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This is a great explanation of the Ripple business model ! I’ve always wondered how their technology is different from / dependent on the technology that bitcoin uses, and whether it is susceptible to the same risks of Bitcoin ? While the company seems more akin to a Paypal or Transferwise, the decentralized technology and open-sourced protocols make it akin to Bitcoin. This article seems to suggest that it has gained better traction with incumbents compared to Bitcoin:

On November 20, 2016, NR commented on HBS grad reinvents Uber, ‘Indonesia-style’ :

Pete, this is an awesome post ! Go-Jek is a classic example of how an tech-enabled company is changing the face of transportation and, in my opinion, creating huge positive externalities in a city plagued by traffic like Jakarta. In particular, the digitization of transportation makes it much safer than the traditional ojek. Jakarta’s taxi-system is infamous for its lack of reliability and threats to passenger safety, and Blue Bird, which you reference in this article went a long way in changing that, largely through the adoption of technology. As such, I think the GoJek = BlueBird partnership is an exciting one that converts passengers from using their own cars to opting for ojeks and taxis. It seems like they are already thinking about this, but the next obvious step seems to be a foray into delivery services (much like what Uber did).

On November 20, 2016, NR commented on WeWork’s blueprint is community and technology :

Interesting read ! I haven’t thought of WeWork as a tech company before, so this is an interesting perspective. While they clearly cater primarily to technology-world millennial and brand themselves as such, it’s worth noting that much of their success is also owed to excellent operational execution on the real estate side that few competitors have been able to fully replicate. I still think that the premium charged for the community offering of a co-working space relative to leasing separate office space is quite large, and particularly susceptible to downturns in the real estate market. Given that the spaces are often rented by small startups and entrepreneurs, they face additional uncertainty to their profitability from the churn of these companies. While they are certainly a pioneer in changing how we view the workspace, I wonder how far it will be till their profit margins are pushed down by competition and business cycle fluctuations: ?

Great read ! As you point out, it is quite interesting that countries that were beginning to build out their modern than banking infrastructure in the 2000s did a much better job at digitizing financial services early on, compared to the incumbents in more sophisticated markets – I read this HBR article a few years ago that speaks to it:

Infact, this is one of the only industries where a majority of the innovation comes from developing countries. One obvious reason that is often cited is that it is easier to build from scratch (as in Poland) as opposed to reinvent an existing banking system. However, the role that regulation plays cannot be ignored either ! In the US, a big pain point has also been the lack of trust in traditional banks, and the concern of privacy when it comes to financial services. I would be curious to know if these are concerns in Poland at all, and if so, how mBank overcame them.

On November 20, 2016, NR commented on New Growth Opportunity for LG Uplus via Internet of Things :

Really interesting to read about LG’s foray into IoT ! In particular, I think LG is well-positioned to enter this market because of how penetrated they already are in the home appliances market and in many countries, in the smartphone market. The US competitor that comes to mind is Nest, which was acquired by Google and is part of Alphabet now. Nest has faced some turmoil and turnover in recent years, with its CEO departing, poor integration of acquired technologies and the recall of faulty products. It’s experience has showed that full seamless connectivity comes with many obstacles, which can be expensive: – I wonder to what extent LG is relying on acquisitions and how successful it has been to date ?

On November 6, 2016, NR commented on Putting a Cork in Climate Change :

What do we want ? More wine ! How do we want it ? Sustainably produced ! When do we want it ? Now !

Great post, Gabby. It’s interesting that climate change not only has an impact on the quantity of wine produced, but also the quality – which in my opinion, is the primary differentiator in a competitive industry. I wonder if the investment in sustainable practices contributes to the bottom line, or, as is true in the case of fast fashion, the cost has to be passed through to customers ? If the latter, I would be curious to know what it will take customers to switch over to sustainably-sourced wines, particularly if they are not abundantly available.

On November 6, 2016, NR commented on Your Google Searches Are Contributing to Global Warming :

Love this post so much ! So often, more technology and better technology is taken for granted (and claimed by Silicon Valley) as being better for the environment. Given the current drivers of Google’s profitability (searches, searches, ads and searches), it doesn’t seem to me that they will ever do anything to influence lesser internet usage. Further, it’s likely that awareness around the true resource-intensiveness of technology will be in vain – given the productivity Google search generates for instance, I think it will truly be impossible to get consumers to be more conscious of their internet usage.

This is also makes me view their renewable energy commitments and investment in technologies like self-driving cars as a ‘distraction’ to some extent – what I would love to see them do is to commit to investing in data center technology that is not as utility-dependent and to build sustainability goals around their ‘core’ business.

On November 6, 2016, NR commented on Losing the LEED :

This is a really fascinating perspective into LEED – and one that debunks a *very common presumption* that LEED buildings are a marker of sustainability !! Particularly unfortunate because a) the verification was developed for the very purpose of encouraging sustainable building design, b) as you mention, the soft costs as well as A&E costs associated with LEED buildings seem to be already be a significant deterrent to some investors and c) tying tax-credits to LEED certifications means public sector dollars are not being used most efficiently to promote renewable energy. It made me think of comparisons in the food and agriculture industry – Fair Trade, Non-GMO, Organic signs, where a large proportion of consumers do not fully understand what these labels actually mean. This may be a bit far fetched, but I’m curious to know if there is a way to promote and incentivize developers and investors to pursue energy-efficiency by removing the LEED verification from the equation altogether ? Changing how tax-credits are awarded is one, but perhaps another could be financing structures that are tied to the energy efficiency generated in a building relative to building cost ?

On November 6, 2016, NR commented on AIG – In the Wake of Climate Change :

Great read on how climate change can inherently change business models, even of financial services businesses that do not have a manufacturing component that causes a significant direct carbon footprint. It seems to me that AIG is compensating for losses in its P&C insurance businesses and responding to climate change primarily through the investment, CSR and knowledge dissemination arms of its business, instead of rethinking how its insurance products are underwritten. I 100% agree with your recommendation that a big focus for them needs to be on the improving the predictive risk models – however, given that historical data no longer seems like a strong predictor of extreme tail events, I wonder whether the industry as a whole needs to reduce reliance on these models.

On November 6, 2016, NR commented on Betting on Photovoltaic Industry: Shinsung Solar Energy :

This is a really interesting post and perspective on solar PV ! As you allude to in your post, the technological advancements and silicon price increases of the past decade that led to a significant decline in the cost of PV systems have posed a real risk to businesses such as Shinsung Solar Energy – in fact, in the US investing landscape, the collapse of these businesses is what has led to solar energy garnering an unfavorable reputation by some (a famous example is of President Obama’s investment in Solyndra).

It is interesting to know that Shinsung Solar Energy has made a significant investment to capture future growth in demand. How do they plan to ensure that their technology continues to be cutting-edge, and that they are not undercut by competitors in the future? In my opinion, they should also be making a significant investment in R&D.

The other strategy, which it seems they are doing only partially, is to be fully vertically integrated. Atleast in the US, the EPC business as well as the financing/leasing business is considered to be the most profitable part of the value chain. This is partly because of the subsidies available, and partly because these segments of the value chain benefit from lower PV prices.

While the PV business seems highly competitive, I agree that the demand continues to increases, and ultimately the competition is likely to drive grid parity, which will be a very exciting day for renewable energy !