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On November 17, 2016, JND commented on No Personal Trainer? No Problem! :

Really interesting post! I agree that technology could prove to be an incremental benefit to forward-thinking gyms like Equinox. Those that are likely to be most affected are the fitness professionals who have spent time and money to become certified (e.g., personal trainers, fitness coaches, etc.). Some people rely on personal trainers to provide more accountability, while others enjoy developing a relationship with someone while working out – these trainers likely aren’t at risk, but the others are. A decrease in trainers would indirectly hurt gyms because they make a cut of what members pay their trainers, but they could potentially make it up by luring additional members that are seeking a gym that allows them to take advantage of technology. Going back to personal trainers, though, I wonder if there can be a world where technology and these professionals co-exist. Can personal trainers become technology experts, helping their clients most effectively use the technology, and more importantly, helping interpret the data and make more informed recommendations for their clients?

On November 17, 2016, JND commented on e-Estonia: How Estonia is digitalizing an entire country :

Fascinating article. Kudos to Estonia for effectively digitizing so many of these otherwise archaic government functions. The feat that impresses me the most, though, is the government’s ability to aggregate information about its citizens from disparate systems so that citizens never have to provide the government the same information twice. The logistics associated with that accomplishment must have been an extreme challenge, not to mention the cross collaboration that was required by multiple parties. It would be interesting to learn how they performed all this work – was it done internally or was any of it outsourced to third party software developers?

Additionally, as others have echoed, how much did Estonia’s size lend to the success in its digital transformation? The thought of a large country like the U.S. implementing similar digital initiatives is impossible to conceive. I must hold on to some hope, though!

On November 17, 2016, JND commented on Peloton : Fitness Studios :: Netflix : Blockbuster :

Great post. As a Peloton user, the business model certainly resonates. To illustrate the benefits, I did a 30 minute ride this morning before school. Because it’s located 25 feet from my bedroom, I only needed to wake up 35-40 minutes earlier than usual. Also, because there weren’t any “live” classes (classes being broadcast live from the Peloton studio in NYC), I looked up an “on-demand” ride with my favorite instructor that had been previously recorded. Super convenient.

With regards to the pricing, for those that are into indoor cycling, the payback period on the bike is actually reasonably quick (12-18 months). My understanding is the company sells the bike for close to cost and is relying on the monthly membership to generate profit and cash flow. This makes sense given the valuation difference between the two models (selling hardware vs. selling software). My outstanding question: how is the tablet, and the information being broadcasted, going to change over the years and how that will affect the legacy tablets? Technology is changing quickly, so how the company manages that with respect to pushing forward, but also acknowledging its existing user base has older technology, will be interesting.

Great post. The ability for farmers to efficiently and effectively evaluate their crops in a manner that is more economical than the alternative (no need to pay for someone to fly above your crop) will certainly play a role in helping farmers increase their yields to help meet the upcoming challenge of feeding an ever growing global population. It will be interesting, however, to see which farmers are able make the necessary investments in a drone like AgEagle’s and other new age equipment. Prices for these technologies are coming down, but many farmers who are continually being squeezed may not have the financial resources to make these investments that allow them to work smarter and more effectively. Will these new investment requirements to remain competitive create a movement of consolidation among the farming industry?

On November 14, 2016, JND commented on The Digitization of Microfinance: bKash in Bangladesh :

This is a fascinating post and certainly eye-opening to learn that 80% of a country’s population lives on under $2 per day and does not have access to banking services. Certainly the advent of mobile phones has allowed companies to deliver services in a new, innovative way that has significantly less friction than before. bKash is no different in taking advantage of this technological revolution and is a great example of innovation benefiting those that arguably need it the most.

You ask pertinent questions at the end that I was asking myself as I read your post. Specifically, how will digital communication affect the group model and its willingness to accept group liability? Technology will likely make these groups less reliable on each other and thus erode their willingness to share financial responsibilities. Will bKash and others be in a position to pivot when this happens?

As an avid wine drinker, this post was extremely informative. I’ve constantly wondered how climate change has and will affect the industry – and in particular my favorite Bordeaux vineyards! It’s fascinating to see that TWE/Foster’s has put into place a three-pronged approach – Governance, Mitigative, Adaptive – to combat the effects of climate change. For obvious reasons, an effective sustainability plan is critical to the future of the company and it seems like TWE/Foster’s certainly is focused on this plan. I do wonder how it will assess when to identify and purchase plots of land that historically may not have been conducive to growing grapes but in the upcoming new climate environment may prove to be quite fruitful. This strategy could prove to be very capital intensive – how TWE/Foster’s balances this decision with likely prove to be critical to its long-term operations.

On November 7, 2016, JND commented on Monsanto will help lead the battle against climate change :

It’s clear Monsanto is trying to solve future problems through science, but the way in which it is doing it (compared to Indigo Agriculture, for instance, who focuses on crop resistance to weather patterns instead of pesticides), is troubling. As a result, Monsanto has developed a massive public perception issue (I am one of those that has historically viewed the company in a negative light), which I believe should be a real significant concern for the company: people do not want to eat food that has been genetically modified by Monsanto to be resistant to the chemicals Monsanto then sells farmers. If the company can’t find a different solution whereby it can provide a sustainable solution that does not put at risk, real or perceived, people’s health, then they’ll continue to face a torrent of criticism from the general public. This doesn’t feel like a sustainable approach to corporate and financial sustainability…

On November 7, 2016, JND commented on Koch Industries: Whose side are you on? :

Thanks for this post. The main question I have is: is Koch increasingly focusing on climate change related solutions because it has adopted a sustainability initiative that allows it to help make the world a better place in addition to providing it a financial benefit, or is the increased focus a direct result of increased regulations? I tend to lean towards the latter. It’s easy to sell CO2 solutions when many of those solutions are required by law.

Having said that, corporate America is littered with executives who have decided to make sustainability a significant aspect of their business model due to their personal views on climate change. Even if the Koch brothers aren’t those executives for Koch Industries, perhaps the next generation of Koch leaders can help the company become a leader in sustainability practices across its portfolio companies.

Very well written and though-provoking post. Obviously, Starbucks has been considered one of the most socially aware corporations in the U.S. for quite some time, although, your post highlights some of the issues they’re still dealing with today.

I’d never really thought of Starbucks as a “trendsetter” before, as I’ve always associated the term “trend” with a movement, initiative, or inclination that is temporary. And perhaps this is a trend that many different vested parties are pressuring Starbucks to truly turn into a permanent, long-time core strategic initiative. Clearly, by raising $500 million to fund its sustainability programs, Starbucks agrees. As a first mover, it will be interesting to monitor Starbucks over the coming years to see how their investments pay off for them, both in the short- and long-term. Hopefully they can become an example to all corporations of how to incorporate sustainability into their core values.

Very interesting post. The insurance industry is not often associated with being innovative and forward thinking, but with increased competition has come increased investment (e.g., carriers are purchasing insurance technology startups that were formerly vendors). As it relates to climate change, I wonder if capital requirements have changed due to the increasing level of risk associated with extreme weather related events. Either way, as losses mount, insurers will continue to raise premiums, particularly in areas that are often hard hit by severe weather. This is an example of a negative network effect – the more people contribute to climate change to exacerbate the issue, the more it affects those who live in storm-related higher probability geographies.

Specifically related to flood, most carriers participate in the government’s National Flood Insurance Program, so the carriers aren’t bearing any of the risk. In fact, due to the increased number of severe storms, the program is currently under water (pun intended). Thus, it will be interesting to see the government’s approach to rates in the upcoming years.