Good article. I agree with the points, however, one question arises as Salesforce grows so fast. For businesses which have moved large amounts of their processes offshore, is the usability and integration of Salesforce’s products a concern? For example, US companies which have moved much of their IT and support systems offshore, will these CRM products be able to be used across borders and cross functionally? I know language translation (termed “internationalization”) can sometimes be a tricky hurdle when it comes to software operating and support, so could this be a problem for Salesforce as they move away from SMBs into bigger, more global companies? See the link below which describes internationalization and localization issues. (https://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-i18n )
I like how the article manages to describe in a concise way GM’s challenge in dealing with Google, Apple (e.g. what type of information to provide or not to provide…). However I would have appreciated to learn a bit more about what GM was expecting from IBM’s Watson technology. The example you provide, indicating when and where to fill up, appears quite trivial. What else could Watson help with? Could it help with some level of autonomous driving, for example? In our latest TOM class we learned that IBM was having difficulty in commercialising Watson’s technology, it would have been interesting if you could have explained in a bit more detail how helping drivers here matched Watson’s capabilities.
Great article. I would like to stress out the radical impact that M-Pesa has brought to the region. By enabling the “digitization of banking transactions” M-Pesa has also facilitated the emergence of a number of novel business models that have helped further raise a part of the local population from poverty. For example, pay-as-you-go solar home system providers, such as M-Kopa in Kenya (http://www.m-kopa.com), have leveraged the mobile payment technology from M-Pesa to offer solar PV panels and lightbulbs to customers in rural parts of the country. By being able to propose mobile daily lease payment options that are cheaper than the cost of filling kerosene lamps (the standard lightning technology in place), M-Kopa and others have been able to electrify a large portion of rural Kenya (see article for more info http://qz.com/587325/pay-as-you-go-solar-power-is-bringing-electricity-to-more-people-in-rural-east-africa/)
Interesting article. You mention that KUVO would stream “real-time information about which tracks DJs are playing in nightclubs”, and that this would help better allocate royalties. While I agree that such a platform would facilitate the transfer of information, I still doubt its capability to recognise a large number of the tracks being played. My experience is that DJs often play “pre-made” remixes that distort the original version(s), and so unless DJs perfectly title the track they play in the system (i.e using a codified format, mentioning artists, name of track, … in right order) the system won’t be able to recognize the tracks that are played. I doubt that KUVO has a better algorithm than Shazam has. Also, even club enthusiasts are having a hard time recognizing what tracks a DJ has played; http://www.1001tracklists.com is a site I use to track songs played by DJs, you can notice that some tracks (about 20% of a playlist) can’t be identified by DJ enthusiasts So in conclusion, I like the KUVO platform as a social tool but I would be worried about using it for allocating royalties, unless DJs are “forced” to pre-identify clearly their tracks before playing a DJ set.
Great piece. However, I have some responses. Your suggestion to limit routes within the US potentially would be received with significant disdain. For Delta, this could put them at a severe disadvantage to their competitors, all with the goal of simply being better corporate citizens. Unless significant regulation were to occur, I would highly doubt any company would be willing to do this, and likely shouldn’t due to their responsibilities to shareholders. Additionally, internationally they would be in trouble, especially in a difficult and somewhat unfair environment. For example, the gulf airlines (Emirates, Qatar), are allegedly subsidized by their state governments, which US carriers have taken issue with. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2015/03/airline-subsidies-gulf)
I agree with your view that Exxon should consider diversifying away from its fossil fuel business as there is a potential for a systemic risk, should carbon price be introduced worldwide. I would however challenge your assumption that “the margins in the renewable energy industry will continue to increase”, which makes Exxon decision harder than how you describe it. Developing a Renewable Energy business at scale is inherently a low margin business, and hard to make a profit from: “First Solar is a rarity in the green-energy industry. It is profitable”
(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/business/energy-environment/renewable-energy-stumbles-toward-the-future.html). Exxon Mobil is the best at what it does, even in a low oil price environment, Exxon still manages to be part of the top 10 most profitable fortune 500 companies (http://fortune.com/2016/06/08/fortune-500-most-profitable-companies-2016/). So should the company stick to a very well executed and profitable business, or risk moving into a low margin, commoditized business?
I find it interesting that you are criticizing Exxon for not factoring a potential change in carbon price in their long term strategy, but then you are using a “current day wholesale electricity prices” to build your case on why they should invest in wind power. Adding more Renewable based power generation onto the grid tends to lower the wholesale price (UK power prices go negative as renewables boom distorts market – https://www.ft.com/content/5164675e-1e7e-11e6-b286-cddde55ca122). The Renewable energy boom over the last decade has benefited from certainty in prices (through Feed-in-Tariff for example), but these initial incentives won’t last, and Renewable projects will at some point face the risk of fluctuating wholesale prices. So betting on Renewable energy as a certain money-maker over the long term might not be an obvious assumption.
While SolarCity is getting all the good press in part due to its connection with Elon Musk, Sunrun a direct competitor is often overlooked. The company is in the top 3 US Solar Residential installers, is publicly listed, and is used to turn a profit…yes, a profit “Sunrun’s net income rose more than fourfold in the second quarter to $32.6 million, or 31 cents a share, from $7.5 million a year earlier.” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-12/sunrun-soars-after-beating-rooftop-solar-installation-forecast). Instead of being vertically integrated like SolarCity and all of Elon Musk’s companies, Sunrun subcontracts its installation and most of its customer management process, making its business model less capital intensive. So I disagree with your assessment that “the lack of adequate liquid assets, inability to innovate has made SolarCity unable to economically flourish as a company”. What SolarCity needs is not a bailout but a rethink of its business model: is being vertically integrated the right model for residential solar?
Fossil fuel-dominated Energy companies and Utilities are all facing the same challenge than what NRG is facing: How and when to progressively phase out of fossil fuel. As your article mentions, one mistake these companies have to avoid is to misrepresent the company’s core business to investors. NRG’s former CEO also made poor use of its shareholders’ capital when it acquired several solar home businesses, and invested in an EV charging business. Both turning out to be hugely unprofitable ventures (www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/business/energy-environment/renewable-energy-stumbles-toward-the-future.html). DONG Energy, from Denmark, is an example we could learn from. The company appears to be successfully transitioning from a utility and oil and gas business to an offshore wind business, as its succesful IPO earlier this year can attest (https://www.ft.com/content/6b4638bc-2e20-11e6-a18d-a96ab29e3c95). Dong Energy is now perceived to be a leader in the offshore wind industry, winning tender after tender recently, and driving down cost reduction (https://www.ft.com/content/18b0f2b6-42db-11e6-b22f-79eb4891c97d). The key to its success? It has picked an industry it can dominate and influence, and has shifted the majority of its capital allocation towards that business. It seems investors will always reward an industry winner green or not.