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On November 20, 2016, mariaw commented on Eating Microchips is Good For You! :

Great post, Javier. The digitization of the pharma/med devices industry is fascinating and has lots of implications for the future, especially considering our increasing aging population, and longer life spans, which increase overall healthcare costs. Digital health has the potential to bring some of these costs down, but one of the biggest changes that has to happen is to the regulatory process that governs whether these products can be marketed and sold to consumers.

One way in which med device companies are typically able to get “new” devices approved by the FDA in a fast streamlined way is through “substantial equivalence” claims compared to existing devices on the market. [1] Because, in this new world, there are no existing digital health devices being marketed, the path to regulatory approval is much less certain and more time consuming/arduous. In fact, Proteus itself recently failed to get FDA approval for their first device. [2] The FDA, however, is cognizant of this, and appears to be developing more process and support for digital health products. Hopefully they are able to help remove that barrier to market and create a process for approval that doesn’t stymie growth in an industry that has the potential to have such a positive impact on healthcare.


On November 20, 2016, mariaw commented on Yellow Pages: Evolving to Survive Mass Extinction :

Thanks for the great post, Nancy. I think YP would be wise to take advantage of their historical role in connecting small businesses with consumers, translated to a digital platform. It seems like there is still a lot of white space in helping these SMEs create and maintain an online presence that allows them to easily connect with their patrons. While this space is highly fragmented, a player like YP could be the one that consolidates the market and creates a differentiated offering for SMEs that an enterprise like Google may not want to touch, simply because of the high touch needed to create a foothold in the SME market. I think this could be especially valuable if YP can position itself as the OpenTable for small business and allow service booking in a concentrated place, perhaps by partnering with existing booking software companies that may not have the cache or consumer web presence of YP.

On November 20, 2016, mariaw commented on Education: One size no longer has to fit all :

This is a fascinating post, Gng! The concept of personalized education is a compelling one, especially for students on the margin, either those for whom group lessons are too easy and who get bored and disengage, or for those who may have slower cognitive development than their peers and can fall behind the class. But like yourself, and the other commenters on this post, one could argue that a large part of early childhood development and education is learning social cues, how to relate and react to others, and to begin to form the basis for “EQ,” a concept which is routinely considered an important factor for a successful life.

We increasingly live our lives through a web presence, one that often prevents us from being exposed to views and ideas outside a curated life view that self-reinforces our individual belief system. In our diverse, global world it would be a shame to create yet another barrier to exposing children to other ways of viewing the world, and the challenges therein, early on in their development.

On November 20, 2016, mariaw commented on Disney – Hakuna Matata! Digital ain’t no passing craze :

Great post, Shray! The role of digitization in the entertainment industry is an interesting topic for many reasons, but the one I find most intriguing is the role of AR/VR and what it means for experiential entertainment. A huge part of the allure of Disney for many is the relationship between the creative content Disney produces and its physical manifestation in the Disney parks. Will Disney parks still be a destination for fans when AR/VR environments become ubiquitous? Can the Disney “magic” of yesteryear be replicated in a digital paradigm? Can Disney find a way to use AR/VR to enhance, rather than replace the experience of traveling to a physical destination to be immersed in an alternative world? If I were Disney, these would be the big “digitization” problems I was trying to solve.

On November 20, 2016, mariaw commented on Is Nike the Next Big Tech Giant? :

Interesting post, Eric! I’m generally skeptical about the long-term viability of wearables for fitness monitoring, which in many ways seems like a fad. But I agree that there is a role for smart clothing and footwear to provide value in the healthcare industry, especially as insurance providers and healthcare systems look to transition to value-based care. The need to improve preventative care is core to a value-based care system, and wearables are a natural way in which to improve that part of the healthcare spectrum.

As a large multinational company, what will be important for Nike is to consider whether to build/buy/partner to have a seat at the healthcare continuum of care table (if they decide they even want one at all), because companies like Sensoria [1] are quickly recognizing that this is an important part of the wearables market and might be able to move more nimbly than Nike, especially if they have the outside capital to fund their product development/commercialization.


On November 7, 2016, mariaw commented on Amazon and Climate Change :

The question of energy efficiency and dependence on fossil fuels by cloud computing services is an interesting one. Regardless of computing efficiency gains, data centers are huge consumers of energy. This is not even to mention the fact that most data centers need significant backup power in the case that they need to island from the grid. That power is typically derived from super dirty diesel gensets.

One interesting, innovative thing that’s happening in the data center space is Facebook’s new “arctic data center.” [1] The idea behind the data center’s location is impressively simple. A huge portion of the energy consumed is devoted to cooling the servers. Why, not then, place the servers somewhere that Mother Nature can serve as the air conditioning: i.e. the Arctic? That’s exactly the tactic that Facebook has taken, and one that it might make sense for AWS to explore.


Javi, this is a great post. Thanks for highlighting the all too common tension between economic and environmental factors and the role that short versus long term tradeoffs play in trying to “thread the needle” so to speak when it comes to managing all aspects of this challenging problem.

Economic versus environmental tensions aside, I recently ran across an interesting piece of research that suggest that biodiversity can actually forestall the impact of climate change on a marine ecosystem! In fact, “communities with more fish species are more productive and more resilient to rising temperatures and temperature swings, according to a new study from the Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network and other international institutions.” [1] Talk about a major downward spiral. Not only does climate change lead to a reduction in biodiversity, but the decrease in biodiversity can actually make the impact of climate change on the remaining ecosystem greater. It’d be interesting to know if the Australian government is pursuing any strategies to spur increases in biodiversity, which would have the dual impact of creating a more vibrant, interesting environment for tourists, as well as create some buffers for the populations that inhabit the reef.


Thanks for the great post, Ashwini! I had no idea that Nissan-Renault had taken such a leadership position in the move to EVs.

I think the point you bring up about the infrastructure needed to support EVs is a good one. However, I would even go a step further to say that in addition to adding new charging stations to increase the viability of EVs for consumers, regulators need to be prudent about the potential strain that EVs, unchecked, could put on the vastly inflexible, out-of-date electric grids that most countries (especially the US) have. The proliferation of EVs will necessarily increase the amount of electricity transmitted and consumed from the grid. This influx, if not appropriately managed through new tariff structures and other incentives, has the potential to exacerbate supply/demand imbalances, and possibly increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. If the majority of charging occurs at the same time, peaking CHPs may need to be spun up to meet the demand, which is neither cost effective nor particularly green. There are ways to avoid that however, if regulators and utilities are able to put in place the right tariffs to incentivize charging during off-peak times or hours when the EVs can absorb excess wind/solar power that is otherwise hard to store and transmit.

On November 7, 2016, mariaw commented on Procter’s Environmental Gamble :

The question of whether and how a corporation should promote their sustainability efforts to consumers is an interesting one. I am slightly skeptical that consumers are being more environmentally conscious in their purchasing behavior, especially as it relates to everyday necessities and durables that are commoditized and in which price v. value typically drives purchasing behavior. I agree, however, that the key to promoting sustainability initiatives with consumers is to link them with consumer value, as in the case of Tide Cold Water. Outside of that, I think you run the risk of being perceived of greenwashing by consumers who are naturally skeptical of corporations seemingly “altruistic” practices, even if the initiatives have sounds business/bottom line impacts.

On the other side, related to investment, I do believe that including energy and sustainability metrics as part of materiality statements can be a positive signal that attracts capital. For instance, “investor interest in how companies are performing against different Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics is growing. Today, more than $6.57T of capital takes ESG issues into account, and new research shows that companies focusing on material (not just any) sustainability metrics outperform the stock market by an average of 6%.” [1]


On November 7, 2016, mariaw commented on Let’s Go Fly a Kite – SkySails and Climate Change :

This is a really interesting technology, Deviyani!

In terms of building out a business model where more shipowners/charterers are willing to deploy/pay for this type of technology and incentives are aligned, I wonder if there are some lessons to be learned from the solar industry, which introduced power purchase agreement financing structures to remove barriers to commercial uptake.

Under this model, there is a financing party who provides the capital outlay for the project. The financier then contracts with charterers to “offtake” the power generated during their charter term. The charter would enter this type of contract, which could be for the same term length of their charter, to lower the overall cost of their power without assuming the overall capital cost and risk of the project. They would pay a slight premium over the %0.06/kWh that it cost SkySail to operate the sail in order to make the financier whole and provide them some upside, but at a price that would be less than the %/kWh that charterer would pay for other fuel sources cost.

The shipowner has no capital outlay under this model either, and the reason for them to partner with SkySails is simply to offer a competitive, differentiated offering to their customers, as well as to reap the efficiency gains from traveling faster, which allow them to have higher asset utilization.

Cool stuff!