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On November 20, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on From Paper to Clicks: How RetailMeNot Changed How Shoppers Save :

To build on Catherine’s earlier comment, the use of beacon technology is certainly a compelling thought. Beacons are physical devices that retailers can place strategically in store that connect via with a shopper’s smartphone via a bluetooth connection. However, there are a number of key aspects of these connections to consider. A user must allow the application permission to connect (very similar, if not the same, to allowing location tracking) and the user must also enable push notifications from the app as well, otherwise there would only be utility if the user has the app open while walking around in store. Consumers generally permit those two functionalities to very few applications, primarily social applications (in the US, these are typically Facebook-owned). In addition to having a leg up in terms of consumer permissions, these social media apps not only have an immense source of information about their users, but are likely to also have an advertising relationship with the retailer. To that end, businesses such as RMN looking to develop in-store experiences may have a very tough time starting from the ground up. However, I’d be curious to see if RMN would pursue strategic partnerships with the likes of Facebook to enable a joint experience – particularly given the potential synergies between RMN’s content and relationships with those of Facebook.

Check out a bit of the work FB is doing with beacons and ‘place tips’ here (it’s pretty cool stuff):

Tarunika – thanks for the post. Few thoughts came to mind while reading. I completely agree that there are considerable security concerns inherent in the Naraffar model, particularly around shoplifting. Perhaps the costs generated by theft, especially in low-priced environments such as a convenience store, are still relatively light compared to staffing needs – but it certainly raises concerns if one were to consider other applications of this model. My second thought revolved around inventory and stocking. Perhaps a self-service model would allow an owner to reduce the cost of idle employee time spent at register, but the shelves would still need to be stocked, spills would still need to be mopped, etc. I would imagine that these tasks would certainly incur significant labor costs. And, I’d imagine that these costs may be even more significant for a click and collect model under which parcels are likely hand-compiled. To that extent, is convenience and extended hours the true upside of these models vs. reduced labor costs?

On November 20, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on Disney – Hakuna Matata! Digital ain’t no passing craze :

Shray – thanks for a fun read. Also, nice title and word count. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on how Disney views their partnership with AT&T/DirectTV. It seems like the upside of the partnership was access to a future online streaming business that DirecTV envisions themselves developing. This may certainly be naive, but I wonder why they would take this route in lieu of partnering with more established digital streaming media (e.g. Netflix). Hopefully DirecTV is paying a considerable amount for the content, otherwise I’d question Disney’s decision to partner with a stodgy entity without a product in market vs. a more nimble player with massive brand resonance and market dominance.

Gonzalo – thanks from me as well – enjoyed the post. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on whether the cell phone is the best media to deliver this kind of information to a driver. It may very well be distracting and potentially dangerous to be fiddling with a smartphone while circling for parking spaces in an urban area. Something tells me that encouraging driver engagement with a cell phone would certainly be a barrier to entry for a number of US cities. As a potential alternative, could FastPark work with various car manufacturers or software providers to integrate the technology directly into the console of the vehicle? For example, Apple has rolled out CarPlay ( and Visa is developing connected car technology to make car-centric transactions seamless ( If FastPark partnered with one of these players, I’d be curious to see if they’d gain even more traction with cities given the big names of their partners.

On November 20, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on The Ever Expanding Reach of Blockchain :

@kdegs – there are a number of reasons blockchain hasn’t taken off (this will be coming from a payments/cash settlement/anti-bitcoin perspective, but I think some of the ideas apply to other use cases for the protocol).

First, it still takes way too long for a transaction to occur – chains are produced every ~10 minutes or so. In comparison, cross-border transactions take Visa seconds to authorize – and the impact to customer/merchant interactions are very sensitive to time taken at txn.

Second, the ways bitcoin miners (aka the participants that validate txns) are incentivized and selected to participate are relatively convoluted. For example, miners are selected by lottery, and in the case of bitcoin, receive monetary rewards for their selection. This monetary reward represents the creation of a bitcoin which is then put into circulation. Under the uncertainty of a lottery process, the miners with the most presence/who can bring the most computing power to bear are generally favored. Also, as bitcoins are created when they are provided as rewards, early adopters pf bitcoin or those that can scale with massive computing power directly benefit. As such, there is an inherent bias as benefits are centralized to certain players in the system.

Finally – and I think most importantly, is the issue of regulation. One of the upsides (depending on who you’re asking) of having a centralized system of record is the ability to influence and assert control over that entity. It would be difficult for a regulator of any sort to regulate a dispersed network of actors that they can’t ‘see’ – but surely they’d try. Add in the fact that blockchain was created by and is being innovated on by software developers that will always be one step ahead of any regulatory attempts, you’ll likely end up with a highly decentralized/shadowy ecosystem that tries to skirt regulation while also maintaining absolutely critical records (e.g. currencies, financial records, etc.). Imagine bit torrent, but instead of your free music files, it has your social security number. One could argue that private blockchains may very well be the solution to this in future use cases, but how would the efficiency gains purported by blockchain then be realized?

As Elizabeth, diversification was the first question that came to mind. Mars notes extensive support for West African small-hold farmers as well as support for Indonesian farmers, while the only investment noted in Central and South America was their development of the Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil. The center was developed in 1982…

Central and South American boast some of the world’s most critical cocoa producing regions, but do not seem to truly be on Mars’ radar in regards to recent investments in production improvement. I may make the argument that either Mars should begin investing more in these regions, or if the need is smaller compared to that in West Africa, shift their supply mix toward Central and South American producers. Or are there more specific reasons that Mars focuses outside of the Americas? Perhaps due to cheaper availability of product in a region that still faces low levels of Fair Trade certified cocoa…

On November 6, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on Your Morning Cup o’ Joe: Yesterday’s Luxury? :

I too am petrified by the potential scarcity of coffee. At certain times of the day, my BCC (blood coffee content, similar to BAC) is well above the legal limit.

The partnership Phoebe proposes above is quite compelling as are the remainder of Starbucks’s efforts to secure arabica production. However, I wonder if there is a slightly different approach to consider. Although Starbucks is adamant on the sourcing of arabica, perhaps they should consider using robusta beans in certain blends and use cases. While not of the same quality, robusta is widely available, considerably cheaper, and can be grown at far higher temperatures. And, let’s be honest, Starbucks coffee is of high quality but taste is also dependent on preparation. In many cases (e.g. hotels and Spangler food court), this high-quality coffee is watery and bland. In these markets, Starbucks could certainly have success with a slightly lower quality bean and a more attractive price point.

On November 6, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on Chipotle’s Guacapocolypse :

I wholeheartedly agree with Ben’s points above. I may not visit Chipotle 3 times a week, but I am certainly no stranger to the establishment. And, as any other true Californian would, I would love to defend the availability of the product (guacamole was invented and perfected in California, and unfortunately bastardized in Texas – e.g. its use in the abominable goop you call queso).

Therefore, I would like to echo that Chipotle should take advantage of its current difficulties to relax its restrictions on GMOs. There is a massive, and uneducated, divergence of the American population and scientific community over the apparent ‘danger’ posed by GMOs. 9/10 doctors believe GMOs are safe to eat vs. 5/10 American adults. That’s comparable to saying that although 9/10 dentists say to floss, 5/10 members of the public would debunk the thought as hooey! If the American public was enticed to visit Chipotle based on their superstitious fears over the GMO boogey-man, then I believe the promotion of non-GMOs was a savvy business move. However, if this savvy and unnecessary marketing ploy jeopardizes the holy guac – I say bully for GMOs.

On November 6, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on Disruption in the Oil & Gas Industry :

Given Total’s history of being an upstream and downstream oil producer and supplier, it will be interesting to see if they can make a fundamental shift in their business model to generate power for electric grids. Although Total has been engaged in selling natural gas to power generation players, and have recently invested in solar capabilities, Total does have the same expertise in navigating the full electric power value chain as it does in its oil & gas business. This lack of expertise can be quite troublesome given the massive influence of varying regulators on the energy market. Add in the variability in policy from market to market, Total may encounter considerable turbulence across its global markets.

On November 6, 2016, PatrickNealon commented on Climate change in Colombia – A water and energy dilemma :

I recognize that a private buyer may instill more efficient operations in an effort to add rigor to the ISAGEN’s bottom line, however I may argue that the same logic may apply to lax treatment of the risk posed by el nino and the shifting climate landscape. If power gen players in Colombia truly need to diversify away from hydro-assets, the initial capital requirements to do so would be quite substantial. Additionally, although climate change may be increasing the frequency of el nino, the events are rather sporadic in regards to frequency (prior to 2015/16, the last el nino event was 1997/98). Depending on the private sector buyer’s time horizon, they may very well be inclined to not diversify away from hydro.