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On November 20, 2016, LP commented on Google Education: The Next Gen in Learning :

I think this recent trend of instruction differentiation is quite powerful and once adopted fully is going to make a huge impact on bringing the average student learning experience up. My biggest concern is the point about addressing funding gaps in schools to make it all possible. Although it seems from your article that the technology might be lower cost, it still puts a strain on school budgets. What I found really interesting when looking into technology adoption in classrooms is that wealthy school districts are ahead of the curve, but so are low-income districts and the space that has been more left behind is the middle-class. This is because if a school has more than a certain percentage of students getting free or subsidized lunch it qualifies for Tier 1 funding and that is how many of these schools are funding technology investments. Sometimes the disparity is massive when comparing schools. I am concerned about being able to close the gap and offer these amazing programs more widely, but am glad we are starting on the path to address the learning needs of individual children in the classroom!

On November 20, 2016, LP commented on Medtronic: Adding an “M” to “IoT” :

It is so true that technology is becoming increasingly important in the medical space and is relied upon for innovation. One thing that I was thinking about was your idea of technology companies as partners for the collection and analysis of medical data. For example – for the wearable glucose monitoring device, is there a path to integration with smart watches currently on the market? For example, Apple has recently made a big push into health with apps through the phone and watch that allow the tracking of health data and the sharing of information between patients and doctors. Would it be beneficial for Medtronic to get ahead of the curve and instead of developing their own information and hardwarde systems, leverage the scale of a giant like Apple and integrate device data with their online platforms?

Sources: http://www.apple.com/business/ochsner/ ; http://www.techradar.com/news/wearables/ibm-s-watson-health-begins-mining-healthkit-data-1290925

On November 20, 2016, LP commented on e-Finding Your Valentine :

Doing a quick search on online dating services returns a countless number of apps and websites that have penetrated the industry. The one thing I am curious about is their ability to combine systems for their apps in the future. Just by looking at exhibit 2, there are 30 different services that Match owns with the same end goal. Is there a way to have one user profile and maybe “opt in” to different types of services if the functionality of the app or website appeals to you? There are so many articles written online these days about “Choosing the right online dating service.” What if users didn’t have to choose and instead Match became all one platform? I find it so curious how different apps also go through waves of popularity and wonder with the barriers to entry so low in this market, if Match does integrate could it possibly raise the bar for competition. Development of new apps is increasingly crowding the market and almost becoming too much to handle!

While reading this article I kept thinking about how Walmart’s future focus on ecommerce and omnichannel hinges on acquiring millennial customers. As online retail presence balloons, we are all forming habits and becoming increasingly brand-loyal to online marketplaces. Since Walmart’s core competency is brick-and-mortar stores, it didn’t surprise me to read about the company’s recent acquisition of jet.com. As one of the fastest growing ecommerce companies in the US, their customer bases skews heavily towards urban and millennial, populations where Walmart is currently under-penetrated. With an average of 400,000 shoppers being added monthly, it seems like this will bring Walmart one step closer to realizing their vision of a new omnichannel shopping experience.

Source: http://news.walmart.com/2016/08/08/walmart-agrees-to-acquire-jetcom-one-of-the-fastest-growing-e-commerce-companies-in-the-us

On November 20, 2016, LP commented on Enlighted Inc: Nest but better :

You touched on this briefly in your post, but what I love about Enlighted is how its business model plays so much into sustainability efforts as well as the traditional pitch of energy cost savings for businesses. More and more, commercial real estate office spaces have energy-code requirements to meet. Most firms might think of just installing energy-efficient light bulbs, but Enlighted takes it one step further and offers a suite of services that are complementary. Even better, the pitch to utilize the services is made easier because the technology overhead is minimal outside of the lights themselves. Therefore, when a firm is already looking to make a change, there is only upside to working with Enlighted’s controls system. Hopefully as they penetrate the market further, they can figure out how best to use the data they collect.

On November 7, 2016, LP commented on The Iconic Red Coke Bottle Tries Green On for Size :

It is definitely clear that Coca-Cola realizes the severity that continued climate change at this rate will affect their business. And unlike some of the other companies I have read about through this assignment, Coca-Cola has implemented measurable initiatives that you have outlined above which is definitely a signal that they want to be part of the solution. I think that BIER has the potential to be the largest power of the industry when it comes to addressing the supply chain problems brought up above. Although Coca-Cola has large leverage alone, coming together as a group magnifies it so much more. If the suppliers know that they have no choice but to make a change, they will certainly not want to lose business from the array of big players shown as BIER members. If half of the total production emissions come from elsewhere in the supply chain, BIER should certainly set their sights towards others as well as internally!

Your post brings out one of the largest fears that I have about a focus on climate change in corporate America – the buzz word “sustainable” is being tossed around due to a recent public focus on the environment, but in reality these initiatives are not deep rooted in companies. To provide an example from my experience, each year for our annual meeting of investors we had to prepare a slide covering “corporate social responsibility” efforts of our portfolio companies. It was very much framed as a priority initiative within the various companies. In reality however, we would stretch to provide good examples of environmentally friendly actions among others. They were very much a side-show and due to the low return on investment, never a real focus area. It appears that this is the same phenomenon with Monsanto, as they talk up a big game but have little actual quantifiable results to back up claims. I agree with JC, and hope that the pending merger can change the importance level of sustainability within Monsanto!

On November 7, 2016, LP commented on Coal. The Next Big Tobacco? :

Alex – thanks for highlighting Cloud Peak as a potential innovator in the Coal industry by trying to push for clean coal. My grandfather owned a coal mine and was subsequently a mine inspector for years. Anecdotally, he would tell us stories about how much the industry was struggling to stay afloat given the large tolls coal mining takes on the environment and health of workers. Many of the towns in the surrounding areas that used to be bustling are now empty and struggling economically. Just in 2015, coal production in the US dropped 10.3%. Similar to DK, I therefore wonder if this investment into clean coal is worth the time and money. It seems that even the one large Kemper project is having trouble proving out the concept to be applied on a larger scale. With so much focus on renewable energy, do you think that coal is in a place to remain a viable energy source in years to come?

Very interesting read – I am struck by the magnitude that using various biofuels can reduce emissions (50-80%!) versus the incredible minimal investment undergone to push innovation in this area forward. Unfortunately, even though making a change seems like a no-brainer wearing an environmentalist hat, a solid (and profitable) business reason will be the only avenue to make change. As we often discuss in class, large corporations drive operations and profit with the goal of increasing shareholder value, and making a losing investment will not be enticing. With this in mind, I fear that major advancements to reduce emissions has to start from a regulatory framework as you mentioned at the end of the article. It seems like partners like United Airlines and Alaska Airlines would be perfect for Boeing to form a group and push for an industry-wide change by teaming up together. Hopefully we will see forward progress on this in the near future – as it seems to hold a huge potential for impact!

On November 7, 2016, LP commented on From Fast Fashion to Fast Demise :

I completely agree with your take on H&M’s business model being fundamentally in conflict with a goal of sustainability. However, I am unsure how shifting to “slow fashion” and relying on recycling efforts would actually make much of an impact. I am not an expert in retail manufacturing by any means, but it seems that the main source of emissions is coming from the actual production of the clothing, which will continue to exist for all manufacturing for the time being. As you pointed out, H&M is one of the leading apparel producers globally. To me this means that they have the potential to influence their supply chain partners, and have the ability to push for innovation that drives overall emissions down in the future. Setting their targets to this task, although seemingly impossible currently, can hopefully start the ball rolling and make a bigger impact going forward!