MM 2018 raises a very interesting point about the threat of amateur quants being poached by other hedge funds. But “Keith” points out in his conclusion that Quantopia could have a future as a recruiting tool, not just as a fund. And, as “Keith” points out elsewhere, Quantopia’s business model as it stands also includes providing “access to capital to trade” to amateur quants.
Those details hint at three possible business models for Quantopia: As a fund that invests money based on algorithms licensed from amateurs who use the service; as a recruiting tool for other funds; and as a connection mechanism between amateur traders and capital sources. Do you think those three potential models can work together simultaneously? Or does Quantopia have to choose one in particular if it’s going to succeed?
Like all the commenters before me, I’m very curious about this example of physical books seeming to win out over ebooks, at least for Barnes & Noble. The numbers at independent bookstores definitely seem to support your conclusion: According to the New York Times, independent bookstores have seen growth of 30% since 2009 and 2015-2016 YoY sales growth of 10%. 
But the surprising resilience of the print book market doesn’t seem to be a reason why there isn’t room to compete and be successful in e-books. Though you identify issues with Nook like its store displays taking away from the room people would use to curl up and read, there should be a way to both enter the e-book market and succeed in retail book sales. Or am I wrong? Do you think B&N can only have one core competency at once? Or is there room to embrace different strategy with ebooks and compete in both the digital and retail sectors?
 Francis Klines, “Indie Bookstores Are Back with a Passion,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/opinion/indie-bookstores-are-back-with-a-passion.html?_r=0
I was reminded as I read this of our discussion in TOM about Uber envisioning itself as a logistics company competing with FedEx rather than as a taxi company competing with existing medallion owners. It seems like Gett is thinking along similar lines: How can it use its fleet of vehicles constantly driving around a city to do more than just ferry customers around? Gett’s solution is fascinating — especially in the context of the history of advertising that you cite and its rules of thumb regarding the number of impressions needed to create purchasing intention.
I’m curious whether you think an advertising model like this creates any tension with Gett’s existing model as a ride-hailing company. Will drivers want to be both product deliverers and taxi drivers? Will customers complain about getting advertising for specific products through the app they use to get around town? I think you ask the right question when you wonder whether this is just a CPG trend. But the question goes a little further: If this isn’t a CPG trend, and the method catches on and Gett starts doing a lot of business this way, does the business model start to weigh on its taxi business?
It seems like Kampachi has a major marketing need ahead of it: It needs to tell consumers that wild-caught fish are unsustainable, that traditional fish farms have issues, and — crucially — that Kampachi exists in a middle ground that avoids the issues on either side. How difficult will it be for the company to tell that story to consumers? We’ve discussed many times in marketing class how difficult it is to change consumer behavior, and it seems like Kampachi needs to do even more behavior changing than usual: it needs to both make consumers want to educate themselves about where their fish come from and to apply that education to the grocery aisle on a regular basis.
Do you think an aquaculture business like Kampchai is capable of selling that message to consumers?
The data that Climate Corporation is collecting and interpreting seems tremendously valuable to farmers who, as you point out, can respond much more adroitly to changing variables. But who owns the data? Is Climate Corporation building the network, owning the data, and licensing it back to farmers? Or do farmers own whatever data is gathered on their property? It seems like the answer to that question could have massive implications for the use of Climate Corporation’s network. An integrated, nation-wide network of IoT farming data could be deployed in any numbers of ways to improve yields. But a network in which each farmer would be limited to using his own data might have more limited scaling ability.
Adorable toaster image aside, McGill’s fake toaster experiment is terrifying. And while companies like Icon Labs seem like they might provide some much-needed protection in this space, I wonder who is going to drive manufacturers to incur the expenses needed to make their devices more secure.
I ask that because, although you seem optimistic that regulations will force manufacturers to foot the bill and pass the cost along, the Atlantic article you cite is less optimistic. Waddell cites attorney Michael Zweiback saying that the FTC’s one enforcement action thus far was a missed opportunity, then points out that there are so many poorly secured devices already out there that will be vulnerable for some time, even if the FTC goes to work.
In an environment where the FTC is slow to be able to change things, consumers may not understand the risks posed by the security of their devices, and manufactures are competing on cost, are you bullish about the ability of companies like Icon Labs to create a large presence in the market? Or is the cost of adding security to these devices one that nobody wants to bear?
Phenonet and Kaa seem like technologies with huge potential, but I’m curious about the rate of adoption of technology in the farming world. The use of tractors and other machinery is clearly widespread, but are many farmers — especially the small, family-owned farms you mention — eager to spend the capital required to add sensors and other connected technology to their operation?
One British academic paper I found suggested that income, farm size, and access to information are among the chief determinants of whether farms adopt new technology — in the case of this specific research, artificial insemination.  Do Kaa and Phenonet have a ton of work cut out for them reaching the smaller, lower-income family farms you mention? Or is there enough of a market among larger farms that both companies can gain a good foothold?
 Peter Howley et al, “Factors Affecting Farmers’ Adoption of Agricultural Innovations: A Panel Data Analysis of the Use of Artificial Insemination among Dairy Farmers in Ireland,” Journal of Agricultural Science; Vol. 4, No. 6; 2012, accessed 20 November 2016 at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0ahUKEwiOy-qf8rfQAhVWzGMKHZC1Ay8QFggiMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ccsenet.org%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%2Fjas%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F10687%2F11101&usg=AFQjCNHOEEWZ8xtuWQeVBSrg5jk0WRNHZQ&sig2=bRtYWKEmFMpjUdZPnh_wzQ
Chris, it’s really interesting to see some of that same negativity that you mention in your piece appearing in the comments. It seems like some of the tensions you identify, like golden rice vs. Greenpeace, are questions of differing ideas about what sustainability really means. Rudi Gassner articulates this well, and his idea of being on the “right side of history” speaks to just how deep this question runs.
So there’s a larger issue at play: Not just what companies like Monstanto are doing in response to climate change, but also how customers (and others) perceive those actions and whether those interpretations of how best to respond to climate change are correct. You seem to think that GMOs are a valid response to climate change, despite public distrust. Is that a PR battle Monsanto should fight, or should it just hope that the results it can provide farmers speak for themselves?
Craig, I’m very glad you pointed out the tension between millenials’ stated sustainability desires and what really drives millennial shopping habits. And Nicklas asks a great question about trying to inform customers better so that we can create true pull. Both points get to one of the questions at the heart of our Nike case in marketing from a couple weeks ago: Companies might prioritize sustainability, but it can have harmful effects, especially in the short term. In Nike, it was the assumption that a sustainable product was by definition lower quality. Here, it’s the idea that a sustainable product might be higher cost, and thus that Walmart won’t be meeting customers’ most important needs by stocking it.
That tension could be an issue with Nicklas’s suggestion. Might a sustainable label actually dissuade many shoppers, who interpret it as a sign of needless expense?
For that reason, I see initiatives like the LEDs in new stores as a more immediately doable piece of the puzzle. But, as you point out, progress has been slow. Do you think millennials are likely to notice that and avoid Walmart? Or does the fact that the #1 millennial focus is affordability mean that Walmart can avoid those concerns, at least for a while?
When you say that European countries are “eagerly turning their backs on economically viable energy policy,” you are implying that a policy of increasing renewable energy production is not economically viable. And you have a point — after all, you point out the reliability of fossil fuels, something solar, wind, and other energy forms can’t match.
But the European Union is committed to sourcing 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 27% by 2030.  They’re currently at 13% renewable, and 17% from “solid products,” which I assume is mostly coal.  If they meet their goals and use all of their increase in renewable energy to replace coal, leaving all else equal, they will be down to 10% solid products by 2020 and down to 3% by 2030.
Does Gazprom’s excellent positioning rely on Europe phasing out coal by 2020 or 2030, thus allowing Gazprom to capture the 3-10% of solid products that renewable energy hasn’t replaced? Or does your implied argument that renewable energy efforts aren’t viable mean you think Europe cannot meet its 20% and 27% targets, and will thus need to rely on natural gas even more as it phases out coal?
 European Union Energy in Figures Statistical Pocketbook 2016, page 21, https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/pocketbook_energy-2016_web-final_final.pdf%5D
The (bullwhip?) effect you describe of disruptions in Japan and Thailand to the global automotive industry is sobering and makes clear that Tesla faces major potential issues. But your description of 2011 also makes it seem like these issues run rampant across the automotive industry. Has the rest of the industry adapted since 2011 and diversified its supplier base? Or is Tesla actually just one of many companies relying on a single-source supply chain?
I also couldn’t help but wonder when you mentioned the the extra emissions generated from the construction of one electric car vs. one traditional car whether Tesla is caught in a bind: Is it possible that a multi-source supply chain would seem more emissions-intensive, because the company would have to account for a wider number of factories? And thus that Tesla is stuck between lowering the emissions of producing each car and diversifying its supply chain? I could be thinking about emissions calculations entirely wrong here but thought the situation could be an interesting Catch-22.
It’s astonishing to see how different the footprint of cricket protein is vs. the mammals we’re used to eating. You make it clear that crickets are clear winners across the board in terms of resources to produce a gram of protein. But that victory relies on comparing crickets to other animals. Pea- and soy-, and other plant-based proteins seem to be all the rage today, as do people going vegetarian or vegan in order to have a smaller dietary ecological footprint. Does Exo have to worry about competing with plant-based proteins as well? It seems like Exo could risk being outflanked by vegan proteins even if it succeeds in overcoming the taste and perception problem you mention. Or are crickets much more efficient at delivering protein than any plant could be?
It seems like the foundation of OptiRTC’s business model is regulation. Government policy dictates runoff fines, stormwater management credit marketplaces, and Clean Water Act regulations on municipalities. What does that mean for the future of OptiRTC’s business? Is it relying on water regulations to get more strict and thus drive more companies and governments to turn to it for help? Or is the simple fact you mention of climate change creating more flooding events going to make regulations more difficult to abide by, thus creating a need for OptiRTC to step in?
It’s amazing to hear about a sugar-based replacement for a petroleum product, especially one that is cost competitive with oil at a price as low as $45 per barrel. My only knowledge of efforts to move past petroleum products is National Public Radio’s “How Oil Got Into Everything (Planet Money, August 19, 2016), which talks about bioplastics at about a 10x price multiple over regular plastics. I’m curious where Genomatica goes next and whether its work on sugar-based BDO 1,4 is applicable to other petroleum products.
It’s also interesting that you mention competition with food production. The United Nations’ Special Reporter on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, once called biofuels a “crime against humanity” because he worried they cause food shortages in developing areas.  As we start to develop petroleum product substitutes from sources like sugar, many people will take Ziegler’s side. Do you think the political winds will turn against BASF and Novamont?
 Retuers, “U.N. food expert seeks moratorium on biofuels,” 10/26/2007.