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On November 20, 2016, Yao commented on Technogym: helping you to get in shape for the summer :

Thanks for the post! I doubt if the emergence of fitness mobile apps have really switched gym-goers to outdoor fitness trainers, given that gym provides full set of equipment for both cardio and weight training, whereas for outdoors its mostly cardio. Also gyms have trainers who are important value creator for those who are serious about workout. Additionally, in large cities where people work out close to their workplace, amenities such as shower and lockers are also important for gym-goers. While I do see apps such as “”Runkeeper” or “PokemonGo” attracting people to exercise outdoors, I don’t think it would fundamentally drive people out of the gyms.

Very interesting read! When I first read this article, I thought of it as an interim solution for the global logistics industries, because eventually labor will be entirely replaced by automated machines. In fact, Amazon and a few leading Chinese warehousing companies have been using robotic arms to automate the “fetching” process. This also reminds me a similar technological trend in the automotive industry, where aided-driving technology is an interim solution, leading to eventually autonomous driving. The question is, how long would it take for the next industrialization (i.e. Industrialization 5.0) take place, and will its technology be built upon the 4.0 or will it be even more drastically groundbreaking?

On November 20, 2016, Yao commented on GoPro: The Defiance of the Smartphone Era :

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on GoPro. As a user of GoPro, I love the high-quality images and videos it provide. However I think that the initial hype for GoPro has led too many everyday consumers (like myself) to purchase the devise and ended up only using it a few times a year during vacation. And not even all the vacations, but only the ones that involve physical activities. I have stopped using my GoPro since last year merely because I did not do any adventurous travel. The financial market has acknowledged such limitation on usage scenario – at its peak, GoPro stock price reached $87 (~$12bn market cap) but is now only worth $10 (~$1.4bn market cap), and the analyst community has consensus negative views on the future of the company.

On November 20, 2016, Yao commented on No Personal Trainer? No Problem! :

Thanks for the interesting post! While I agree that technology could bring down the barriers for a vast majority of people to work out, I have some doubts on whether it would entirely replace fitness trainers. I think the fundamental value of a fitness trainer are two fold: (1) it cost money and people tend to value the service more when they have to pay for it. As such, the fitness training facilitated by trainers could require more concentration and focus by the trainee; (2) current technology still could not provide customized training and interactive feedback based on individual’s fitness level and training target. Also, studies have shown that the retention rate of some of the app-based training platforms have very low retention rate, simply because people are naturally lazy and app-based fitness programs have yet to find out an effective way to motivate people to continually work out.

Thanks for this interesting piece on Yirendai, Nicky! While I understand that the Chinese P2P industry does not allow any hard guarantee on full principal repayment, many companies have been promoting that either explicitly or implicitly. Although the company has a risk reserve fund, the risk still remains if the company is not able to correctly calculate the NPL ratio, which seems to be the case since China’s credit rating system is still very nascent. Given the importance of credit and consumer spending data for this business, I actually think that payment companies such as Ant Financial (owner of Alipay) and Tencent (owner of Wechat Wallet) are more likely to succeed in this P2P lending business. Interestingly enough, both of the companies have applied for online banking license and have rolled out retail lending business earlier this year.

On November 7, 2016, Yao commented on Malaria: A Hot Mess in a Hot World :

Thanks for sharing your insights on GSK! As malaria affects tropical and subtropical terrains, most of the countries being affected are developing countries with relatively poor healthcare infrastructure (i.e. Southeast Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa), and therefore it is a noble act of GSK, as a profit-driven corporate, to no charge a premium despite they are the first player to come up with anti-malarial drugs. Similar to IKEA, GSK has been able to leverage their strong position to help promote awareness and set up standards for the entire pharmaceutical value chain to take on the climate change issue, and I believe that platforms such as EcoDesk help create the easy access for collaboration and should be applied by other industries/companies that are also focused on collaborative environment protection.

When I previously looked at potential investments in skiing resort owner/operators, the biggest issues to me is the capacity utilization of the asset – most of the resorts are open from Nov to Feb, only four months of a year. This is largely due to the underdevelopment of other tourism facilities in that resort, which limited consumers willingness to visit outside of the skiing season. What Weisse Arena Gruppe is doing on energy conservation is impressive, but from a business standpoint, I believe that trying to improve their resort facilities and develop new tourism activities (i.e. hiking for the summer, weekend family getaways all the year round) would be an easier, quicker and more profitable approach.

On November 7, 2016, Yao commented on Walmart, I hate to love you! :

Thanks for the post, very interesting read! During the IKEA case, we talked a lot about how companies goal on financial returns can be aligned with environmental sustainability, as cutting cost and ensuring high quality standards are critical for the long-term development of companies. Walmart is in the traditional retail industry which plays volume game with low margin (i.e. 2015 net margin is >3%). Also given its dominant market share in the US retail industry, it is hard to further increase market share. Thus, the most viable solution is to cut cost, and it seems that Walmart is doing an excellent job at leveraging its bargaining power to the upstream suppliers to promote product innovation on environment protections. Regarding on whether the company should do more, I do believe in the market economy that if there are enough incentives for the companies, they will go ahead and implement those changes. To me, the proposed solutions to Walmart need to really address the core issue that the company is facing, which to me is cost-cutting.

Very insightful post Colin! The statistics on “88% of resorts utiliz[ing] these snowmaking machines” seems quite large to me. I am very curiously to know how that percentage changed over the past 10-20 years on the same ski resort basis. Does the 88% number mean that with the advancement of technology, more places that were traditionally not suitable places for skiing are being constructed as resorts? Another area to look into is the historical operating cost and profit margin of those resorts that were relying more on snowmaking machines – I wonder if they are able to pass through the cost inflation to the consumers?

Your point on the lobbying for efforts on global warming brings in a very new to me, as I would imagine that skiing resort industry is relatively small compared to other large industries (agriculture, manufacturing, etc.) hence they would have a relatively small voice on this topic. But I agree this is something that the skiing resort industry could do to make sure that their interests are represented.

On November 6, 2016, Yao commented on Impossible Foods: The Intricacies of Farts and Burps :

As much as I agree that Impossible Food has transformed the traditional meat industry by creating a more energy-efficient substitute for meat, I doubt whether this will turn out to be a niche market. From a evolutionary perspective, homo sapiens have fed on meat even way before they became homo sapiens. The importance of meat to people are genetically coded, rather than aspirational, hence changing this consumption behavior on a massive scale would be very difficult. I would expect that the company gather some media attention through their innovative technology and attract many people to try out their burger, but it would be difficult to convert meat eaters in the long term (just as @EBN pointed out). However, even if the company manages to only convert a fraction of the population into eating meatless burger, it would still be a great success to the company as well as the environment.