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On November 20, 2016, VC commented on TED – A Company Worth Spreading :

I’d be very interested in looking at YouTube’s role in helping make TED Talks more accessible. While partnerships with Netflix and Apple may have helped with incremental views, Netflix, for example, is still behind a paywall so the information isn’t completely democratized. However, TED’s YouTube videos are all free (ad-supported) and the most popular videos have an upwards of 11M views. An interesting analyses to find (if it exists) is, for each video, compare how many views were on the TED website vs. YouTube. I suspect YouTube views may make up large proportion of the total which makes me question whether the TED website itself really served as a platform for exposing individuals to TED content.

It’s very interesting to hear about the company’s shift from high-acuity to lighter-acuity conditions/patients as what seems to be a compromise to ultimately achieve a sustainable business model. Beyond just demonstrating value, I wonder if the company’s initial decision to target high-acuity conditions was driven by the desire to address conditions that are more apparently severe (not to say lower-acuity conditions are not severe, but just less apparently so). Regardless, I still believe there is tremendous value in their first initiative in targeting high-acuity conditions and would hope that they revisit it in the future after finding sustainability in their new business model. One idea would be partnering with public agencies, the government, or hospitals to leverage the reach that the company will (hopefully) have.

Awesome post. I’d be very interested in hearing more about Kinsa’s efforts behind ensuring clean data and whether they ultimately see themselves as a data provider more so than a hardware distributor. To your point, public health officials are optimizing for accuracy at the sacrifice of timeliness. I understand Kinsa has the potential to gather much larger data sets and more quickly, but I imagine there are inherently challenges identifying what is a signal for a potential flu outbreak vs. noise in the data from misuse of the thermometer as both will likely present themselves as outliers. Ultimately, this is also a question of whether Kinsa plans to take on the burden of analyzing that data or form partnerships with public health organizations and simply provide its data for analyses.

On November 20, 2016, VC commented on Tesla: No More Driving :

Many of the positives of self-driving functionalities of personal automobiles mirror that of public transportation (reading/sleeping during your trip, parking, reducing congestion issues). Perhaps, at the moment, the main advantage is that Tesla and other personal self-driving cars are not bound by a schedule whereas individual’s travel times are dictated when there are buses, trains, etc. However, even Tesla’s long term plan includes options for mass transportation (aka bus). I would be very interested in seeing how self-driving features and public transportation may converge.

On November 20, 2016, VC commented on Slacking – A new way to win? :

I echo Andrea’s concern regarding security. Even for large corporations with highly secured networks, often times the weak link is with the employees who may not have been trained or care about security best practices. This may come in the form of how they use their computer/the internet (do they always click on random links being send to them?) or physical security (are they cognizant of where they leave their work computer?). A great example of this is the 2014 Sony Picture Entertainment hack where hundreds of terabytes of data was stolen by hackers after they were able to gain access to the company’s building through employees inadvertently letting them in (jury is still up on whether the employees knowingly did this or got tricked). I recognize this issue is also applicable to other similar type services, but it would be interesting to know what efforts Slack is putting into being a gold standard for data security.

On November 6, 2016, VC commented on Tesla: A Two-Step Plan to Transportation Takeover :

While I agree it is important for Tesla to further introduce models that are more affordable (Model 3) and functional (trucks), it is also imperative that Tesla focus on developing their charging infrastructure (supercharging stations). Your post seem to imply that with the adoption of Tesla cars would drive the ubiquity of supercharging stations. I would argue that the ubiquity of supercharging stations is very much a prerequisite to more widespread adoption of electric cars. The current demand for EV charging stations is currently outpacing the actual supply. While this may indicate that the availability of charging stations is not currently a primary concern for EV owners, it can quickly escalate to be a primary bottleneck that inhibits the demand for EVs. As such, I believe the importance developing the EV charging infrastructure to be just as important, if not more, to Tesla than introducing additional models to their product line.

In reading this post, I wonder the feasibility for Starbucks to sustain/grow profits while meeting sustainability goals. You did a great job of highlighting the tension that arises between these two metrics especially given the pressures Starbucks face as a public company. It would be interesting to see whether Starbucks can quantify the long-term financial benefits of the short-term investment (i.e. reduction of profits) to achieve more sustainable means of operating (growing beans, store operations, etc.). As Sam mentioned, the challenges Starbucks face are reminiscent to that of IKEA. It would be interesting to see how Starbucks has categorized strategies into short-term (to satisfy investor demands) vs. long-term (to achieve sustainability goals).

While I agree that deforestation is a large driver of Starbuck’s contribution to climate change, I question the company’s ability to incentivize farmers appropriately to prevent their upslope migration in search of better farming conditions for coffee beans. More specifically, it seems that that the migration is driven not just by change in taste/quality but actual yield/feasibility of growth. It’s interesting to read that Starbucks is innovating on coffee beans to drive more productive ways of growing, it doesn’t necessarily incentivize farmers to contain their growing with their current plots. With more efficient ways of growing, one could argue that it makes the purchase of incremental plots more economical for farmers in that their revenue stream per plot is better. Given this, I would recommend Starbucks also incorporate metrics to actually minimize plot migration.

On November 6, 2016, VC commented on Tesla: Accelerating the Transition to Sustainable Energy :

Very interesting read on the Tesla/SolarCity dynamic particularly around SolarCity’s attempt to provide economical infrastructure. While I agree it is critical to lobby for incentives to help make these alternatives more critical, I would argue that given the government’s tendency to be slow to act, Tesla/SolarCity should focus more on expediting the development of electric alternatives quickly enough that the choice to go electric becomes more economical than that of traditional means. I would also recommend more partnerships with other automotive manufacturers as ultimately they have now recognized the importance of shifting towards alternative fueling/powering and it would benefit the industry in the long run to achieve scale as quickly as possible.

On November 6, 2016, VC commented on Toyota’s new challenge: Fuel cell vehicle “MIRAI” :

I agree with the challenges of building out infrastructure both in terms of governmental latency and capital requirements. BMW, a long partner with Toyota on developing hydrogen technology (and also not-so-climate-change-friendly sports cars), face very similar issues as the US is the 2nd largest market behind EU (and the largest if compared at the country level).

As per Apeksha’s comment, there is a great deal of uncertainty in terms of the pace in which governments will react. However, I believe with Toyota’s strength in EV and hybrid vehicles, they can serve as the industry leader to round up other car manufacturers for support and spearhead the development of hydrogen refueling sites. In addition, while it may sound counter-competitive, it could benefit the industry for Toyota to share some technology with other large manufacturers for hydrogen fuel vehicles. This could expedite the more wide-spread manufacturing of hydrogen fuel vehicles and incentivize both manfuacturers and the government to push for developing infrastructure.