Victor Castro

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On November 15, 2018, Victor Castro commented on John Deere – Bringing AI to Agriculture :

This is really interesting, Kate! I, like other commenters, was not at all aware of the technology-forward posture John Deere has in product development. I am always impressed when a company like John Deere (a $30B revenue market leader) chooses not to rest on its laurels, instead aggressively pushing the business forward through innovation. In this case, I particularly love products like the see-and-spray technology which provides benefits throughout the value chain by adding value to a John Deere product, saving farmers money on herbicides, and helping protect the environment.

I do have significant concerns regarding John Deere’s practices as you described around locked-in, high-cost maintenance and repairs. Aside from creating financial pressure on farmers who are already struggling to compete with massive scale agri-businesses (e.g., Cargill), thereby eroding market competition and price protection for consumers, this has the potential to create significant negative earned media for John Deere in an era where many Americans are hyper-sensitive to threats on traditional American industries (e.g., Coal, Steel, agriculture).

On November 15, 2018, Victor Castro commented on Betabrand: Too Much Open Innovation? :

Really enjoyed learning about this company, Aparna! I was previously unaware of Betabrand, and find this to be an extremely interesting business model, relying on open innovation throughout the entire product development process. I think the point you raise, though, is exactly right: how can Betabrand maintain its differentiation as more traditional retailers invest in Open Innovation processes?

My recommendation on this question would be that Betabrand does begin investing in a hybrid retail model. It seems that they have already begun to take license with products like the yoga pants dress pants, expanding the product line to several different cuts (e.g., bootcut, straight) and material types (e.g., jeans). This is a step in the right direction with next steps being things like taking some ideas straight to production without voting and order taking, creating full product lines out of a single successful product, and hiring their own designers to create designs based on market research versus only submissions.

On November 15, 2018, Victor Castro commented on Nike’s Stance on 3D Printing: Just Do It :

This is great, Melcolm! For me, the biggest question that the use of AM at Nike raises is, “How much to consumers care about how their shoes are manufactured?” It is interesting to me that Nike has chosen to make the fact that shoes are 3-D printed part of the marketing for those shoes; I’d be very curious to see the consumer research around the value a customer places on this production process. Assuming Nike could achieve pretty similar product attributes through traditional manufacturing techniques, my instinct would tell me that for the majority of buyers, they are simply looking for the best shoe at the lowest price, and aren’t concerned with manufacturing.

The important business implication of this question, in my mind, is that to the extent customers are agnostic to manufacturing process, Nike could avoid the capital intensive investment in the 3-D printing in the short term, and switch to mass Additive Manufacturing once other companies (shoe companies or otherwise) have created enough scale demand in the market such that AM technologies are economical for mass production.

Really interesting piece, Sara! My perspective on your question is that the most relevant use of Additive Manufacturing in eye wear is not the potential scale production efficiencies, but rather the opportunity for one-of-a-kind designs. As you may know, Nike introduced a product called NikeID several years ago with great success; while this is not an Additive Manufacturing product, it essentially allows individuals to take each component part of some of their favorite shoe models and change the color (and in some case, the material used).

There may be secular decline in functional eye wear, but the relative stability of fashion-based eye wear should provide a strong base of demand for individualized frames. I believe that an eye wear empire like Luxottica would do well to invest in this customization technology through AM which could be applied across all of its brands.

On November 15, 2018, Victor Castro commented on Revolutionizing personal credit with machine learning :

Very succinct and easy-to-understand summary of a fascinating business! I find Avant to be such an interesting example of a business that can make a positive social impact while also being a financially viable enterprise. Providing access to a part of the financial system traditionally not available to this group of people enables personal household growth and growth opportunities for financial institutions, essentially growing the pie for everyone.

However, my concern with Avant is the sustainability of its competitive advantage. The same way that Venmo has seen their competitive advantage eroded with the introduction of Zelle in this space, it feels likely that resource-unconstrained financial institutions will invest in the same technology Avant has pioneered. Avant may be able to protect against this by continuing to improve their AI and using their head start to stay ahead of what other players can create, but this may be challenging over the long term.

Very interesting perspective on the novel but flawed process the MBTA has pursued in order to generate innovative ideas! The open question which stuck out most to me was with respect to who the appropriate providers of ideas are. I agree completely that the overwhelming majority of ideas coming from for profit companies will drive the evaluation only of ideas which benefit the MBTA and its passengers as well as the for-profit proposer. The flaw with this is that the MBTA is concerned first and foremost with the provision of a public service, before the benefits to a third party.

I think that in order to entice individuals and non-profits to participate, the bar for what it is included in a proposal must be lowered. I believe the current system which a detailed proposal dissuades average citizens from submitting. Lowering this bar will help achieve the goal of a “digital suggestion box,” where every idea is welcome.