• Alumni

Activity Feed

On November 20, 2016, TOM217 commented on Talking Trash :

Thanks for the interesting read! It is a great example of an innovative company attempting to disrupt a static industry with large, powerful incumbents. Knowing that the large incumbents have a financial incentive to pick up trash and fill their own landfills for profit, Rubicon should expect to face a great deal of pushback as its grows. I would be interested to see if (and how) the company is attempting to forge relationships with local governments. The company will want to explain how its business is benefitting both local businesses and the local environment. Forming these relationships now may help to protect the company against competitor-spurred regulation in the future.

On November 20, 2016, TOM217 commented on Hacking the TOM Beer Challenge :

Alex – this was really interesting, thanks for the info! Based on my work with beverage manufacturers, I do actually think that they would both benefit from and be willing to pay for the data that comes from the installation of iKegs at various retailers. To manufacturers, data is king. They will often have to pay large sums of money to gain point-of-sale data regarding their products. If they could get access to real-time consumption data by location, the benefits to purchasing, production planning and distribution could be huge. Future applications might also involve testing out the effectiveness of promotional spend in the market (a huge cost for beverage companies). As mentioned above, this data would be most useful if the technology was adopted by many retailers. Manufacturers and distributors might be willing to split the cost (or pay for it entirely) if enough retailers showed interest. Retailers would have to be willing to share the data with their upstream partners (something, from my experience, that they can be quite reluctant to do).

Thank you for the interesting post! As mentioned in many comments above, it does seem like airports have been frustratingly slow to integrate digital advancements into their processes. I think a major challenge for airports is working with so many different airlines (who each may have unique systems and processes in place). Airports that are trying to create seamless and hassle-free experiences will not only have to invest in infrastructure but also collaborate across airlines, governmental agencies, and in-airport vendors.

As we saw in the United Airlines case, much of the frustration in flying comes from operational issues that lead to delayed or cancelled flights. I think there is a real opportunity for airlines and airports to work together to utilize digital technology on the back-end to get a better grasp on the location and status of assets and people. Below is an interesting article about how Heathrow airport working with its airlines to bring innovation onto the airfield.

On November 20, 2016, TOM217 commented on Fujifilm: Outlasting the “Kodak Moment” :

Thanks for sharing! Kodak’s failure in adapting to a changing environment highlights an issue that many companies face in dealing with disruption: willingness to invest for long-term sustainability. Kodak had a huge film business with high margins and to properly adapt to the digital transformation would have had to shift its focus (people, time, resources) to the lower margin digital side. Even if Kodak’s management team had recognized the threat earlier, it would have had to commit to years of investment and reorganization to equip the company for future success. As you pointed out above, Fujifilm will need to continue to invest in R&D to ensure that it does not meet the same fate sometime down the road.

On November 20, 2016, TOM217 commented on FitBit: Say You Want a (New Year’s) Resolution :

Thank you for the interesting post! I agree that it seems that FitBit’s strongest area for growth lies in the corporate buyer market. Companies have a vested interest in encouraging employees to focus on health and fitness goals. It is interesting to think of the role that Fitbit might play in being a direct link between patients’ behaviors and the insurance companies to which they subscribe. Like the “graded” car insurance scheme that we recently studied, it does call into question consumer privacy issues.

I would be interested to know more about how FitBit is investing in R&D to be able to track the data that would be most useful to healthcare providers. If FitBit sees itself becoming more integrated into the healthcare space, it should consider inviting insurance companies and healthcare providers into its product development conversation to ensure that it is spending the time and resources developing features that are most relevant to its future potential customers. There is also the question of how best to use the data once it is collected – something that will require further investment in analytics tools. If FitBit is able to innovate in this way, it could succeed in becoming the crucial link between at-home patients and the healthcare world.

You raise many interesting points about Starbucks’ potential motives for its sustainability initiatives (namely – the security of its raw materials). Though of course the company is financially motivated to ensure a stable supply of coffee beans for its ongoing operations, I believe that the company as a whole does believe in a “greater purpose” as evidenced by the way that it approaches other critical business challenges such as employee compensation and community engagement. There are certainly companies that engage in sustainable practices only if they can benefit monetarily (or from positive PR buzz), but I believe that these companies will find it difficult to stay committed to such initiatives if they do not also fall in line with core company values. Starbucks has a long history of corporate social responsibility, especially as it relates to the sourcing of its coffee beans. I hope that this high level of commitment will spell success for Starbucks as it (hopefully) spearheads some of the ideas mentioned above.

One particularly interesting point that I think you have raised is how Coca-Cola has chosen to communicate its water neutrality message with customers (conveniently leaving off the part about all of the water consumed during manufacturing). Though it seems like an admirable mission for Coca-Cola to undertake, it may go to show that by surfacing the issue, Coca-Cola is leaving itself open to increased scrutiny and criticism surrounding its water usage. While before, many retailers and customers may not have thought too long about how much water the company consumes, Coke has now put a spotlight on a very sensitive global issue. This attempt to create positive PR around Coke’s initiatives could leave some customers wondering why they are doing so little (and how replacing water in other parts of the world will help solve the crisis in places like India?). It is interesting that the company has chosen to focus on water replenishment for the water within each can when its “thirstiest” ingredient (sugar) is also one that has long been criticized for its contribution to obesity and health problems. Finding breakthrough ways to reduce or remove sugar would help Coca-Cola’s image on both fronts.

On November 7, 2016, TOM217 commented on Venice – the risk of the disappearance of an entire city :

This was a really interesting post about a city that, if it sinks, will take so much history and culture along with it. It gets at the heart of one of the biggest barriers to impactful environmental change – companies and communities are not focused on long-term viability but instead make decisions for near-term profitability and gain. Both cruise ships and the Venetian community have much to gain financially from allowing the ships and the tourists that they carry to continue to visit. You bring up a very interesting point in that the threat of extinction due to rising sea levels may even be fueling tourist interest in travelling to the region. If this is true, ships have even more incentive (in the short run) to continue to exacerbate the problem so that tourists are compelled to action before it’s too late. It does appear, at least, that some locals are attempting to take a stand against the cruise lines (and the government that continues to allow them in). In September 2016, “activists in gondolas and other small boats set up camp in the Venetian lagoon” in an attempt to block incoming ships. [1] It would be very interesting to further research local thoughts on the tradeoff between environmental preservation and the economic impact of reduced tourism.

[1] Marcus, Lilit, “Venice Locals Protest Cruise Ships In Their Port,”, accessed November 2016.

On November 7, 2016, TOM217 commented on Riding the Heat Wave – Will WhiteWave Survive? :

Thank you for the informative post! You bring up a very interesting point surrounding geographical diversification of suppliers. The risk of relying on a set of agricultural suppliers in a region that is experiencing the effects of climate change can be large. This is highlighted in your post when you discuss WhiteWave’s almond sourcing strategy (mostly from the drought-impacted central valley region of California). It can be difficult to diversify suppliers when the majority have chosen a specific region (for growing-condition or other reasons) in which to operate. Since this situation is not something that WhiteWave can control, I agree with your suggestions surrounding diversification through different product categories.

An interesting related topic surrounds which crops do (or “should”) have access to water. As someone who was living in California during the worst years of the drought, I was exposed to the heated conversations surrounding water allocation. Some almond growers maintain that almonds are getting a bad reputation in terms of water requirements, when in reality “almonds really aren’t more thirsty than any of our other crops.” [1] The debate continues as to which crops are “worthy” of water use and it becomes even more complicated when we think about who owns water supply throughout California.

[1] Gonzales, Richard, “How Almonds Became A Scapegoat For California’s Drought,”, accessed November 2016.

On November 7, 2016, TOM217 commented on The Sun is Setting On South Beach Miami :

Your post brings up a really interesting dilemma for government leaders in the Miami area. Realtors continue to build and sell premium-priced beachfront property that, as you point out, might be underwater in the near future. At the same time, these properties are contributing hotel and real estate taxes that, theoretically, can be used to help pay for environmental initiatives within the city. Restricting investment in the South Beach area may not only hurt the local economy but also reduce overall investment in finding ways to combat or reverse the effects of climate change.

An interesting area to research might be how architects and developers can adapt as they continue to build along the coast. According to a recent interview with Allan Shulman, one of South Florida’s most famous architects, some in his industry view sea-level rise “as a design opportunity to be exploited.” They are seeking lifted restrictions on building heights, and mapping out innovative ground floor indoor/outdoor spaces that can handle exposure to the elements. Though this may be successful in some areas, retro-fitting the city as a whole would require much more drastic (and expensive) measures, as you mentioned above. As many are deeply attached to the city and the culture that it embodies, it will be fascinating to see how the community proceeds over the next decade and beyond. Will they invest heavily in adaptation with the construction of canals, reinforcement and redesign of buildings, and the removal of others? Or will the focus move to developing a new city inland?

Kamp, David, “Can Miami Beach Survive Global Warming?”, December 2015.