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On November 20, 2016, JM commented on Suning-brick and mortar retailer challenged by e-commerce :

Great article about how the old-world is being challenged by the digital transformation. I found it very interesting that Alibaba invested in a company that was created pre-eCommerce in the 1990’s. Why would Alibaba which owns its own distribution network would invest in such a company? I am guessing that there are still many benefits to integrate the online and offline sales channels. It gives Alibaba’s customers access to a network of physical locations for customer service. I am now curious to know if on the long term the combination of Suning and Alibaba will result in market share gain over key players such as…

On November 20, 2016, JM commented on Rainforest: Crowdsourcing Quality Assurance :

As an entrepreneur building cloud based software I learned the hard way how important testing is. Often in the West, we assume wrongly that everyone runs the last version of Windows or mac OS whereas many people are still surfing the web with an outdated operating system. As a fact, a quick search on Google shows that about 9% of people still surf the web with a 15 year old OS, Windows XP. For developers this creates a massive challenge as it can take weeks or even months before finding out that a software is not performing as it should be under certain conditions. As a result, if a company is not performing its QA testing thoroughly, competitors that have better testing capabilities can move in quickly and take market shares. Startups that have generally less resources in their earlier years often overlook the testing part of the development process and could therefore profit the most from Rainforest’s platform.

“Digital processes are no less complex, but complexity is masked from customer.” This holds true as long as the system works well. I have found myself in many situations where the system was poorly designed and the whole experience became terrible. As Student12 mentions above, if you do not have access to smartphone/Internet or if you are not tech savvy you may not be able to access major financial services. That represents a threat for many citizens. Yes, all banks need to embrace the digital transformation but they should not forget that face-to-face customer interactions remain a key part of their job. I believe that banks that are able to maintain amazing customer experience while offering new digital services will be the one surviving this transformation.

On November 20, 2016, JM commented on Goldman Going for Gold… through Digital. :

A couple of months ago I was talking to a CxO of a big european bank about technology. His answer to my question “how will bank stay competitive in the digital era?” scared me: “thanks to technology, we are transferring all the workload to the customer. That allows us to increase our margin”. As an MBA student I understand how this strategy makes sense financially speaking, but it scares me for my future. It sometimes feels like it is not possible to create a meaningful relationship with your local banker anymore because everything went digital.

I want to work in Fintech; I think that there are so many opportunities in that space and after reading your post I actually want to apply to Goldman, but I also hope that banks don’t forget that human interaction is something important. Not everything should be automated.

Amazing post. The business model seems great but I can see a couple of risks.

a) it assumes that the supply and demand for any given currency match on the long term. If there is actually an imbalance in the short term, how does the company hedge for that risk? Does it acquire currency the same way as banks do? In that case, does the company’s margin suffer and is that sustainable?

b) Also, what are the barriers to entry? The technology part seems advanced but also quite easy to copy. I can imagine that as any marketplace where supply and demand need to be matched, growing both sides of the marketplace is challenging but once it’s done it can create an important barrier to entry.

On November 7, 2016, JM commented on Ford Goes Further to Curb Climate Change :

I strongly support Ford’s efforts in influencing its industry partners. Companies like Ford have thousands of suppliers and are seen as role models by many participants in the marketplace. Therefore, investing into creating new standards not only for their own operations but also for the entire ecosystem built around Ford is a very efficient way to reduce GHG emissions. One question remains, how will Ford implement and monitor such a strategy?

On November 7, 2016, JM commented on A Case for Solar-Powered Irrigation in Africa :

How to give African farmers access to the last innovations and technology that they need in order to scale their businesses? This is a key question that needs to be answer to unlock Africa’s true potential. African farmers are competing in a global markets with very limited ressources. Additionally, some key markets such as EU and the US have high tariffs in place to protect their local farmers. Therefore, organizations like SunCulture are truly changing the world by trying to tackle these hard challenges in a very difficult environment where financings are very limited. That being said, I would like to know more about the economics behind the $400 par acre product cost. This seems quite high for some of the African markets where farmers have with low access to financing institutions. Could SunCulture prove the economic value of its product through pilot projects to local banks? This would enable SunCulture to create partnerships with local banks to finance the farmers’ projects (and increase its revenue).

On November 6, 2016, JM commented on Philips – Lighting The Way To Carbon Neutrality :

I see a clear conflict of interest in that specific case. How should I perceive Philips’s message as this is a company whose core business is to sell lightbulbs… and they are basically recommending that everyone purchases new lightbulbs… Do they actually offer a solution to recycle the old lightbulbs? In 5 years when after they invent a new generation of lightbulbs, will they recommend that everyone changes their lightbulbs again? Sustainability also means finding the right balance between updating appliances too often (leading to too much consumption) and never adopting the last innovations.

Veolia is indeed a big player the market, especially in Europe where the regulatory environment is one of the strictest in the world when it comes to sustainability. Therefore, I am left wondering if Veolia’s projects in developing markets are as “eco friendly” as in Europe? Does the company limit itself to implement only the local regulations or does it go further and implement some of the best practices taught in Europe? For me, that is the difference between a company that is trying to change the world and a company that is just doing marketing.

I would be curious to know more about GM’s energy procurement practice. As GM does not produce energy, it has to rely on suppliers that can provide energy coming from “renewable” sources in many countries across the globe. Yet, the term “renewable” could be defined in many different ways based on the countries’ regulations. For instance, nordic countries are known to define “renewable” in a much more conservative way than certain developing economies. Hence, I believe that the company should audit and certify not only its own facilities but also its suppliers’ operations.