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Great post Laura! This one I’m really torn on though. On one hand, I agree with Smitha that they likely need to go digital as I believe we will slowly not be able to differentiate between a handcrafted Steinway and a well coded and assembled digital machine, which is an impressive feat; but on the other hand, like others posting here, I find that extremely sad. The only way I could see them staying out of digital is if somehow the “artisan” culture of today that appreciates vinyl records and craft beer breeds a sustainable segment of the population that will always want an analog hand made solution where possible. If however that is just a temporary fad, I fear that the Steinway will be something for museums in the future. We’ll be sitting in our rocking chairs lamenting how they don’t make pianos how they used to, and our grandchildren will be wondering why we are so old fashioned and why we would ever want something more expensive and space consuming that creates more or less the same sound.

Thanks for writing this article – I think the digitization of the grid is one of the most important transformations that all countries need to go through to not only improve operational efficiency, but to be able to better understand and keep up with demand as well as be able to deal with consumers adding renewables (like solar panels from Solar City) or batteries (like the PowerWall from Tesla).

I see the trend is to replace older meters is under way, despite slow moving regulatory bodies, so my questions would be “What’s Next”? Should they go into a software play to use or control the data from their meters or partner with an existing software player? Would they be transitioning to an operations business where they are mainly servicing and maintaining local meters while moving installation efforts to developing countries? Could they be a service provide that provides consulting services based on what the data is showing utilities and give recommendations on investments and improvements?

Thanks for writing this blog J2G18! Drones have certainly come in fast and furiously into the construction industry with it seemingly overnight putting helicopter operators for construction out of business. It is $2000+/hour for helicopter rental for HD filming and there is just no way for them to compete on any level vs. a $49/month drone. I’m already excited for next steps of how they can further use the large amounts of data (pictures, 3D landscapes/models) to get us a better understanding of our cities and construction. I do however agree with Koulik above though that although having more data is desirable, it can lead to security concerns.

Separately, I believe another student wrote about PlanGrid (, which is a company that is digitizing construction planning (think, replacing blueprints with iPads) – this seems like a perfect company to pair with to have a comprehensive digital construction package.

Interesting blog BMC. I can see the value of open source agriculture, but am left wondering here what the business model for OpenAg is. Are they a non-profit looking to sustain themselves minimally through government grants? Is there a way to monetize any of this? If not, can they reach scale as an NGO? Wikipedia has an operating budget of $61M ( and has hundreds of thousands of contributors to make it work at scale. Who is currently incentivized to contribute here and who is in charge of accuracy? As great as this idea is, it is one of those that works best at scale and I feel their biggest road block is not how to use digitization (they have that covered) but how to create a growing and sustainable organization.

I can imagine perhaps they partner with a government looking to create more local farming to decrease food security issues, or universities who believe in open research.

On November 20, 2016, Amanda commented on Wag! The Uber of Dog-Walking :

Nice post Tom – had always wondered about the economics of WAG as I saw their walkers all over San Francisco. I do not own a dog myself, but it was always because I felt I would not have enough time or stability to walk them enough. Seeing this service gave me a bit of hope though as it would allow me to take care of my furry friend when last minute business came up.

Where I got nervous though was whether their business model was sustainable, and the numbers (as Viktoria pointed out) seem to show that it isn’t. Given commute time to the location, it looks like it would be hard to keep a consistent large pool of high quality walkers for <$12 a walk and without a large or high quality pool you have neither the timeliness or security you need. I would suspect that WAG is doing similar things as many bay area companies of subsidizing their walkers right now. In the long run, I suspect they would need to raise rates, which would decrease the pool of consumers. Who knows though, maybe after they are addicted to WAG as we are currently addicted to UBER, customers will be less sensitive to price.

On November 7, 2016, Amanda commented on The Big Blue Goes Green :

That quite the list of initiatives Schlumberger is taking. Would be great to see some of the numbers in context of a) competition and whether they are being a leader in social stewardship and b) whether these initiatives are actually enough of a buffer to reduce risk from regulatory and environmental shocks that may occur due to climate change. It would also be interesting to know whether these initiatives are stemmed from internal realizations of social responsibility / resource scarcity / incoming volatility, or whether it is pushed from their customers due to their need for increased efficiencies.

On November 7, 2016, Amanda commented on Volkswagen’s Electric Rebound :

Great post Blaine. I really do think this would make a fantastic LEAD case as after reading all of these other fantastic articles about making changes and promises to sustainability, how many other companies are susceptible to a sudden technology failure or worse yet, “draconian” culture that would undermine these initiatives. I am eagerly watching VW in how they can regain consumer trust, as even with the more outright “green” solution of an electric vehicle, how can we trust that their numbers are correct and that they are executing what they are marketing? I suspect there will need to be increased transparency and consumer engagement to get this trust, and if they succeed on this, it will be fantastic for the industry as it may force everybody to be as transparent and thus hold the auto industry to a higher standard.

On November 7, 2016, Amanda commented on Ferrero’s ingredients to climate change success :

Great blog Daniel. I agree with Kelly that the RSPO is far too weak, but also with Wissam that they really do not have any short term impact from this. The deforestation causes massive decrease in biodiversity and contributes to climate change, but the ones who will feel this are the local communities, the cities affected by rising oceans, and the generations to come – not Ferrero. I think then the only way to keep the companies accountable other than government action, is for the RSPO to come together (including Ferrero) and realize that it is in the best interest for everybody to have sustainable practices (reducing impact of regulation, increases supply certainty, etc.) and set visible more aggressive targets around the table. Companies alone will not be able to make these commitments if the landscape is too competitive – the desire to “cheat” for short term profits is too high. With a mutual commitment, it goes to a “everybody loses” so “everybody wins” type of game. It does seem unlikely though that they would do this voluntarily, so I suspect government regulation would have to be the jump starter and that may not happen anytime soon unfortunately.

I must ask, is there really no substitute for Palm Oil here? That might just be an easier option in the long run…

On November 7, 2016, Amanda commented on For NextEra, North Dakota Wind is the New Fracking :

Great overview here. With much of the low hanging fruit farms and other customers already locked in 20 year contracts, I’d be interested in seeing how much more the sales and R&D efforts turn away from economics and start to focus on behavioral and emotional items such as safety, bird death, and aesthetics. While these are all mostly valid arguments against wind, it would likely take a different type of sales person and team to overcome these issues than one of ROI and I wonder how Nextera reorganizes their team to tackle these issues.

Separately, it would be highly concerning if any studies indicated that wind volume could decrease. With so many turbines situated in one area, how does Nextera de-risk this?

On November 7, 2016, Amanda commented on Keep on trucking: An overlooked lever for sustainability :

Hi Vincent! Agree that for electric trucks to work out financially, there needs to be a Tesla sized bet to get the economies of scale for their eTruck. I am wondering though if they got enough buy in to make such a hefty CAPEX investment in what I’m sure is a very lean company that is sensitive to economics downturns. Like Pallavi mentioned, a partner may be the best bet for getting over this risk, but less so a supplier partner, but more a buying partner. A big shipping company with green targets to hit on their own could be a perfect partner to help the executive team make big bet investments with the comfort of a buyer on the other end.

Separately, it does seem like a eTruck may be quite a long time to launch – did you know when that might be? In the short term, a better way to hit sustainability targets while reducing costs would be to make those efficient supply chain links. That being said, that is a lot of innovation and change (new truck, new factories, new supply chain process) for a company to go through at once so I hope they have a solid team behind this.

On November 7, 2016, Amanda Li commented on Pampers (P&G) use of wood pulp :

Great outline of the history and navigation around sustainability of Pampers Alexandros! Like TD21, I’m a bit skeptical of how changing the materials will be more sustainable. It will reduce their exposure to wood for sure, but overall may cause less biodegradable material in the landfills. Definitely appreciate the effort by the company though.

I’d be interested to see how well the 2016 premium tier diapers are doing in terms of sales. We have plenty of reports indicating that the consumer is more sustainability minded, but I wonder if that is still too small of a segment to make a dent in such a bulk purchase such as diapers.

On November 7, 2016, Amanda Li commented on Can ThinkEco Help Users Reduce their Electric Consumption? :

Interesting product here! The offer seems to target the consumers looking for the IoT interface mixed with demand response / energy efficiency aspect. Where I get concerned is the competitive landscape for both those two categories is fierce though. On the IoT aspect, you have WeMo, TP-Link, Siemens, GE, all making plugs attached to Apps, and on the DR/EE side, you have big commercial players such as C3 Energy, Pulse Energy, First Fuel, etc. that have extremely advanced analytics. It does seem like there is a bit of gap for residential players who also offer analytics, but I’d be curious like Pete mentioned, how the economics work out. I’d also wonder on whether this market is large enough that this joint offering is enough of a differentiation to compete with existing or deeper pocketed players.

If I were ThinkEco, I’d want to make some strategic partnerships right now, such as with Google Home (since WeMo and TP-Link seems to be partnered with Amazon Echo), or with any of the big utility/commercial players looking for a residential offering.