• Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, Nic commented on Sex Ed One Click Away! :

Thank you Amy, this was a really interest blog post about an unmet need I was completely unaware about — women’s health and wellness in a Muslim country where women get married very young. I agree that there’s tremendous potential for Maya Apa to expand its impact in Bangladesh. It sounds like the availability of smartphones will be a huge constraint in Maya Apa’s availability. It appears that in 2014, smartphone penetration in Bangladesh was only 5% ( Although this penetration might be doubling each year, Maya Apa could extend its reach by being available on feature phones, just as how Facebook launched Facebook for Feature Phones back in 2011. I also wonder if there’s a difference in mobile phone penetration across gender. Will women feel safe communicating with Maya Apa if word gets out that Maya Apa is helping to increase female empowerment and undermine the patriarchy that many women are living under? I am curious how Maya Apa can continue to grow in accessibility while maintaining itself as a private channel for women.

On November 20, 2016, Nic commented on KPN: The interesting case of an Internet Service Provider :

Thanks, environmentalist. I was super excited to see this blog post having worked for Google Fiber, Alphabet’s project in building and deploying a fiber optic internet network in several US cities. The increasing popularity of Netflix and the Net Neutrality discussions have brought up really interesting questions about the Internet as a utility. And I completely agree with you, that we can’t automatically assume that ISPs will benefit from digitization (perhaps a tech conglomerate like Google would, but not really pure ISPs).

We’ve seen that Google Fiber has been much slower than expected to roll out its fiber backbone. The time that it takes to build infrastructure is so long that although gigabit-speed internet was intended to prepare for the future of tech, technology needs could quickly outpace the infrastructure. My concern for KPN would be that it’s a huge undertaking for a corporate to take on renewal of infrastructure on its own. Max points out that with government’s role in infrastructure, it would be a risky endeavor for KPN to pursue. While you could argue that Google Fiber did make a material impact as it’s spurred existing ISP incumbents like AT&T, Verizon, etc, to roll out gigabit-speed or higher-speed options, I wonder how this would play out in a country like the Netherlands. In the US, the ISP industry has been highly oligopolistic and even monopolistic on a market-by-market basis, so I’m curious what ISPs are like abroad. In countries like South Korea and Singapore, I believe it was government who supported the build-out of fiber-optic Internet; I’d advocate that in order for countries to remain competitive, government should assist such buildout.

Thanks for the interesting perspective. I’m rather skeptical about the digitization of the hotel experience. The hospitality industry’s namesake seems to imply a more human experience in making someone feel welcome while being away from home. When returning to a hotel that you frequent whether on leisure or business, you can benefit from the un-digitizable experience of being greeted by a familiar desk staff member, or even the acknowledgment of “Welcome back Miss Wee, what brings you to town this time?” The human touch feels especially valuable after a long flight and the generally unpleasant experience of distance travel. At hotels and even places like Disney World, staff members wear name tags with their country of origin, bringing an interesting global touch to the hospitality experience. At first blush I thought keyless entry sounded really convenient, if I’m paying over $100 if not more for a hotel stay, I’d rather have a more human experience vs. a seemingly low cost scalable digital one.

Also, I agree with Alex K that AirBnB’s “live like a local” does not really translate into the hotel traveler segment. AirBnB seemed to open up a different style of hospitality that wasn’t a widely available option beforehand, but I don’t think hotels should compete to be like AirBnB as that’s a very different experience.

On November 20, 2016, Nic commented on April Fool’s joke or dash buttons taking over your home? :

Thanks for the interesting article, Patrick. I think it’s a very smart move on Amazon’s part IF they can limit the buttons to high-margin products. However, many of the consumer goods for which they offer buttons are necessities of a sort, and people will always have to order their next bottle of detergent or shampoo. My concern is that with the button, Amazon might alienate suppliers from smaller brands who don’t have buttons like P&G does. And is Amazon self-cannibalizing ancillary revenues that they could be getting from someone buying their next bottle of detergent online? To me, the Amazon shopping experience can be a long experience. I’d start with the intent to make a specific transaction, but get distracted by all of the merchandising (“people who were interested in this product also bought…”, or, “you might also like…”). In many situations I end up purchasing more than I’d originally intended, from other product categories. Could these buttons reduce that behavior amongst shoppers to such an extent that this loss outweighs the benefits of the buttons?

Also, I was intrigued by your comment “Given that people love pressing buttons (If you’ve never pressed every button in an elevator you have not lived).” Reddit did an experiment on people’s urge to push buttons and delayed gratification. Here’s a quick synopsis from this article — “Back in April, Reddit launched an April Fool’s joke-turned-social experiment simply called “The Button.” It involved a timer counting back from 60 to zero. However, if another person somewhere out there on the interwebs pressed the button, the timer reset. It was kind of a case study in delayed gratification, since users tried to keep the timer running so the experiment could be successful. But someone in the world was always ready to click, which screwed everything up. At last, in early June, it reached zero—even though it took more than months and one million clicks.” Here is another article about Reddit’s experiment that you might find interesting:

On November 20, 2016, Nic commented on Sephora: Bringing Beauty to the People :

Interesting post, thanks Ldubs. I second Anisa’s comment on the future ROI of brick-and-mortar stores for Sephora. Sephora’s generous return policy makes it easy for people to order products, try them at home, and return them if they’re unhappy. Many beauty/skincare brands that only exist online offer sample sizes so you can try different colors at home without wastage. And with the digitization of more and more of the Sephora experience, from in-house and fan-made tutorials to the Pocket Conturing app, I’m skeptical that Sephora will need as many retail stores as it has, though I do appreciate the show-rooming function of retail stores.

You mentioned that with augmented reality, there will be more opportunities for people to try products at home. L’oreal created an app called Makeup Genius ( that let’s you do just that. But what about feeling the textures, quality, smells, of the products? While that’s where brick-and-mortar can come in, I wonder if video chatting with a Sephora specialist plus augmented reality and “4D” technology will ever be able to wholly replace that experience.

Thank you for sharing your perspective on such an interesting topic. Thanks to the Kigali Amendment, perhaps logistics companies and perishable goods manufacturers will be incentivized to partner with researchers on developing greener refrigerants. This article made me curious about the use of refrigerants worldwide and which use cases require the most volume. Is it trucking / land shipping? Air freight (e.g. shipping perishable imports/exports, medicines)? And what about the refrigerants in grocery stores and homes around the world? This technology is something we take hugely for granted, and despite its little-known impact on GHG emissions, I’m pleased to learn that action is being taken to regulate this.

I am curious about the magnitude of the impact of reduced snowfall on ski resort revenues. Even if resorts produce enough fake snow to compensate for trail closures, how much income can it recoup? Given that snowmaking drives 50% of energy costs, it seems unlikely. Could Vail build out more solar power facilities to power its snowmaking in addition to its restaurant/overhead? In the long run, should skiiers support ski resorts that are located in geographies requiring extensive snow-making, or should skiiers shift their preferences towards naturally colder / higher precipitation locations where the energy consumption would be lower?

On November 6, 2016, Nic commented on Insuring Against Climate Change :

This was a great in-depth look at how the insurance industry would be impacted by climate change. It got me thinking about the impact of these changes on the end consumer of insurance plans. If insurers get smarter about incorporating climate change-induced catastrophes into premiums, I’d expect the premiums to increase for the end user. Would consumer behavior adjust appropriately such that overall revenues from insurance premiums go up, or would consumers skeptical of catastrophic risk balk at the increased premiums? And given that climate change experts’ forecasts differ dramatically, how would these insurers pick a view? Do we know enough to predict with more geographical accuracy, where these catastrophic events might occur to adjust premiums appropriately, or would higher climate change fees be peanut-buttered across all customers?

On November 6, 2016, Nic commented on Disasters or Opportunities? :

I appreciated this interesting take on how the Red Cross in the short term could benefit from climate change and an increase in natural disasters. I disagree, however, that an increase in natural disasters would desensitize donors from contributing to the Red Cross’s efforts. With an increase in natural disasters, assuming human empathy levels stay the same, the feeling that “this could happen to me” could go up. With social media driving more interconnectedness than ever, and with a media world that allows anyone to publish information, I don’t think we’d necessarily see a decrease in awareness of natural disasters. Perhaps it’s my more optimistic point of view but I’d like to hope that the donor base would grow in size if natural disasters were to increase in frequency and impact.

On November 6, 2016, Nic commented on H&M and the Push for Sustainability in Fast Fashion :

This is a really interesting take on the impact of climate change on an industry that typically doesn’t associate itself with the environment. As a minimalist consumer, I find the rise of fast fashion brands very concerning, especially given H&M’s 10% 2015-2016 in retail footprint on a base of 4,000 existing stores. What was most alarming to learn was that it would take 12 years to recycle 1,000 tons of garment waste…the amount of clothing that’s produced every 48 hours! When we think about negative externalities, what usually comes to mind is power production, heavy manufacturing, and transportation, but your blog post brought to light a really important issue of rising consumerism, especially in emerging markets with a growing middle class. Unfortunately I can’t imagine a future for fashion where the incentives change such that companies like H&M stop offering such cheap, affordable, disposable fashion.