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On November 18, 2016, OER commented on Digitization Gets Cooking in the Restaurant Industry :

Interesting post! If restaurants allowed customers to “Venmo” the restaurant for the bill, I wonder if restaurants could cut down on payment processing fees. Under the current system, they are often paying credit card companies a % of the total bill. I wonder if the fee they would pay Venmo is much cheaper. This would create a win win for the diner and the restaurant — increased convenience for the diners and reduced payment processing fees for the restaurant.

On November 18, 2016, OER commented on Zillow: Making Realtors Obsolete :

My gut tells me that there will still be a spot for real estate agents in the future. Even if the numbers do not support using a realtor, humans don’t always act rationally. When it comes to a family’s home, which is often their largest asset, they are likely more risk averse than they would be in a lower stakes situation. There is a lot of comfort to be garnered through partnering with an “expert” who you can talk to face to face. Also, to take a less cynical view, real estate agents might add more value than your post lets on. After selling hundreds of houses, they develop a sense for what features buyer are looking for — if they recommend that a client stages their house with beautiful furniture for $15k and that decision gets the seller an additional $100k on the sales price, then the realtor likely paid for his or her commission.

On November 18, 2016, OER commented on Descartes: Commercial Logistics Optimization :

Super interesting blog post! Do you think that Descartes main competitive advantage lies in its underlying software algorithm or its strategy for commercializing that software algorithm to customers? Or maybe other competitors have the potential to create similar products but are disadvantaged by Descartes’ first mover advantage? Just curious how unique the underlying technology is to this company.

On November 18, 2016, OER commented on Quantopian: the innovation funnel meets hedge funds :

Great post (and a little bit scary for the financial analysts among us)! I agree that more sophisticated and automated data analysis can certainly improve the odds of “beating the market,” but I think human diligence and investment judgement will also continue to be important. For example, analysts can seek out additional data points that are not currently feeding the algorithm (e.g. they can have dozens of customer calls to determine the desirability of a product launch or other events that are important to a stock). Also, there are many examples of startups that don’t have historical comparables that the algorithm can compare the start up to. In these cases, investors have to go with what their gut tells them when projecting how well consumers will accept the new product.

On November 18, 2016, OER commented on Cerner and the Digitization of U.S. Healthcare Data :

I really liked your post. I also wrote about EHR’s and the digitization of healthcare but did not touch on the interoperability of EHR’s between different EHR vendors like you did. I think it’s a very important point to bring up. If personal healthcare data is to be aggregated and used for healthcare analytics like we discussed during our Watson case, the EHR data needs to be compatible. This is an interesting example of competitive business interests clashing with public interests. I wonder if there will be future government regulation regarding the interoperability of EHR software for the good of scientific research.

On November 5, 2016, OER commented on Show Me the Honey: Plight of the Humble Bee :

This blog post is a super interesting and scary example of the knock on effects of global warming. Global warming’s primary effect will be to change temperature, which will make many spots to dry to produce the crop yields they once did. This effect is compounded by global warming’s secondary effects, such as the decline in the bee population. The decline in the bee population means that there are less bees to pollinate crops, which hurts crop yields even further. The scariest thing about global warming is the confluence of negative impacts and the potential “death spiral” they could combine to create.

On November 5, 2016, OER commented on Whole Foods – Natural & Organic. Sustainable? :

This post brings up an interesting contradiction in what it means to be an environmentalist. On one hand, environmentalists seem to love organic foods because they are more natural and likely healthier than non-organic foods. On the other hand, organic farming is not sustainable. According to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2014/11/19/why-organic-isnt-sustainable/#3202903a37aa), organic farming yields are 20-50% lower than conventional yields. With global food shortages looming as a result of global warming, it seems that organic farming is at odds with sustainable agriculture. Genetically modified crops (GMO’s) get a bad rep among environmentalists, but are proven to increase crop yields and might be a key weapon in the fight against the impacts of climate change.

On November 5, 2016, OER commented on The Ecological Impact of Feminine Hygiene Products :

This is a very interesting blog post and something people definitely do not think a lot about. I agree with the point that the idea that women’s sanitary products should be disposable is something that is taken for granted. I didn’t even know that reusable sanitary products existed. I can definitely imagine that it would be hard to garner much commercial support for reusable products vs. disposable ones, but reusable diapers could be an interesting case study. While equally as unpleasant of a concept, reusable diapers have achieved much more success in becoming “main stream.” Maybe the advocates of reusable sanitary products could take note and copy their best practices.

This blog post does a great job of outlining the threat that global warming poses for insurers as well as the steps that insurers are taking to react to and preempt that threat. Unfortunately, though, it seems to me that any insurance actions taken to prevent global warming will fall prey to the tragedy of the commons. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is not enough; even if every insurance company in the US banded together to incentivize sustainable practices among the people that they insure, pollution from emerging economies like China and India could be enough to offset any gains made in the U.S.

On November 5, 2016, OER commented on U.S. Department of Defense: A War on Climate Change :

This posts outlines an interesting double bind that the U.S. government faces: climate change will increase instability and national security risks globally, which will require an increased U.S. military presence; at the same time, however, the military is a large contributor of the United State’s greenhouse gas emissions. How can the U.S. military respond to global warming induced instability while not perpetuating the underlying problem? It seems to me that the government should put substantial resources towards innovation and finding technologies that allow the U.S. to reduce its emissions without reducing its military effectiveness. These breakthroughs would likely have applications in the private sector as well.