entrants – similar to Homejoy – who could potentially offer a competitive advantage in a particular area relative to TaskRabbit due to specialization?
Secondly, even though Taskers are currently classified as independent contractors, is there any risk of unionization or increased employment regulation as we have seen in the case of Uber? If not, should TaskRabbit take more of an initiative in providing workmen’s compensation or health insurance, leveraging its economies of scale? For example, the NYC taxi industry takes a portion of each fare and allocates that to the driver’s health insurance. Would be curious to get your thoughts!
Thanks for the interesting read! Clearly, Airbnb is looking to improve its product offering and attempt to steal more traditional hotel customers. I think the concierge service is an interesting approach to this, but I strongly believe there are some additional offerings that Airbnb should invest in that will complement the concierge service. One of the key perks that drives a business traveler’s decision to stay in a hotel versus an Airbnb, for example, is the loyalty program (points). As such, I think Airbnb would benefit from creating a dynamic loyalty program, rewarding guests with free nights and status benefits. Perhaps Airbnb could partner up with an airline or even a rental car company to facilitate the earning and transferring of rewards.
With regards to the concierge service is there an opportunity to offer a digital, centralized solution instead of just relying on the host? There appears to already be a significant amount of substitute products. With the apps like Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc., travelers have become quite resourceful. How does this limit the potential benefits of concierge services and perhaps suggest that Airbnb focus its efforts elsewhere? Similarly, there is also an interesting startup called BnbSitter that offers on-demand concierge services as well as housekeeping and check-in and check-out services. Are Airbnb’s efforts here just overkill?
What a well-written and thought provoking post! I agree Waze has some great features and clearly has a loyal following (i.e., more than 50 million users), but I believe there are some serious concerns regarding the potential safety of using the app while driving, which can pose a threat to the usage of the app as-is. The Department of Transportation, for example, warns that using the app can be “just as dangerous as texting and driving.” Furthermore, as described by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, quickly glancing down at the Waze app can affect one’s reaction time for the next 27 seconds. Usage of the app, therefore, begs the question as to whether a police officer can issue a tickets to – as described above – “active users” and, if these users truly pose a threat to others on the road. Right now this is a grey area, and there are really no regulations against apps such as Waze; how do you think Waze should address any potential safety concerns and future regulation? What proactive initiatives should drivers and users of the app be encouraged to take?
Thanks for the interesting post! We all know what can happen when toys or devices are connected to the internet — among the most formidable concerns is privacy. What can Mattel do to protect the young children who play with these dolls and also comfort parents who ultimately buy these dolls for their children? Given the potential privacy concerns should parents have to provide permission to allow their child to play with the Hello Barbie or does the act of purchasing the doll provide that permission inherently? Furthermore, are there any concerns or risks regarding government regulation? These are some of the questions I think Mattel will have to get comfortable in order to make Hello Barbie a true success.
Thanks for an interesting read! Your article mentioned some additional efforts that can be taken to create more energy efficient design at Starbucks locations worldwide. It appears that Starbucks has made considerable efforts since 2008 in building for LEED certification at all new company-operated stores. In fact, the company now has over 1,000 LEED certified stores in 20 countries, including features such as recycled coffee grounds, low emitting materials, local materials, and LED fixtures (resulting in 45% power savings).
Starbucks’ commitment has been inspiring. That said, Starbucks has approximately 24,000 stores, which means less than 1% of its stores are LEED certified. How should Starbucks approach converting the existing stores to a sustainability standard that will enable the company to achieve its sustainability goals with respect to energy and water conservation, renewable energy, and recycling / reducing waste? Will shareholders be on board?
Thanks for an interesting post. While I recognize air travel is becoming more frequent with demand projected to grow 10% year-over-year, my concern is that United and other airlines may face economic pressures that inhibit their sustainability efforts. For one, the airline historically has been one of the worst performing industries; in fact, during the 2000s six major airlines went through bankruptcy and the industry lost $35 billion cumulatively from 1979 to 2014.
Even though efforts such as navigational technology adoption, infrastructure improvements, and ground operations will no doubt improve sustainability efforts, the upfront investment and training efforts required to implement programs will be a deterrence for airlines that face uncertain cyclicality and profitability concerns. As such, I would argue that governments need to play an increased role in regulating and subsidizing sustainability efforts (i.e., sustainable biofuels, infrastructure, etc.).
Brian, what a well-written article – bravo! Perhaps the biggest challenge I see with McDonald’s sustainability efforts is that approximately 80% of its restaurants are franchised. Do you see any potential challenges with getting franchisees on board with the company’s newly adopted sustainability practices?
McDonald’s has been slow to adapt a LEED certified prototype for its stores – given the additional capital investment required. Some franchisees have jumped at the opportunity to develop LEED certified buildings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpeq9pTlVsM); however, despite the anticipated benefits of LEED certification on the environment, why has McDonald’s corporate not required LEED certification for all new stores? Starbucks, for example has taken a stronger stance than McDonald’s; since 2008, Starbucks has committed to only developing LEED certified buildings.
McDonald’s needs to do more: in fact, only 25 restaurants from 2013-2016 (approximately 2% of newly developed restaurants) are slated to be LEED certified. By requiring all franchisees to go green, I think McDonald’s will continue to grow brand equity and improve the company’s long term footprint – not to mention the potential positive impacts to our environment. Would be great to hear your thoughts.
Great article! Having worked in real estate development and investing, I understand the efforts stakeholders are taking to develop sustainable buildings. That said, when we analyzed the feasibility of a given real estate deal, for example, we typically evaluated return implications over a short-term investment horizon given the nature of the business, whereas the article refers to implications for asset risk in the next 100-300 years.
While all real estate investment firms are not created equal (that is, firms have different costs of capital, investment requirements, holding periods, and best practices), an overarching theme appears to be prevalent among most investors: the long-term, proactive investment mindset has not set in for most. In fact, according PwC’s 2016 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report, investors and developers ranked “sustainable buildings” as an issue of little importance (2.8/5.0); this score compares with some issues of “great importance” such as construction and land costs, vacancy rates, financing, and infrastructure funding. Clearly, investors are still focused on achieving the return thresholds in the short term. With this in mind, how can Related convince its equity investors that sustainability is fundamentally crucial despite the fact that the potential asset risk you highlight above will likely not be relevant during their hold period and project returns may not be as strong?
Craig, I really enjoyed your post! I too wrote my blog post on Marriott International. While I recognize Marriott’s pioneering efforts in the early 2000s to launch a sustainability program, I strongly would encourage the company not to let the issue of sustainability fall by the wayside – despite becoming the largest hotel company.
Have you considered, for example, the role that Airbnb will have over the next 5 years? 10 years? As such, I would contend that Marriott take long-term, proactive approach and strive for innovation to outperform not only its current competition (i.e., Intercontinental Hotels, Hyatt, Independents, etc.), but also Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey, etc.
Research conducted by Cleantech Group (CTG) shows that Airbnb properties enable a more efficient use of resources and thus are a significantly more environmentally sustainable method of travel when compared to traditional hotels. Airbnb properties, for example, produce lower greenhouse gas emissions by 61% per guest night when compared to an equivalent guestnight metric at hotels in North America. To put this into perspective, the variance between emissions in hotels and Airbnb would be equivalent to avoiding the emissions of 33,000 cars annually. Airbnb is also beefing up its efforts to partner with sustainable energy source companies; on Nov 4, 2016, Airbnb announced that it will partner with SolarCity, a solar power systems company, to encourage hosts to install solar panels. Upon installation hosts will earn $1,000 and the potential to save money in the long-run and have a positive environmental impact.
Clearly, Airbnb is raising the bar in terms of sustainability; Marriott will need to be creative and impactful in its response to Airbnb.