Yohann Velasco

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On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Sustainability at Unilever: Nebulous or Critical? :

*task at hand.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Sustainability at Unilever: Nebulous or Critical? :

I enjoyed reading your analysis, and found your point around consumer behavior particularly interesting.
This raises the question of whether a company that promotes mass consumerism can really be sustainable at the same time. The obvious contrast for me is the Patagonia example, a company that has made the choice to grow slowly and which encourages its customers to buy only what they really need (although many cynics may think that this is just another form of marketing).

I personally believe in Unilever’s commitment to sustainability, and am convinced that the management of the company see this commitment as a key differentiator in their industry. Of course, many of their efforts are far from perfect (e.g., your certification example), but in my view this should not be attributed to bad intent and rather to the difficulty of the task at end.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Where in the world will our wine come from? :

This is a particularly interesting read for me; I recently wrote a similar note about coffee. I see two major differences with coffee: (i) grapes are a much more resilient crop; (ii) wine producers in France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, or California are typically sophisticated players with access to capital (relative to smallholder coffee farmers in Uganda, or Guatemala).

I see three different types of responses: (i) letting scarcity happen and adjusting prices (this could work for higher end wines); (ii) using technology to fight the effect of climate change; (iii) growing wine in new regions.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Maple, a restaurant without walls :

This reminds me of a similar company, that also went out of business: Sprig. These are businesses that I like as a customer, but probably not so much as an investor. The key question in this market seems to be: “for how long can we keep losing money?”.
The assumption that by pleasing customers and undercharging them for a while, you will build your user base, achieve economies of scale, and reach profitability is certainly appealing, but it seems to struggle to pass the empirical test.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Digitization of Walmart :

I very much agree with Jason on this; I am convinced that brick & mortar locations will not go anywhere, but that experience in these locations will potentially look very different in the future. If anything, Amazon’s recent moves into physical retail (e.g., their bookstores, the acquisition of Whole Foods) support the idea that brick & mortar is far from dead.

Walmart is a company that has deep pockets to compete, but more importantly, it is a company that has innovation in its DNA (from basically making bar codes universal to transforming the way shoppers think about value). A big challenge will be around the acquisition of the top technical talent that is needed to compete with Amazon.

In any case, very interesting write-up – very happy to discuss offline.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Can Protectionism Save Auto Jobs in the US? :

Great write-up, which raises very interesting questions for US manufacturing in general. As Clare mentioned, many companies today don’t simply want to move their production abroad to save cost, they have to because of the flexibility and industrial skills in countries such as China. This reminds me of Apple, which recently asked its key manufacturing partners to assess whether relocating iPhone production from Asia to the United States was feasible and concluded that it would be extremely costly and inefficient to do so.

On November 30, 2017, Yohann Velasco commented on Cuba Libre: Airbnb’s Approach to Diplomacy in Cuba :

As a the son of a Cuban immigrant, I find this topic fascinating. It is important to note that Airbnb didn’t create the home sharing market on the island; Airbnb’s rapid growth in Cuba is largely explained by the already existing extensive network of casa particulares. In many ways, this makes me think of the Fasten case and how ridesharing had long existed in Russia before making its way to the US market.

Cuba is certainly a very interesting market for Airbnb: the number of rooms available in the country is a clear bottleneck that needs to be solved in a context of the recent tourism. In addition, the company perfectly timed its entry in the market (right after the US eased their policy towards the island), which ended up being a great Marketing coup for Airbnb in the US and globally.

While the current administration will probably go back on Obama’s policies on Cuba, there is no doubt that the number of US tourists visiting Cuba will continue to increase in the coming years. In addition, Airbnb is now a global brand and Canadian/European tourists who used to book casa particulares over the phone or in person will also be a source of growth for Airbnb.