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On November 20, 2016, Joanna commented on Rest Devices Inc. – Will They Deliver Nursery 2.0? :

ConcernedCitizen, I’m concerned about a number of problems with Rest Devices’ product line and value proposition. As we learn more about the impact of wireless networks on human health (or at least wait for the longitudinal studies to come out), attaching a wireless device to a baby’s abdomen 24×7 seems risky if not downright irresponsible of parents. Furthermore, under incredible stress with the arrival of a new baby, they are in a unique position to channel primal instincts to read baby’s cues and protect their little one at all costs. Does adding a stream of data to this equation help or hinder the bonding process? Certainly, there is a desire to reduce SIDS risk and monitor baby when she’s sick, but does Mimo actually reduce the risk or create a false sense of security? Rest Devices will have fine line to walk between easing the burden of early parenting and interfering with the ambiguous dance of parent-baby bonding.

On November 20, 2016, Joanna commented on When “Real” Estate Meets “Virtual” World :

This is such an interesting industry in which to study the impact of digital transformation! Thanks for enlightening us about the housing realty industry in China. Buying a house is the largest purchase most consumers make in their life, and no two houses and properties are exactly alike. Thus, Lianjia’s role is to provide reliable online information about properties and match customers to properties based on their displayed preferences. Could they go a step further by influencing the preferences consumers have about houses in the first place and better match demand and supply of houses? For example, by providing online content displaying interior design trends and property features, Lianjia could increase customer mind-share when they start looking for a home or an investment property. By creating online content about real estate investment, they could expand the market of consumers who use real estate as a financial tool. Lianjia’s existing network of brick-and-mortar agencies helps set them up for market dominance, and creating an equally strong, trusted online brand will reinforce their position.


Creating physical stores also reminds us of Amazon’s humble beginnings and its original focus on books. This is a great brand-building move for Amazon, which has been vilified for driving small retailers out of business, since it humanizes the brand for its consumers – and creates visible local jobs. I’m eager to see what the in-store experience feels like and how they might design the store differently from other booksellers to make the experience sticky (and create online sales later). In contrast to the online environment, getting customers to linger in stores may be easier than getting them to spend time on the Amazon website, leading to higher sales and greater customer satisfaction.

Another challenge athenahealth will face with its new hospital product offering is convincing hospital systems to switch from their existing EMR system, which likely required significant up front costs to customize and train doctors on. I shadowed a physician at Brigham & Women’s hospital last week to learn more about her use of technology and the pain points she is facing as she goes through a typical day. She was using the EPIC system and had become a “super user” by spending extra time programming shortcuts and templates for her department. Although she said she doesn’t love everything about it, EPIC has become a core part of her daily activities and she is starting to capture the benefits as her patients progress through their care and she tracks them in the system. To differentiate from such established vendors as EPIC, athenahealth will need to provide not only a better product but a more responsive product that doctors believe will better serve their needs. The hospital value proposition differs from the value they are offering primary care (namely, their one-size-fits-all, plug-and-play solution). It will be interesting to see how athenahealth evolves its product strategy as it seeks to maintain its impressive year-over-year revenue growth levels.

On November 20, 2016, Joanna commented on Macy’s: America’s Omnichannel Store :

I’m also curious about the future of omnichannel retailing and its impact on the in-store experience and the structure of the retail workforce. As someone who values interacting with a knowledgeable retail salesperson to make my shopping experience better, I’m worried about how the omnichannel model will change customer service. An article in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Retailing, Adam Rapp et all define “showrooming” as when consumers use the physical store to browse products which they go on to purchase online (sometimes from a different retailer, such as Amazon, at a lower price). Rapp’s study finds that “Showrooming has negative effects on both salesperson self-efficacy and performance.” Further study and experimentation with sales training will be needed to redefine the role of the retail salesperson in the physical store. This problem is also concerning in light of the discussion we had last week about the hollowing out of middle-skill jobs in our economy.


On November 5, 2016, Joanna commented on C&S Wholesale Grocers – Innovating to Protect an Incumbancy :

One of the benefits of being such a big incumbent in this space (in the face of climate change) is the access to real-time data about how the logistics of the operation are working and/or breaking down (due to weather issues). It will be important for C&S to continue to leverage its unique culture to problem solve – whether that be through finding new routes or identifying where to add smaller distribution hubs to ensure consistent supply. As for reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the business, adopting electric vehicle technology for the trucks may be an option in the future as this technology becomes more mature. Of course C&S would then need to consider electric vehicle charging technology and timing its deliveries to include enough time to recharge their fleet.

This is a fascinating problem and business opportunity for Fonterra. I am intrigued by the option of altering the cow’s microbiome and wonder if this could be maintained with the right mix of feed (prebiotic and probiotic components) to make this easier to implement. As they experiment with different solutions, it will be interesting to see how innovation happens at the farm-level. In response to Alexandra’s idea about altering the gene of the cow, I’m no expert but wonder if the interaction between genes and the microbiome might be useful here. I’m very curious about the science behind turning genes on and off and what impact the cow’s diet and environment might have on their gene expression.

On November 5, 2016, Joanna commented on Breath of Fresh…Smog? :

This is a disturbing problem arising from climate change that I have never thought about before. The role of the CDC in addressing this problem is very interesting since it will require multi-disciplinary solutions which require collaboration between different government agencies (State Departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, etc.) as well as private sector players and NGOs. On the bright side, it may be easier to get the general public to change their behavior and support climate change policies by focusing on the noxious air pollutants (not just CO2 – which doesn’t have any health effects) that they will have to deal with as climate change increases.

On November 5, 2016, Joanna commented on Green Mission of Whole Foods Market :

Consumers claim to care about sustainability and the impact of their product choices on ecosystems and greenhouse gas emissions, but even more compelling for consumers is the belief that sustainable products are also better for their health. Whole Foods has aligned these dual benefits for consumers by allowing them to feel good about their environmental impact and good about buying Whole Foods products for the health of their families. The green initiatives they are pursuing around wind and solar power has become table stakes for competing grocery stores such as Safeway. The real competitive advantage for Whole Foods facing climate change will be sourcing produce and other products from local organic producers. Thus, I think the micro-loans to organic farms are a great way to set up the company for future success.

I appreciated your insight that the problem of water scarcity is not just a PR risk for Levi’s but also a problem they face in the long term viability of their supply chain. Unlike many companies that pursue sustainability as an add-on to their business for optical reasons, Levi’s is authentic in its pursuit of resource conservation because it is truly aligned with its business model. The declines in crop yields for cotton made me think about Indigo Agriculture — perhaps there’s a partnership in the making with Levi’s! However, this would require Levi’s taking more control of its supply chain and/or becoming vertically integrated.