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On November 20, 2016, Karan commented on Augmedix: Taking a Look at Your Next Visit to the Doctor :

Thanks for sharing. Healthcare is one of the applications of augmented reality that I am most excited about. In your post, you mentioned the risk of Augmedix’s reliance on Google. While this would have been a major risk a few years ago, the risk of other players such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Snapchat in this space has reduced the severity of the risk. Facebook’s Oculus platform and Microsoft’s HoloLens can serve as alternatives to Google’s Glass product. The challenge that lies ahead of Facebook and Microsoft is the form factor of their products. The current design of Oculus and HoloLens would make it hard for physicians to use the products during in-person interactions, but it’s certainly possible to use it offline to execute administrative tasks and conduct research.

On November 20, 2016, Karan commented on Lost in Translation: Duolingo Makes Language Learning Mobile :

Thanks for an interesting post. I’ve been following Duolingo since it launched and even used it to learn Spanish. However, after a few weeks, the game mechanics failed to work in my situation and I dropped off. Given my personal experience, it led me to think that Duolingo has issues with user engagement and retention. However, I was wrong and was surprised to learn that they crossed 110mn engaged users earlier this year [1]. Moving from engagement to monetization, Duolingo has succeeded in using an ad-free business model so far but I don’t think it is sustainable. Having worked in the SaaS area for a long time, it’s essential to have diverse revenue streams to ensure the longevity of the company. Thus, I believe Duolingo will soon need to reconsider their decision of keeping the app free of ads. Another potential revenue stream could be premium subscriptions. With a premium account, users could take notes when they learn new concepts and even when they make mistakes. By storing user generated data, Duolingo could create stickiness just like Dropbox and Evernote have with their applications.

[1] Velayanikal, M. (2016, March 03). Connecting Asia’s startup ecosystem. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from Tech in Asia, https://www.techinasia.com/how-duolingo-got-110-million-users

On November 20, 2016, Karan commented on DLSH.com – Bringing Deliciousness To Your Doorstep! :

Thanks for sharing, Chris! I’ve been fascinated by this idea since we had a discussion a few days ago. I did some research on companies in this space and found that a few startups have either failed or had to pivot because they were unable to solve the logistics problem. For example, Farmigo raised $26mn but failed to scale their business because they took on the responsibility for shipping and were unable to deliver on their promise of next-day or 2-day shipping [1]. In that light, I believe DLSH made a wise decision to keep the shipping responsibility with producers.

Looking ahead, the biggest challenge I see for DLSH is top-of-funnel growth. Producers and farmers will receive value from DLSH only when there are lots of users on the platform. Would it be enough to invest in SEO, SEM, social media ads, etc. to get the word out there? Besides online marketing, I believe it’ll be beneficial to leverage existing relationships with farmers/producers on the website. This would entail each farmer/producer distributing information about DLSH to customers at farmers markets. While farmers markets are great for acquisition, DLSH could step in and help with customer retention by incentivizing repeat purchases. DLSH could also start a promo code for referrals to start a viral loop amongst its existing customer base. Finally, in terms of engagement and first-time purchase, it might help to provide the ability to purchase samples of several products from a farmer/producer. Given that these products have little-to-no brand recognition, customers may not be willing to spend $8-10 per item on DLSH. To help overcome this barrier, farmers/producers could sell a basket of samples from their collection – similar to what Kiehls does with their starter kits.

[1] Gould, D. (2016, July 22). Why Farmigo is shutting down its online farmers market. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from Food Tech Connect, https://foodtechconnect.com/2016/07/22/farmigo-shutting-down-online-farmers-market/

Great post – thanks for sharing! The big problem that I see with mental health services is the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. If we think about Ginger.io and other similar apps, their success in large part depends on helping people realize and admit that they need help. From the description of the app and its features, it does not seem like Ginger.io is focusing on solving this problem. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on how technology can help people overcome this initial barrier.

Another problem that I see in this area is connecting people with the right therapist. Even though Ginger.io is now hiring coaches, I agree with you that it doesn’t seem to be a scalable way to solve this problem. I wonder if they can instead leverage the large network of therapists and mental health centers across the country to solve the discovery and matching problem.

On November 20, 2016, Karan commented on From Screen to Store: How Ecommerce is Changing Walmart Stores :

Thanks for sharing! Interesting read. As I was reading more about Walmart’s long-term strategy, I found it surprising that they have 6 types of stores [1]. Earlier this year, they already closed 269 stores and shut down their ‘Express’ format stores [2]. With the shift towards e-commerce, I believe Walmart will continue to close more stores and even reduce the various types of stores. Given their increased focus on digital wallets, tailored marketing emails, and digital coupons, I see them opening more Neighborhood style stores that you mentioned in your post. The drive-thru format provided by such stores would work seamlessly with the ‘click-and-pickup’ strategy.

I’d also be curious to see if they start investing in building an operating model around deliveries and if they can make it profitable. Companies such as Uber (UberEATs) and Amazon have been trying to solve the ‘last mile’ problem but they continue to bleed cash [3].

[1] http://247wallst.com/retail/2014/03/22/walmart-now-has-six-types-of-stores/
[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/01/15/walmart-to-close-269-stores-in-us-and-abroad/78840020/
[3] http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-is-spending-a-fortune-on-its-food-delivery-business-in-london-2016-7

Thanks for sharing, MC. Before commenting on Mother Dairy, I must say that I am flabbergasted by the statistics – especially by the fact that 14-15% of wheat production comes from India. It highlights how climate change can cripple this ecosystem and heightens the urgency of this situation.

Re: Mother Dairy, I like your suggestions about leveraging solar cells on rooftops and tops of trucks. However, given the cost of solar cells, don’t you think this will significantly increase Mother Dairy’s cost of production in the short-term? If costs increase, they would either have to take a hit to their margins or pass the additional costs to consumers. Given that consumers in India are very price sensitive, it’s very likely that Mother Dairy will have to absorb these additional costs and I am not sure if they have a strong financial standing to do that. Is the Indian government taking any steps to help local farmers and businesses?

Given the statistics and current state of research, has Corticeira Amorim started losing market share? What are other cork oak producers doing to combat this change? How are consumers of cork oak reacting to this change? From your post, it seems like drip irrigation is a stop gap solution instead of a long-term, sustainable solution.

On November 7, 2016, Karan commented on H&M: Root of the Problem or Key to a Solution? :

Thanks for sharing! I would not have guessed that the retail industry was responsible for such a large percent of overall carbon emissions. Having said that, it’s very impressive that H&M has already implemented various initiatives to cut down its carbon footprint. Based on the IKEA case, your post, and several other posts (Coca-Cola, Starbucks, etc.), it seems like multiple companies across industries are facing the same problem in terms of incentivizing and motivating their suppliers and partners. Have you seen other retailers who have successfully executed an effective incentive program? If so, what does such a program look like?

Great to see that Unilever is implementing several initiatives like sustainable agriculture to reduce the negative impact on the environment. I would be curious to learn more about these sustainable agricultural practices and how they are convincing agriculturists to adopt sustainable methods. I’m sure they are facing the same dilemma that IKEA is facing in terms of incentivizing all key players in the supply chain. It’s also great to see that Unilever is engaging in campaigns to educate the end user. I remain skeptical about the efficacy of these campaigns since it’s hard to motivate users to change their behaviors. I wonder if these campaigns and ads would be more effective if they are paired with grassroots campaigns.

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

You mentioned that SCE is working to install smart meters and remote control devices as well as build a digital communications network to assist with better demand forecasting. I worked at a company that manufactures smart meters and while I’m excited about the technology, I remain very skeptical about adoption. It is extremely difficult to build and scale a digital communications network and without it, smart meters are useless. Besides the technological complexity, consumers are also not convinced that smart meters are safe since there have been several reports that smart meters lead to fires [1]. In order to get more traction, SCE and other utilities will probably need more help and support from the government, regulatory agencies, and the private sector.

[1] https://sedonaeye.com/smart-meters-keep-on-burning/