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On November 20, 2016, JC commented on M-Pesa: Transforming Kenya with Mobile Money :

Interesting technology that provides a unique solution to an everyday problem – thanks for sharing Kevin! Technology is so often only adapted by the upper class due to its often high monetary cost, so it’s amazing that M-PESA was able to roll this technology out to all people all across Kenya. I agree with the comment above – the 2% fee did stand out to me as being high. In the U.S., there was a massive amount of consumer pushback on bank checking fees and transparency. While this technology is inclusive, charging a 2% fee on sending money in a country where the average GDP per capita is ~$1,300, compared to ~$55,800 in the United States as per data from the world bank (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD), it feels unfair. I hope M-PESA is able to adapt to new technologies with the smart phone and find a way to drive down fees!

On November 20, 2016, JC commented on MLB Advanced Media: The future of America’s pastime :

Who knew the MLB was a first mover in the DTC content streaming model? Thanks for sharing the unknown and very innovative side of the MLB! Baseball certainly presents a unique challenge of monetizing broadcast rights for the 162 games in a season. I’m very curious to see how the ESPN deal unfolds. Most millennials are cable-cutters these days, and an increasing amount of other consumers are moving to this direction as well. Right now, cable companies make a largely disproportionate amount of revenue from ESPN, but if ESPN figures out a way to sell directly to consumers that will certainly change things. From a traditional supply-chain perspective, cable companies are just a “middle man” between content producers and the consumer, and ESPN is figuring out a way to displace them. I wonder what implications this has for consumers to follow teams outside their regions now that access a wide variety of games will be increased?

Ben, thanks for providing insights on technologies healthcare is using to improve its efficiency! Partnering with IBM Watson was an innovative way for MSK to leverage all the data they generate. It’s a shame not to utilize the massive amounts of patient data the hospital has generated over the years. In a time where healthcare costs are continuously increasing and doctors flooded with a minimum number of patients per hour they have to see on top of massive amounts of paper work, anything that increases “utilization” of doctors time spent with patients is welcomed. With regards to the “Verus” system, while it does feel a bit creepy to track this amount of patient data, that is unfortunately a downside of big data. As consumers, our spending habits, traffic patterns, and nearly every app we use collects and stores data about us. As long as the information is kept private and utilized properly, I think the system has potential to increase flows within hospitals.

On November 20, 2016, JC commented on Google Education: The Next Gen in Learning :

Thanks for sharing Karla – I had no idea Google was working on this! It makes me excited to see successful companies like Google addressing social needs and helping to educate the next generation. As you mention, the traditional model of teaching leaves many students behind. People learn and excel in different ways, and it can be very disheartening to a student that tries hard to be left behind because the teacher is unable to adapt their teaching style. I certainly think that learning is much better sustained when it is more interactive and students are more engaged – versus trying to just memorize facts! You hit on a key point with how Google can use this to help bridge the education gap, versus widen it. Perhaps Google can work with municipalities to develop a shared program with public computers (libraries, perhaps even a “shared” system with government employee computers) to allow students to access these at times. Another suggestion is having Google start a donation program, and provide refurbished computers or Chromebooks to schools. Most people have little to no use for old computers and this could be a great way to spread technology!

On November 20, 2016, JC commented on Talk to Chuck — Your New Robot Overlord :

Very interesting post! The world of retail investing and advising certainly is facing some whole-scale changes as you mentioned. As a giant in the industry, it is a wise move for Charles Schwab to develop its own software and establish their presence within “robot” investing, even if these emerging companies are taking a tiny amount of market share. Charles Schwab has the resources and as you mentioned, smartly capitalized on its existing base of clients. Personal wealth management is such an important part of everyone’s life, and it does not surprise me that consumers are much more willing to try this “robot” method of investing when it is endorsed by Charles Schwab. The concept of “robot” investing makes a lot of sense to me for certain parts of one’s portfolio. Many mutual funds and ETFs simply track and index, sector, etc. so algorithms are well positioned to carry this out. Have you looked at Quantopian before? They are a start-up whose business is built around using algorithms to displace hedge funds (https://www.quantopian.com/). They are a very creative company we could see on the rise over the next few years!

I certainly agree that Starbucks is in a difficult position given its business model and the challenges facing agriculture more broadly. Starbucks certainly is making an admirable push to reduce water usage and in holding all of it’s stores to a LEED standard. Hopefully other fast-service restaurants will follow in their footsteps.

Can Starbucks be doing a lot more though? Should they vertically integrate by purchasing farms outright so they can fully control farming practices and standards – instead of just making loans to farmers? Their focus on this integral part of their business (without coffee supply Starbucks will cease to exist!) seems haphazard, at best. Starbucks operates a global company with stores located all over the world, yet it continues to push the agriculture volatility risk onto the farmer. Their farmers are located in some of the poorest economic regions in the globe, and yet all they are doing is providing small loans ($20 million in loans versus $19.2 billion of revenue generated in 2015 alone) and providing farmers with “expertise” to approach best practices.

Very interesting post which I appreciate outlines a tangible action plan that each of us can participate in. Too often I think we blame climate change on big businesses and governments, but tend to forget it is something we can individually contribute to in many different ways. Focusing on purchasing organically grown wine – in addition to other agriculture products – is something I will certainly do going forward. This post also highlights the global nature of climate change. France – where wine and spirits comprise the second largest economic contributor to the country as you mentioned – is arguably disproportionately affected by global GHG emissions. This reminds me of the importance of coming together across the globe to combat climate change and make sure our world remains a clean and sustainable environment for children, grandchildren and future generations to come.

With respect to wine, Bordeaux is a globally recognized region. Because of it’s “celebrity-like” status, do you think they can launch a campaign to raise awareness to this issue? Alternatively, do you think they should partner with other farm / crop organizations to raise awareness to this broader issue? Wine is a luxury, but traditional crops such as wheat, rice, soybeans, etc. are not, and could bring a greater sense of urgency to this issue.

On November 7, 2016, JC commented on The Mining Industry: An Architect of its Own Downfall? :

Interesting article which clearly lays out some of the largest costs associated with mining, that many (including myself) outside the industry are unaware of. As the other readers above, I have to wonder why these companies are not allocating capital to research water reduction in the mining process instead of building desalinization plants. Can we turn the government as a way to enforce stricter regulation around mining practices, as we have in other industries such as power generation? This can be difficult in the many emerging economies – including Africa and South America – where many of the world’s natural resources lie. However, this is a reason why global climate pacts like the recent Paris Agreement are so crucial to combat climate change. Additionally, shareholders need to force these companies to implement better practices.

On November 7, 2016, JC commented on Southern California Edison: The power to change :

SCE is certainly a leader amongst domestic utilities with it’s focus on renewable generation from an early stage. You mentioned that SCE has increased renewable power generation by ~40%, but largely accompanied by government incentives. What steps should SCE take now that most government incentives have expired to continue to additional of renewable generation installation? My view is that they push programs to curtail overall power use, similar to campaigns across Southern California to cut water usage in response to the drought. The energy storage mechanism will help “smooth the demand” curve – but how efficient is this technology? And given 76% of SCE’s power comes from sources outside of renewables, how much of the production curve is really influenced by wind and solar generation? I would urge SCE to expand its nuclear generation program in parallel to it’s existing programs, as this provides a much larger base load capacity that is zero-carbon emitting.

I also agree that being skeptical on Monsanto placing into practice what it “preaches.” I do commend Monsanto for recognizing the impact of climate change and the need for action, as this is the first step. Bayer announced an acquisition of Monsanto in September 2016, after a somewhat lengthy, and certainly public, battle with BASF for the company. Although the acquisition is still subject to regulatory approval, Bayer has committed a $2 billion breakup fee if the deal fails due to antitrust issues, showing their confidence in the transaction. Bayer, unlike Monsanto, has an entire section in their Annual Report that discusses sustainability and has created a Chief Sustainability Officer. Included in their outlined initiatives are sustainable food supply and environmental protection. This value of sustainability will undoubtedly be transferred to Monsanto, post-acquisition closing, which will hopefully bring it closer to a path of actual sustainability!