Doug, thanks for this post. It’s fascinating to think about how algos and systematic trading might disintermediate financial services as we currently know them. But as has already been mentioned I do worry about the sustainability of the underlying investment idea funnel, whereby the best investors beta test their strategies and then move on quickly. It would make sense to price participation accordingly and either (a) require non-competes for a set amount of time for each participating investor and their strategy, or (b) deliberately alter the business model as has already been highlighted above such that Quantopian operates as a recruitment funnel for other funds.
Laure, this article was great and gave me brilliant insight into something I know little about. I imagine one of the complexities of the business would be selecting testers who have the “right” level of computer literacy for beta testing, i.e. a level of literacy commensurate with the potential customer base depending on the product, which might be significantly older and less computer literate than average. More signigifcantly perhaps, it would also be interesting to understand how they manage the risk of plagiarism / poaching by testers for more advanced features? I imagine this could present significant commercial risk.
Sam, this made for a great read – thank you! I liked your idea about embedding sensors in the racks, which allows for a level of consumer anonymity. While expanding into hardware solutions doesn’t fit with their current business plan (i.e. their big selling point to retailers is low capex / software only as I understand it), in addition to additional earnings this diversification allows them to mitigate the software’s commercial risk associated with consumer privacy. As said risk is either mitigated by consumer habit or clarified legislatively, they would be well placed to provide much more comprehensive solutions to their customers.
Maria – this was a fascinating article and provides great insight into the crucial role digitisation can play in improving agricultural yield, central to ensuring crop yields increase in line with population growth, as you touched on. What I think is particularly exciting is the role information aggregation can have here: by aggregating real-time national data on seed type, fertiliser use and water consumption, John Deere can play a key role in maximising visibility and therefore efficiency across the supply chain. A great way to monetise this big data would be to create information sharing agreements across said supply chain with the larger suppliers of seeds or fertilisers for instance, inter alia.
Camille – this is a great article, thank you! What I have found most fascinating about bitcoin is understanding how blockchain technology allows it to disintermediate regulators and how this same technology could disintermediate market makers across a variety of other industries. Most obviously this applies to financial services whereby other financial assets can be (1) traded with minimal friction and transaction costs but we are also already seeing its applications in other industries too, namely in the form of La’Zooz (2), a competitor to Uber which is completely decentralised using the blockchain and therefore circumvents national regulators, which have repeatedly tried to hamper Uber’s expansion. Instead of investing resources to establish how cryptocurrencies can add value, national regulators are still falling over themselves to slow bitcoin’s growth sufficiently to give them time to catch up legislatively with an inevitable market move. What would make significantly more sense is for a supranational body to come together to think positively about how to manage rather than stymie this development and not to focus disproportionately on the nefarious impact this could have at the margin.
Great article and I would have enjoyed reading it more were it not for how dispiriting their lack of action thus far is! Given the impact the food industry has on climate change, in particular via protein production and its supply chains, is this an industry the government should look at regulating more closely? There is self-regulation to the extent to which public pressure exerts itself, but is this enough? We expect our legislators to play a role in any industry that has a significant environmental impact, be it in energy or auto production, inter alia, at what point and to what extent should we be regulating others, which are also responsible for an increasing part of C02 productions? My personal view is that self-regulation is insufficient as perfectly illustrated by how little Burger King has done.
Sebastian, this made for a fascinating read and I completely agree that given the geographic and product scope of the larger FMCG companies, these have a real responsibility to be first movers with regard to moving their supply chains and processes towards greater environmental sustainability. Where there is significant opportunity to do this is in their supply chains, as has already been mentioned, either by integrating these or by decentralising production. In addition to this, it would be brilliant to see them commit to leveraging their market position with their suppliers by adding an environmental mission statement around the supply chain, cross product, as a whole. Concomitantly, it would be great to see them commit to R&D and innovation across all product lines that speaks to this also over and above the product specific statements they have made.
Long – thanks for a great article! As already outlined by some of the comments above, there is often a tension between nominal targets, or what we might consider to be a PR stunt, and real commitment or strategic shift towards environmental sustainability in any company. My personal view is that the fact of it being a PR stunt in one period is irrelevant if it then iteratively leads to an increasing financial commitment to sustainable energy sources or processes. What I think you rightly point out is of primary importance in this industry is the appropriate pricing of externalities, which we have previously discussed in our FIN class, without which, the financial incentive to appropriately manage Co2 emissions is significantly reduced!
Jordan, what a fascinating article! This really goes to the heart of discussion about whether or not art ought to be a lead or lagging indicator of social norms, i.e. whether studios have a responsibility to communicate the reality of environmental change, or indeed any other key social issue. Should regulators ban a sci-fi film that suggests climate change is a fiction, particularly given the size of its captive audiences? It sounds like the beginning of the slippery slope argument with free speech. All owned media has a social setting agenda either for financial reasons, by virtue of the predisposition of its owners or because it is a lagging indicator of its social context. I believe very strongly that what we term “news”, i.e. media purporting to be fact driven, ought to be more tightly regulated. But when it comes to fiction, and writing as a huge fan of sci-fi, I think the world would a much poorer place if writers were only allowed to express what we know to be concretely true. Where the regulator must play a role in managing fiction and the film industry is in having a feel for the nuance between imagination and propaganda.
Miras, this was a fascinating read and reminded me of the ‘resource curse’ discussions prevalent with regard to Sub Saharan Africa and, in particular, countries such as Angola, Sierra Leone (both diamond rich) and Nigeria (oil). As you have brilliantly described, the temptation to focus on export lead growth is hard to resist for countries at an earlier developmental stage and can lead to one of three issues, inter alia, namely:
(1) “Dutch Disease” whereby the national currency, in this case the Tugrik, appreciates extensively in line with its primary export and renders other national industries uncompetitive.
(2) Aggressive rent seeking by government players who are often industry owners resulting in a wealth paradox where inequality increases in line with total GDP, which feeds political instability.
(3) Higher economic susceptibility to exogenous macro shocks, as you have highlighted with copper.
I agree with the comments above in so far as there are mechanisms by which Mongolia can trade and minimise emissions over and above efforts they can make to minimise emissions in their processes themselves, but I think there is a broader question of equal interest, which regards how sustainable the industry is politically and economically and whether it ought to be allowed to proliferate at the expense of other industries. The mitigating factor regularly mentioned is human capital development and North East Asia (e.g. South Korea) is often used as an illustrative comparison to resource cursed countries; the idea being that human capital is siphoned off to commodity led businesses while other industries suffer and by that token, higher levels of education and training across the population can help to develop other non-commodity focused industries. The idea is to re-balance the export product mix to minimise revenue volatility and the associated balance of trade shocks linked to the commodity base. I would be interested to know if you think this is something the government is inclined to consider or if the temptation to carry on with business as usual is simply too great.