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On December 1, 2017, Isabel commented on Hubble Contacts in an Era of Isolationism :

Really interesting read and likely not a unique challenge to US start ups looking to offer consumers a better value proposition than entrenched brands through disintermediation. While I agree with Jono’s point that exploring new markets is a potential solution to unfavorable US policies, I question whether this is actually a viable option (at least in the near term) given the existing team and expertise of the founders in particular. Both Jesse and Ben are first time founders with previous experience working in the US. I’m also not sure that other markets have the same level of comfort with business models like Hubble’s (i.e. traditional brands / providers vs. DTC e-comm based subscription models). Companies like Harry’s, Smile Direct, Everlane, Dollar Shave, etc. have done a lot of the education in the US for this type of model, which may fall on Hubble in new markets and require a different go-to-market strategy for the company.

On November 30, 2017, Isabel commented on Lotte at the Whim and Mercy of Chinese Nationalism :

Like MS, I agree with with the author’s suggestion to form a deeper partnership with China through investment and true partnership, beyond their ill conceived ad campaigns (did they really think that would work? Reminds me of Kerr McGee’s ads…) I understand Bismah’s point on JVs being difficult to execute and structure, and power dynamics would certainly be at play here, but it’s unclear what other options they have. Given that China is Lotte’s biggest overseas market at nearly $3B in revenue it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where new markets can even come close to scaling quickly enough to compensate for this revenue shortfall, let alone continue to drive growth.

On November 30, 2017, Isabel commented on Where in the world will our wine come from? :

I completely agree with Ramis Junnarkov and had a similar thought as I was reading the article. Wine consumption is such an emotional experience, it is unclear to me whether companies will be able to make the adjustments required to combat climate change without entirely alienating their customer bases. For example, you mention the hybrid Chambourcin grape as a potential solution, but I can’t help but wonder if the idea of a hybrid grape tarnishes the brand equity of Nederburg. For true wine enthusiasts, I imagine many of the innovations or solutions proposed above will be perceived as diminishing the integrity of the wine, so companies must be thoughtful in how they a) execute and then b) communicate climate-change initiatives.

This initiative reminds me of Ikea’s People and Planet Positive sustainability strategy, which we learned about in our Ikea case. Assuming Walmart is able to scale this initiative, i.e. attract companies to its hub, what I really like about this idea is the sense of competition and shared moral obligation the open forum has the potential to create. By making it about community, or in this case a “village,” Walmart has the ability to be prescriptive through its toolkit but also create a dynamic tension among other companies by providing transparency around how companies are progressing. Of course there’s also the positive reinforcement piece with the “opportunity for recognition” as well as an opportunity for companies to learn from one another but I imagine companies will be more compelled to act by a sense of urgency derived from the perception that other companies are already further along.

On November 30, 2017, Isabel commented on In Seoul, the future of transportation is here. :

Really interesting read, Bismah! At the risk of not adding a ton of value as the 10th comment, I couldn’t help but ask myself as I was reading your article what it is about Seoul’s culture that has enabled it to be so innovative and act so quickly to develop such technologically advanced public infrastructure. Is this level of sophistication pervasive across other areas of Seoul’s public sector or is it restricted to this one area? I agree with MD above that New York City is in desperate need of bolder action with respect to its public transportation, including significant technology enhancements, but it doesn’t appear that public officials have the know-how or sense of urgency to create and deliver technology-driven solutions. In thinking how Seoul can help serve as a model for other cities as you mention, I think an important aspect would be how to create a culture of technology-driven innovation in the public sector.

I found this to be a very well written, thorough and easily digestible account of the challenges TMLS is facing and will continue to face in the absence of more advanced MRP systems. Given their financial performance, the sense of urgency seems obvious to me. You raise an interesting point at the end when you question whether culture shift is a significant enough barrier to change to outweigh longer term gains, which I imagine is a significant reason management has been slow to act. In thinking through building a business case to encourage management to adopt a more digitized planning system, I imagine this would be a difficult item to reconcile. Does TMLS have enough technical expertise to implement and effectively use more technologically forward systems or would the company have to re-think it’s current human capital strategy (i.e. fire existing employees and hire new ones or build out new teams)? If the latter, are you considering this when you say “short term costs” associated with implementation? I’d also be curious to know if/how competitors have successfully ingratiated new technologies into their operations culturally as well. Thanks for writing a great article!