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On November 20, 2016, Rob commented on Catalyzing Brilliant Talent in a Digitized World :

Two things I worry about Catalant (thanks for the shout-outs, btw) are:

1. If Catalant successfully “disrupts” traditional consulting firms, increasing its market share substantially at their expense, where will its talent emerge from? These consulting firms spend a lot of $$ training consultants, and (in my biased opinion) they have skillsets that enable them to succeed in consulting projects that other non-consultant candidates might lack.

2. Is Catalant getting the *best* talent? Are people with top-tier consulting backgrounds or degrees from top business schools going to be drawn to the platform, where they can make good (but not great) money and have relatively limited opportunities to advance? Or is it going to be a waystation for people like me: People who do a project if/when they have free time, but are not committed to doing this type of work long-term?

On November 20, 2016, Rob commented on Starbucks: A Technology Pioneer :

I’m interested in how payment is moving digitally for players like Starbucks, and what that might mean for existing payments systems. Starbucks also has its stored-value rewards cards (which I believe they incent via “buy x drinks, get one free”), which have moved on to their mobile payments & ordering app.

If they are able to get customers to pay via their shared value cards, Starbucks can avoid paying the ~$.30 + ~2-3% charged by VISA or Amex, per transaction. These fees end up being pretty substantial, especially when you consider a person buying a single cup of coffee for ~$2-3. I wonder if these stored-value cards will increase in use via mobile payment applications for Starbucks and other retailers – and if you were VISA, how would you respond?

On November 18, 2016, Rob commented on Comcast combats cord-cutting :

Comcast has a huge store / service center footprint, which makes sense if everyone has an actual cable line connecting to a TV (and therefore need service technicians and actual hardware). What happens as a bigger share of distribution moves online? Netflix needs significantly fewer employees and, more generally, fixed assets to deliver its content. What will happen to Comcast as more users cut the cord completely?

I assume they’ll have to cut costs (i.e. reduce staffing in service centers), but will still have higher costs than the online content providers that emerge. Comcast will have to pass these costs through in rates, so unless they retain the best content, their users will jump ship for prospects of high-quality content at lower costs.

Two fun facts:
1. ESPN is the highest-cost channel to subscribers, at ~$7 per month. They’re also taking a HUGE hit from subscriber losses, will be interesting to see where they end up.
2. There’s a startup that has created a bot that argues with Comcast’s customer service for you. What a world:

On November 18, 2016, Rob commented on The NFL Goes Digital :

You left out the most important part: Will digitization lead to a playoff berth for the Buffalo Bills?

On November 18, 2016, Rob commented on TV Everywhere? More like TV Nowhere. :

Let’s assume a perfect world for the content consumer: Everything is available online, “a la carte” – perhaps by station (e.g., ESPN) or perhaps by show (e.g., SportsCenter).

In this world, would available content better mirror consumer preferences? Bundles wouldn’t subsidize channels that nobody watches, so a particular show/station’s revenue would be a perfect reflection of how many people are willing to pay for it. Thus, lower viewership stations would be phased out and replaced with others. Would this be better for consumers, or would it lead to a lack of creativity in available shows? In addition, would content creators make more or less money?

On November 18, 2016, Rob commented on Turo: the Uber Model for Rental Cars :

First, well done.

Second, how does Turo approach insurance? One of my big qualms with rental car agencies is that they charge a premium (if they don’t outright deny service) to people under age 25. Is a similar pricing scheme done with Turo?

On November 18, 2016, Rob commented on How to become the next Leo Messi :

This is so cool, Cristina! I wonder if this could solve some of the problems with instant replay that’s used in some sports – could referees in NFL football check the player cameras to see if a touchdown was actually scored? Or if a personal foul was warranted?

Also, as ESPN and many sports broadcasts are declining in subscribers and viewers, I wonder who would buy the rights to these videos? (I’m pretty sure that price would be more than covered by the sponsoring party, but would that sponsoring party be ESPN? FS1? Or someone more like Snapchat or Twitter?)

Apparently, shipping from Shanghai to Hamburg via the Northeast Passage (above Russia) as opposed to via the Suez would cut out ~30% of shipping time:

Great that their shipping is relatively GHG-lite compared to other sources of transport, but I wonder whether their deck utilization levels could be increased to limit their GHG emissions per storage unit transported?

On November 6, 2016, Rob commented on Traveling to Iceland? Perhaps think twice. :

In line with Amira’s comment above, an important question is whether the recent increase in flights to Iceland corresponds to a decrease in flights to other destinations. Assuming aircraft fuel use per mile is the same, and that a flight to Iceland has the same amount of people on it as a flight to any other potential destination, there’s 1:1 destination switching, the increase in flights to Iceland could actually be decreasing GHG emissions. (I realize all of these are shaky assumptions)

For example, if there was a 1:1 switch from London to Iceland, you’d have the following, courtesy of

* Iceland 1-way flight distance: 2,437 miles
* London 1-way flight distance: 3,281 miles

If this were the case, and all the assumptions above hold, your switching destinations from Iceland to London would avoid an extra 26% GHG emissions.

But, glad they’re trying to address their carbon emissions.

On November 6, 2016, Rob commented on Cool Power: A Paradigm Shift? :

This is amazing – but I wonder why they’ve decided to make their first application transportation / businesses with cold chains, given the lack of LNG infrastructure and the complexity of maintenance (they’d have to be able to do roadside maintenance if first applications are trucks – which is much more difficult than stationary applications.)

Why wouldn’t they start with high energy-use businesses that also have high cooling costs, like data centers?

The Navy has a ton of ports – in essence, a bunch of seaside property. I wonder if they’ve assessed the property risk as sea levels rise, and what their investments are going to need to be in order to keep their ports functional. Assume this will be a much larger investment than LEDs / fuel switching on ships, with little to no payback beyond being able to continue operations.

Also wonder if, given nuclear subs are basically the only recently-built application of nuclear power in the US, if the Navy has / will do anything to push towards nuclear 2.0?

On November 3, 2016, Rob commented on It’s Time to Whine about the Future of Wine :

I wonder if Indigo Ag / others in the ag tech space will come up with a product for grapevines… regardless, another important action for the NVVA is to work with scientists to do soil / vine testing, as well as climate scientists as they continue to downscale climate models and get (somewhat) more robust predictions over smaller geographies, like Napa.

Interestingly, wineries in upstate New York think they’ll benefit from climate change. Perhaps low-cost land buying to be done in tomorrow’s best wine-growing microclimates?

On November 3, 2016, Rob commented on The Unforeseen Cost of Fast Fashion :

“H&M has estimated that 10% of the CO2e emitted in a product’s lifestyle is a result of H&M’s retail operations. Another 36% comes from fabric production, and 26% come from caring for pieces at home.”
— Interesting LCA, but I wonder if this messaging is distracting us from the whole problem with fast fashion. The more fundamental problem with H&M is that they’re encouraging consumers to buy more clothing, more frequently. Seems as if, with their sustainability initiatives, they’re finding a local minimum.

Also, shameless plug for movement towards recycled materials. Patagonia uses recycled poly in its fleeces (though, technically really complicated and quite expensive), and chemically recycled cotton is closer and closer to commercialization. With H&M’s backing, could accelerate route to market.