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On November 20, 2016, JY commented on Duolingo: Working for your Education :

Interesting post! The concept of the twofer business model appears to be a great idea but seems to be hard to execute, as expected. I share the same concern that selling translations provided by language learners is not sustainable or competitive. Has Duolingo explored more B2B opportunities to sell to corporations? I think particularly international corporations could be more interested in providing language lessons to its employees and this business would be a more steady, sticky business. I think Duolingo can also leverage more technology to build more interactive features to extend beyond translations of text, as others have pointed out that is not enough to master a language.

I also wonder if Duolingo can redesign its programs to pivot to target school children and partner with elementary schools or private schools, where language lessons are increasingly popular and parents realize that children learn languages best at a young age. Young adults and working professionals can access many resources, including Rosetta, for learning a language, and perhaps there may still be less competition in the elementary school markets.

On November 20, 2016, JY commented on Smart Services in the City of Dubai :

Fascinating post! I’m particularly impressed with the smart parking system, which definitely seems like it could be helpful in many major US cities. Do you know how much upfront investment costs there were or how much ramp up time there was before the various initiatives started showing results? Would governments with smaller budgets than Dubai be able to justify these investments or be able to recoup the costs?

I’m also surprised that the government was able to apps the law allowing sharing of city level data across public and private sectors. I’m curious about the local population’s views on sharing data and how the government was able to build a culture and attitude that supported the openness on data sharing. I feel that in the US, that would be a controversial topic and people would be more skeptical and have privacy concerns.

Thanks for a great post! I agree that the lower priced hotels really have few or any competitive advantages against Airbnb, since they cannot compete on quality and they are not suitable for business travelers either. In order for these hotels to survive, I believe they need to consider drastically changing their business models to leverage technology as Airbnb has, and perhaps also build their own online platform like Airbnb and cut out more of their physical cost structures. Another suggestion is to have the smaller, budget hotels form an alliance with a rewards program that is now more valuable because of the larger network of hotels. The alliance can have one platform serving all these smaller hotels and be able to offer more choice for customers and also benefit from economics of scale to compete on price with Airbnb. Of course, it’s easier said than done and it may be difficult for different small hotels to cooperate together or be able to build a platform as efficiently as Airbnb has.

On November 20, 2016, JY commented on Amazon: Revolutionizing The Shopping Experience Since 1995 :

Interesting post! I agree that the heavy investments into new products and logistics infrastructure have really created significant advantages for Amazon across several sectors. I’m curious on your thoughts about Amazon’s recent foray into physical book stores, after so many years of operating an optimized online book store model. The company has opened the first store in Seattle and they’ve announced several more coming in major US cities such as Chicago and Boston.

I’ve visited the store in Seattle, which is located in an upscale shopping strip mall that includes the Apple Store and Nike store. My impression is that Amazon is trying to transfer some of the efficient, online experience to the physical store, recognizing that there are still customers who prefer to shop in physical book stores. For example, the books are placed face out on the shelves and each has a tag showing the online customer rating and a customer review. The store is also a way for Amazon to showcase its expanding collection of hardware, such as the Kindle and Amazon Echo. However, I wonder how Amazon can overcome the original issues of high rent and labor, while charging the same prices as its online website?


On November 20, 2016, JY commented on A Bright Future for Philips :

Interesting post! As a customer of Hue light bulbs, I definitely think Philips did a great job in being a first mover and staying ahead of the curve in the light bulb industry. I was introduced to these light bulbs through a friend and was initially skeptical because I didn’t see a need for the product. I think Philips could face this hurdle with other consumers as well because there’s a high upfront investment cost and involves changing customer behavior towards light bulbs. However, after I tried the product myself, I was converted and believe that Philips should provide more opportunities for customers to try the product, in order to convince them. For example, I think the Philips partnership with Amazon that allows the Amazon Echo to control the Hue lights is great in reaching out to a similar customer base that would appreciate the convenience, and I wonder if Philips has done other similar partnerships? When there’s a large adoption by customers, I think governments and businesses would also be more willing to try Philips as well.

I am also curious if there’s overlapping, similar technology in Philips’ other products, such as the air purifier or baby monitor? Or if Philips is able to leverage existing competencies in those products? Although these may all be home products, I think Philips working on a broad range of products may be less effective and more confusing for consumers, than if Philips focused on just one product and really developed the best technology and become known for that product.

On November 18, 2016, JY commented on Digitizing the Starbucks Experience :

Hi Andrew, you’re absolutely right, the order splitting was one of the reasons we wanted to change the rewards program. Under the new program, the company has already seen the number of transactions decrease at the POS (creating addt’l store productivity) but revenues continue to grow.

Interesting post! I’m curious if the product changes under Greenprint have indeed increased the product costs for Avery Dennison. Assuming they have, I think it would definitely be challenging to pass along the costs to the clients or the ultimate consumer. One idea is that Avery Dennison and its clients could work together to promote consumer awareness around the environmental costs of packaging and increase consumers’ willingness to pay for more sustainable packaging. In addition, brands such as L’Oreal can advertise their sustainable packaging as one of the ways that they are an environmentally friendly company and improve their brand image. However, the ROI can be very hard to measure and attribute any brand equity or financial results directly to the more sustainable packaging. In this type of industry that likely have low margins and are at the mercy of their clients, I wonder if governments should play a bigger role in regulating and enforcing standards?

On November 7, 2016, JY commented on Climate Change and PM 2.5 :

Interesting post! I agree that the heavy pollution is definitely a pressing issue in China and there are no quick solutions.
You mentioned that Shougang must ensure the benefits of the sustainability projects justifies the high implementation costs. Since Shougang is a state-owned company and these sustainability projects provide greater good for the country’s people, would the Chinese government be willing to relax profitability targets and help Shougang achieve its sustainability goals?

I think China is an interesting country in that the government intervention and influence can be very effective. I agree that there can be more collaboration between the private and public sector to share knowledge and leverage resources. It’s also impressive to see the numerous initiatives that Shougang has already started. Besides the large upfront costs of the sustainability projects, do the changes impact productivity, product quality or ongoing manufacturing costs?

On November 7, 2016, JY commented on Losing the LEED :

Andrew, great post! It’s definitely surprising to learn that 28-35% of LEED buildings use more energy than their conventional counterparts. From my time at Starbucks, I know the company is one of the biggest supporters of LEED, having implemented LEED globally in over 1,000 stores. Although I think our company had a good store development division that probably analyzed the benefits of LEED, I think a big reason that Starbucks and other developers may choose LEED over alternatives such as Passive House is that LEED has gained more much name recognition and credibility.

Thus, I think it may be more effective to help improve LEED rather than promote awareness of another verification agency such as Passive House. Aside from the poor points system, it seems that the US Green Building Council lacks practical knowledge about the industry, such as the implications of building materials or certain design decisions. I wonder if there are ways for the US Green Building Council to work more closely with developers to solicit their input and expertise. In addition, post mortems could be done after the building is in operations to verify whether projected energy savings are actually realized. What would be some challenges in changing the developer incentives to tie more closely to actual energy efficiencies?

On November 7, 2016, JY commented on A not-so-happy meal :

Carolyn, thanks for the interesting post! I’m very surprised by the high greenhouse gas emissions for livestock and their byproducts, but the fact that producing a hamburger requires 660 gallons of water really struck me. I feel that as long as the actual market price for a hamburger remains low and does not reflect all the true costs, such as environmental costs, it will be hard to motivate the public to change their meat-eating habits. If beef patties become more expensive like shrimp or fish, I think that will also become a strong motivator for McDonald’s to adapt its menu.

In addition, I think it would be difficult to see more governments intervening in people’s food habits like China did, as people in other countries would be less used to the government telling them what to do in their daily lives. Even in China and many developing countries, eating meat is a sign of an improving quality of life.

I am also curious whether most of the emissions is coming from manufacturing processed meat or also the cuts of meat sold at grocery stores? If it’s the former, I think more education to consumers will help reduce demand for processed meats, but for fast food companies like McDonald’s, they may not be able to change their menus and business models quickly enough.

Michael, thanks for the interesting post! It’s surprising to see that GM actually beat Tesla to the market with its fully electric car for the mass market. Although there is a lot of anticipation that tech companies like Tesla and Apple will disrupt the auto industry because they have better technology, are more nimble or innovative, I think this shows that deep experience and scale are still important, especially in a manufacturing industry.

I agree that if GM can be successful in building and owning a Supercharger network across the country, they will really drive adoption of electric cars and have a competitive advantage for its own business. My concerns would be the large upfront costs and the costs of duplicating efforts with Tesla and other manufacturers who have the same goal. In addition, I wonder whether other auto manufacturers would be willing to have GM own the network and their data. It’s possible that GM can negotiate a partnership with other auto brands to build the Supercharger network together, sharing in the costs and benefits.