Phil Piro

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On November 20, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Venmo – Should Banks be Worried? :

Thanks for the interesting post. I agree that Venmo has fundamentally changed how consumers move money to one-another, however I am curious as to why they have not moved faster into the B2C payments space. I think part of the focus purely on C2C rests on the fact that Venmo is owned by PayPal and that PayPal is focusing more on the business transaction market. I am a user of both the PayPal app and the Venmo app, and the Venmo app is far easier to use than the paypal app. With that in mind, I think Paypal is making a strategic mistake by not leveraging the Venmo platform for business transactions. Venmo is so easy to use that I envision a wide array of consumers using it to transact with merchants. I don’t think that this strategy would cannibalize the current Venmo business model, either, as I think that this strategy would only increase the total number of transactions occurring on the Venmo platform and would substantially increase its user base.

This is a great article Erik. Whole Foods is definitely a good example of an innovator within the grocery space, however I think they are an exception to the norm. From my experience working with some of the larger grocery chains in the US (Kroger, Ahold, Publix), a lot of these conventional mass grocers use incredibly antiquated ERP systems and are very slow at implementing technology. For instance, with the abundance of technology that is available (and cost-effective) in the retail food marketplace, the most advanced technology we see in most stores is the self check-out kiosk. I do wonder if these larger grocery chains are waiting to make the investment in this technology to see how the consumer responds to purchasing groceries online. While online grocery delivery services (Pea Pod, Fresh Direct) are really only feasible in an urban setting, I do think an increasing share of consumers will move to this method of grocery shopping, granted it is only in its infancy right now. With this in mind, I think that the big retailers will allocate capital into developing their online grocery infrastructure versus making major investments to improve the in-store experience. As a result, I think the pace of technological development in the store will be fairly slow.

On November 20, 2016, Phil Piro commented on If an Algorithm Wrote This Blog Post, Would You Be Able to Tell? :

This was a very well written and informative article. Thinking about where this technology will be in 20-30 years is absolutely scary. I envision a world where there is no need to write a broad majority of simple news articles, but this is in a “downside” scenario. If this technology continues to accelerate there is the potential to eliminate millions of research and journalism jobs. I actually envision this technology service as the mechanism to take the data collected by AI / Machine learning and synthesizing it into an article or a paper that is easily consumable for humans. While this appears, at its current stage, to be a technology focused on generating simple articles I actually see the potential for this technology moving way beyond the journalism industry.

On November 20, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Robots vs. Truckers :

This was a very interesting article. I think another major hurdle to full implementation of driverless trucks centers on the “last mile.” I think that driverless trucks will be a massive boon for long-haul trucking and highway driving, however I think there will be some hurdles on the loading / unloading end. Moving goods onto and off trucks is highly variable and most warehouses and distribution centers have strict docking appointment systems. Ultimately these trucks will need a significant amount of flexibility built into their software to account for this variability. I am of the opinion that there will need to still be a lot of human oversight to manage this variability, however once better systems are in place and driverless integration is more widespread, these systems will be able to be automated and business operations will adjust accordingly.

On November 20, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Under Armour: The Next Big Tech Company? :

Great article Zita. I think that the key risk that Under Armour faces is consumer adoption and whether consumers will pay up for all of these tracking tools and data collection devices. I think that these products appeal to a core base of consumers who are very serious about fitness however these products will have difficultly gaining traction in the mass market in the near-term. With this long time horizon in mind, Under Armour must be careful to maintain its financial integrity, focus on high impact M&A transactions and grow its market share in the apparel industry. I think they are smart to stay ahead of trends in the digital space, however a few missteps could pose a significant threat to the company.

On November 7, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Could the Olympics solve Global Warming? :

John – this was an interesting and thought provoking article. I think that you are 100% correct in your analysis of the impacts of climate change on the ability for athletes to train and on the overall operations of the Olympic committee. With that in mind, I do believe that the Olympic Committee can do a lot more to promote sustainable environmental practices. One radical idea would be to not move the Olympics to a new host city every 4 years and pick a permanent location to host the games. You can imagine the massive negative environmental impact associated with building a new athletic park every time a country hosts the games, from infrastructure build, to pollution to outright consumption of resources. While I think that it is admirable that the Olympics has taken steps to educate people about climate change, until they look at their net resource consumption in a serious manner, they will be paying lip-service to climate change just like a number of other organizations.

On November 7, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Marine Harvest ASA – A Quiet Beneficiary of Global Climate Change :

Paul – this is a great article. I think that it was important to bring light to a company that will benefit from climate change since this is a reality for a number of companies in a variety of sectors. While there are many companies that are working to reduce their carbon footprint and combat climate change, I do wonder if companies believe that they can simply adjust their operations around climate change and ultimately keep costs lower than investing in climate change initiatives. I thought it was particularly interesting that MH is advertising its environmental responsibility programs all while knowing that it won’t be largely impacted by climate change. After reading this part of me has become incredibly critical of the programs that companies have put into place and I believe the next chapter of the corporate sustainability movement will be focused on impact and relevance versus just simply putting a sustainability program in place.

On November 7, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Reimagining The Grid :

I thought that this was an interesting article and presents some valuable food for thought. With that in mind, isn’t there already a lot of momentum behind private sector solutions to do this? Obviously the tax subsidies paid to solar companies are substantial, but it seems that we have reached a tipping point of sorts in the solar and alternative generation market and that further tax subsidies will help push consumer adoption. This, in turn, should make the grid obsolete. Just last week Elon Musk showcased a form of solar panels that are essentially roofing tiles that are coated in solar glass. Despite a high upfront cost, these tiles do not look like current versions of solar panels and therefore don’t carry a lot of the stigmas that consumers associate with bulky panels. A link to the announcement can be seen here:

I believe that these inventions and a lot of other new technologies will ultimately make the concept of a “grid” obsolete as all power distribution will become hyper-local and fully decontrol.

On November 7, 2016, Phil Piro commented on H&M and the Push for Sustainability in Fast Fashion :

This was a very informative article about the steps that H&M is taking to help reduce their carbon footprint. Despite these steps, I still think that H&M is incorrectly targeting the low hanging fruit. It hadn’t crossed my mind until reading the Ikea case that a number of retailers produce products that are disposed of in a relatively short amount of time after the consumer purchases the product. This to me represents the largest challenge facing these companies (and ultimately the environment) and where they should spend a majority of efforts. While it is admirable that H&M has launched initiatives reducing its carbon footprint in its supply chain, until they make a concerted effort to find ways to increase the life of their products (or increase ways to recycle products), they are not targeting the heart of the problem. A lot of H&M’s current initiatives might please consumers however it doesn’t seem to be a serious effort to reduce their overall carbon footprint.

On November 7, 2016, Phil Piro commented on Animal-free Beef: A Meaty Idea :

This is an incredibly interesting article and I think that the potential for “meat substitutes” presents an enormous economic and environmental opportunity. It always amazes me to be reminded that 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions contribution comes from raising livestock. Despite the enormous opportunity here, I do think that there is a long road ahead for these products before they reach commercial viability. I believe that consumer adoption will be difficult and that people will generally prefer “real” meat versus meat substitute. Also, as you mentioned, I think that there is still a lot of R&D and cost-related work that needs to be done before this product can be sold at a supermarket, potentially more than the research suggests. Despite these headwinds I foresee a scenario where in the next 20 years a robust industry develops around “artificial” meats and I think that the environmental impact will be incredibly positive.