Logan Thrun

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Nicely written and really interesting. I think you are zeroing in on a group of important questions and I agree with your analysis of the major issues. I’d love to see what their farmer adoption and tech performance are going to look like. I can see a lot of incentives for farmers to engage, particularly if the fertilizer and planting savings from precision agriculture offset the costs of installing and employing the technology. That may be slightly more difficult if the true benefits come after the planting season, but I could see John Deere using some similar incentives to Indigo in order to get uptake. I wonder if they are thinking about applying these tools outside of the northern hemisphere as well. Though that could increase the connectivity difficulties for the technology it might also increase the importance of machine learning for weather and climate impacts.

On November 15, 2018, Logan Thrun commented on Can Machine Learning Deliver Airbnb’s Next Leg of Growth? :

Nicely written and really interesting article. I use airbnb a lot, but I did not know about their approach to machine learning. In terms of the risks that the company faces, I think they are in a good position to defend against competition. Their network effect and first-mover advantage make it hard for others to compete with them in the sharing economy. I think they might have larger problems as they try to bridge into the traditional hotel space though. In that context, I think any regulatory pressure that limits their home sharing is a major concern.

Looking at machine learning in particular, I can see how they might use tracking and language processing algorithms to refine their travel and experience products. I agree that that could be really productive for them. I think there is a geographic element to this that could pair really well with the company’s existing model. For example, focusing first on neighborhood services like gyms could be especially useful. Right now, there is no one who aggregates and offers that kind of access to travelers. It would be easy and complementary for airbnb to pair people with services close to where they are staying, and machine learning can help them decide which services to pursue and which to offer to each individual traveler.

Really cool. Thanks for writing about this. I agree with your recommendation that GE should conduct a broader review of its product lines and work to integrate 3D printing more broadly where that’s productive. Considering the breadth of their product line, it would be surprising if they did not find a host of other applications for the technology. I could imagine a lot of benefit in the more technical parts of their “Critical Power” or “Industrial Solutions” divisions, for example. Even if they did not want to stray too far from the ways that they are using 3d printing in aviation, it seems like there could be a lot in same “highly specialized and bespoke” niche that they have found.

This is such cool stuff. Thanks for writing about it. To me the main take-away is the tremendous advantages that this could have for patients. I hope the result is significantly more access and affordability for prosthetics and key medical implants. That does put Stryker in a potentially tough spot though. Like some of the other commenters, I wonder if Stryker are able to patent specific shapes and forms of these prosthetics. I think that they should be able to, but I expect that the democratization of manufacturing will mean that they have to innovate a lot more than they have up to this point.

This could also have advantages for them though. For example, if hospitals can manufacture many of the products themselves Stryker could just sell the designs and the license to print them. I could see one version of the market where they continue to manufacture their most costly and high tech products and then become more of a schematic ‘publishing arm’ for the products that can be made more easily or with cheaper materials. This could end up being higher margin for them in the long run as they would not have to physically manufacture or distribute all of their product line.

Nicely written. I am skeptical of Clover and Ayr on several levels. First, I question whether starting a vegetarian restaurant is actually an effective way to reduce meat consumption. It does not seem like a way to get people to eat less meat so much as it is just a new vegetarian restaurant. There is nothing particularly innovative about that. If reducing meat consumption is the goal, I would argue that working on direct analogues for meat (like the impossible burger), innovating on methane capture, or reducing the green house gas from fertilizers are all more direct levers. Second, it is troubling that his PR quote for Clover is that reducing meat consumption has more impact than working on energy or transportation. That is just a bad fact. Agriculture as a whole contributes 13-24% of emissions worldwide, energy and transportation are both higher than that. That means agriculture in general and meat in particular are a huge contributors to climate change and very worthy of work, but it doesn’t help at all for Ayr to start by bending the facts. I know these have less to do with TOM, but they are important to clarify.

Looking at Clover’s open innovation in particular, I agree that it seems like they are mostly using the customer tasting as a PR approach. I wonder if they are gathering more comments from monitoring twitter and other social media than they were in the in-person tastings. Even if they are gathering that feedback, however, the bulk of their approach seems like internal product development and extensive customer testing. That seems less like open innovation and more like traditional market testing. I’d be intrigued to see what would happen if they gave more weight to the “Champion Forum” and really doubled down on customer recipe development.

On November 15, 2018, Logan Thrun commented on Open Research: Advancing Innovation in Public Health :

What an interesting essay. Let me add some thoughts from the Gates Foundation (BMGF) perspective —

To your first question, I don’t think that publishing on a platform like Chronos creates any new issues for profit sharing or attribution. Those same risks exist for research that sits behind a paywall, it is just that less people have access to the information. In that sense BMGF creates a net benefit by opening access without creating a net new issue. That does not mean that attribution is not a broader concern though.

What is potentially more complicated for the Foundation is when BMGF funding leads to a patent which is used to make profitable product. There the patent protects the intellectual property, but pricing and access to the technology could be limited. If the Foundation required open access to that technology then many would be reluctant to accept the funding in the first place and the world might miss out on an important innovation. As it turns out the Foundation is more nuanced on its thinking about patents. Instead of requiring global open access, it typically requires concessional pricing on that patent for low income countries and public markets and then allows market-based pricing to high income countries and the private sector. I think that is the right approach.

Your second question is less clear cut though. I see two possible ways that BMGF could help make sure that research that it funds is valued by tenure boards: i) it could establish a peer review system and invest to turn chronos into a prestigious (but open access) journal, and/or ii) it could fund current journals to also be open access and allow grantees to publish there if they are accepted. Either approach could give the academic status that researchers need.