Sam Vallely

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On November 15, 2018, Sam Vallely commented on Will you marry me (if I ask with a 3D-printed ring)? :

I think a risk to the success of 3D printing in the jewelry market is the inherent cheapness of the product. Jewelry has high significance to the owner and buyer, and carries an undeniable emotional element. It is primarily a gift driven business, and often the price tag or the “bigger the ring” is extremely important in the buying decision and signals how much you care about the person you are buying for. I think there is a place for 3D printing in the jewelry market, but it will be for lower end product.

I love the application of 3D printing to construction. In this context, like many new technologies it will inevitably impact the job market, as less labor is required for the huge market for construction labor. I look forward to seeing the wide range of applications of 3D throughout the economy. One area I can think of is general infrastructure. Can 3D printing be applied to building the roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply and sewage systems and other key elements of infrastructure? As national and municipal budgets shrink, I think 3D printing has the potential to have a large impact on decreasing costs across these essential investments in an economy.

On November 15, 2018, Sam Vallely commented on DoorDash and Machine Learning :

Although I feel technology has a critical role at companies like DoorDash, I don’t know how concerned I am with autonomous robots taking over the gig industry. Food delivery entails a considerable degree of customer service and I feel customer service is one of those functions in which computers will not become completely ubiquitous, and is instead a good example of a machine+man/woman use case. Customer service requires empathy and an understanding of the customers emotions, which often drives decision making. One of the largest limitations of AI is its inability to compute emotion, thus I don’t see computers taking over.

On November 15, 2018, Sam Vallely commented on Hinge: A Data Driven Matchmaker :

As I think about why ML is struggling to successfully generate matches, it leads me to the following unfortunate conclusion: maybe people are just too superficial when it comes to dating apps. Maybe at the end of the day, the true key to a successful match is just the degree to which each party find the other attractive. This led me to the question of whether any of these apps are actually using facial recognition technology to identify users’ facial preferences in potential matches. Well, unfortunately but not surprisingly, I did find an app doing just this. It is called Facedate. On Facedate, users upload pictures of faces that user finds attractive. The app then analyzes the faces to determine your facial preferences, and matches you with others with similar facial features. I don’t find this approach particularly tasteful, but it is an interesting business proposition and use case for ML.

On November 15, 2018, Sam Vallely commented on Open your open innovation to suppliers :

The practice of sourcing innovations via open innovation with suppliers seems logical at face value. However, one challenge of open innovation not addressed is its potential to actually increase costs. Dell likely has a extensive network of suppliers from whom it sources ideas. This inherently incurs substantial costs from the coordination of those ideas and collaborations. Just imagine all the incremental labor hours and infrastructure required to effectively manage this task; it cannot be insubstantial. It also poses the risk of Dell becoming dependent on outside innovation and losing its own internal innovative capabilities.

I found this to be such an unexpected application of open innovation. However, I don’t know how realistic the founder’s ambition is given this approach. The founder’s mission is to have a greater impact on climate change, yet I don’t believe he will accomplish this vision given the structure of his current supply chain. Having 80% turnover on your menu , with 5-7 experimental items at any given time, simply cannot be sustainable or scalable. Given the variability of the menu, sourcing such a range of material inputs has to be a massive challenge and a logistical nightmare. This business would likely have to have a myraid of suppliers, each of which the company would have to negotiate and monitor. This is bound to lead to quality control issues, high variability in lead times, and difficult inventory management. This is very difficult to scale, and would require a substantial investment in fixed costs like SG&A and procure operations. As he scales, the diversity and variability on his menus will have to decrease, which means that the company’s competitive advantage will also decrease. He would also have to consider franchising, which will introduce further quality and customer experience control issues. In conclusion, I think this is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it is going to have a meaningful impact on climate change.