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Thanks for sharing the interesting info and great thoughts on L’Oréal!
In such a highly competitive beauty industry and with the numerous emerging DTC brands, it’s fascinating to see L’Oréal’s full-on approach to stay ahead. I agree with your suggestion on the customer focus to drive deep insights. I think the key here is on designing a program with strong financial incentives and psychological drivers for power users to engage. In addition, in conjunction with all the existing and suggested outward facing efforts to identify great ideas, L’Oréal also needs to focus on creating a risk-taking and entrepreneurial culture internally to most effectively adopt and adapt into the latest innovations.
You asked some amazing questions at the end, which I believe represent the trend of crowdsourcing ideas as the underlying fundamental shift of innovation processes across industries. This decentralization will eventually drive the sharing of reaped benefits from large corporates to individual contributors through a revolutionary way in the long long term.

It’s fascinating to see the use of crowdsourced innovation helping fuel Airbnb’s growth from the B&B for conference goers to the collective platform for “experiences” today. For such a consumer platform integrating the very fragmented offline and online worlds, creating such a feedback & ideation system is extremely important. As we are seeing the Matthew Effect taking place in the whole tech industry (big fish eating small fish and big fish getting bigger), Airbnb is well positioned to become a big fish on a global scale, if they can keep up with the rounds of innovation.
I like your suggestion on building social identity for the community to foster further collaboration, and there are much more the company can do on that, i.e. coin a term for Airbnb’s power guests, creating more communication channels as well as incentives for user ideas, etc. The key here is to create the right infrastructure for filtering the noises and surfacing the gold.

On November 15, 2018, MTAO commented on Nike’s Stance on 3D Printing: Just Do It :

Very interesting article and cool video. It’s amazing to see that the Zoom VaporFly Elite Flyprint 3D is not only producing at a fraction of the variable costs but also delivering great qualities in terms of weight and breathability.
In response to your recommendations, I actually hold a contrarian view that as any of these new technologies scales in adoption, the technology itself, i.e. 3D printing, should not be promoted as part of the product highlights. Consumers are buying the products because they are the best quality products, regardless of the backend technology used for making the product. Merchants around the world advertise their products as “hand-crafted with care” and are able to price at a premium based on the human labor required, or lack automation, whereas for Nike, when they can sell the best quality product for half the price, that’s when they are successful.

Thank you for the very informative and delicious post 🙂

It’s interesting that Hershey launched such a cool initiatives in 2015 yet hasn’t seen huge traction, although this is consistent with the fact that additive manufacturing in general hasn’t taken off as much as people expected. I love your ideas around setting up the distribution channel, and what I would add to it is building a strong online channel where people can order customized chocolates conveniently to increase repeat purchases, especially after more people have experienced the fascinating chocolate 3D printing process in store once.

One concern I have though is that the customized 3D printed chocolates are selling the appearance instead of taste (people might actually not want to eat it if the shape is too special!), which allows for more competitive services from companies/startups who aren’t as sophisticated with recipes. I would suggest Hershey’s to test Facebook/Instagram ad promotions with its customized products (chocolates with names/faces of loved ones) ahead of special holidays such as Valentines, Christmas to drive adoptions, in order to build awareness before any competitors do so.

Thank you for this extremely interesting article on the potential of ML to disrupt such a high-skill profession. I love the potential of the use of ML for VCs, although with three caveats:
1. As more VCs adopt the model, their algorithms will mostly be based on the same historical data from Pitchbook, Crunchbase etc, which gives these VCs similar recommendations on what to back, then the question is what do you believe differently based on the same data provided to all VCs to gain an edge;
2. Although ML is more inclusive in considering startups from all demographics/backgrounds, the bias will still be inevitably baked into the algorithm because in your training data, past male-founded startups still raised more subsequent rounds at better valuations and had better exit return opportunities, which will flow into your future projections.
3. At the end of the day, making judgement is the easier part of a VC’s job, and a successful VC needs to focus on building the relationships with founders to win their trust and the ability to help portfolio companies to hire and get partnerships. Thus, to answer the last question, I think the benefits of the ML tools will give VCs a helpful reference to speed up initial decision process but wouldn’t necessarily change the core skill set required of the profession.

On November 13, 2018, MTAO commented on Machine Learning at Amazon: Will Amazon Go Reinvent Retail? :

Such an interesting topic. The amount of data Amazon will be able to collect is going to be massively valuable for both Amazon and retail brands – how customers compare competitive brands, lingering time at items, customer facial reactions to different packaging, real-time inventory levels, shopping patterns of individuals etc. But how Amazon can unleash the potential of those data without infringing privacy will be interesting to see.