DG

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On November 20, 2016, DG commented on The Democratization of Education :

I love this topic and totally agree that digital transformation has enabled the democratization of education. I think e-clasrooms massively open up the sea of opportunities for people from all over the globe. I also think that Harvard as a leader in education is perfectly positioned to lead this change.

You write that the university should provide seed funds to support the development of high-quality research on online teaching and learning. This would ensure that the program can improve and grow thus providing education that could be affordable (or even free?) for many. It would be great to have a digital library on Youtube or an equivalent of online college courses for anyone to see for free – to expand beyond just ‘degree-seeking’ students.

This is a super interesting article on how to really make college free – especially for people who seeks degrees and college credit from their online courses. you might enjoy reading it: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/11/18/how_to_really_make_college_free_132384.html

I love your idea that Harvard should use the Extension program as an incubator for online education to explore a combination of partnerships with professional schools. I worry however that given that the necessary approval for non-degree programs at the Extension school is easier to obtain, Harvard’s brand might be diluted. Does this worry you at all?

Like you, I worry about NOOK’s future seven years in. It surprises me that book sales have remained stable yet e-readers haven’t seen growth – that is totally not what I expected! I read up about this and noticed that according to Author Earnings, NOOK has 8% of the e-reader market to Amazon’s 74%. Like Zach above, it concerns me that B&N might not be able to compete in this space to gain market share and the Nook must be buried. But while B&N can’t compete with digital giants, it might be able to pick up momentum by harvesting its strengths as a brick and mortar general interest bookstore.

The importance of local bookstores within a society cannot be overstated. For a moment, lets look beyond profit margins. We have a Starbucks & Chipotle on every corner – what we really need is a place where youths can be immersed in literature, get inspiration, and discover the pleasure of reading. At the same rate, public libraries are disappearing from sight as they can barely secure public funding! I think the question we must ask ourselves is not CAN B&N SURVIVE? But rather: What can be done? B&N MUST SURVIVE. Unlike Borders which was forced to close down, Barnes & Nobles has no debt and a decent amount of cash. I think it needs to reconnect with its origins and look away from the digital space (I know this will result in some eyeballs…) and encourage today’s millennials to engage with a book store. We see that sales of physical books remain steady, we must find a way to bring people back to the store.

Like you, I worry about NOOK’s future seven years in. It surprises me that book sales have remained stable yet e-readers haven’t seen growth – that is totally not what I expected! I read up about this and noticed that according to Author Earnings, NOOK has 8% of the e-reader market to Amazon’s 74%. Like Zach above, it concerns me that B&N might not be able to compete in this space to gain market share and the Nook must be buried. But while B&N can’t compete with digital giants, it might be able to pick up momentum by harvesting its strengths as a brick and mortar general interest bookstore.

The importance of local bookstores within a society cannot be overstated. For a moment, lets look beyond profit margins. We have a Starbucks on Chipotle on every corner – what we really need is a place where youths can be immersed in literature, get inspiration, and discover the pleasure of reading. At the same rate, public libraries are disappearing from sight as they can barely secure public funding! I think the question we must ask ourselves is not CAN B&N SURVIVE? But rather: What can be done? B&N MUST SURVIVE. Unlike Borders which was forced to close down, Barnes & Nobles has no debt and a decent amount of cash. I think it needs to reconnect with its origins and look away from the digital space (I know this will result in some eyeballs…) and encourage today’s millennials to engage with a book store. We see that sales of physical books remain steady, we must find a way to bring people back to the store.

On November 20, 2016, DG commented on Digital banking leader for 25 years :

Looking at the timeline in which Bankinter made so many of its digital developments, it is fascinating how ahead of the curve they were for their time. Looking towards the future though, I wonder if they will continue to stay relevant as other banks in Spain and Europe look to grow in their online presence.

This year, Bankinter launched the first banking service through Twitter. It enables fast and efficient communication between clients and the bank, offering the possibility to check positions, receive alerts on chosen topics, give real time feedback. Do you think this is really a value adding feature? Why specifically Twitter – It worries me that Twitter recently cut 9% of its workforces and revenue growth is growing – is this really the right time and the right investment of capital and effort for Interbank?

In 2016 Bankinter also launched Bizum, enabling real time payments between private individuals, bank accounts and businesses using the mobile phone number as identifier. I know that it has been difficult to launch venmo-like applications internationally because banking regulations are stricter or more varied than in the US. Can peer-to-peer payment services be grown in the same way? I worry that Venmo can grow internationally which would limit the growth of Bizum, which presumably only allows you to send payment to someone who is also an account holder within the bank. What if I am at Interbank and I want to send payment to a friend at a different bank?

On November 20, 2016, DG commented on Where Art Meets Engineering: Google Art Project :

I love this! You are certainly right that its helping democratize knowledge, and I agree that it is a western-centric focus on the history of art – but I think it is definitely a step in the right direction in making art more accessible for people who love art but don’t have the means to travel to world capitals to see art in museums and exhibitions. I think where there is real growth for The Art Project is in allowing users to contribute their own content. This might be a little out of the box, but it would be cool if they team up with a Pandora/Spotify to offer an audio-visual experience that allows you to make your own curated playlist and exhibition!

From a legal standpoint, I can share museums’ concerns that Art Projects would result in copyright issues, but I think it underscores the fact that the project is NOT for commercial gain, but for access to knowledge and academic purposes – which is terrific.

Also its super cool that research has shown that digital transformation of art has increased museum traffic. It is a cool fact that within two weeks of the Art Project launch, MoMA reported a 7% increase in its website traffic and increases in ticketing!!!! One super interesting fact is that the average visitor spends 15 to 30 seconds in front of a work of art according to museum researchers. Perhaps people feel rushed or unable to focus in a museum with a piece for longer, and in a way, engaging with the works online might offer viewers a better chance to spend 15-30 minutes with a piece!

On November 20, 2016, DG commented on Manus X Machina: Saks Fifth Avenue in an Age of Technology :

I find both operating models (in store and e-commerce) interesting as Saks considers its growth in the 21st century.

– For sales performance to increase in store, I think the idea of a “virtual closet” that shows a customer’s previous purchases is interesting. Especially a high luxury retailer like Saks must differentiate itself from “fast” fashion of Zara, H &M, etc. and by offering customer service that is enhanced by digitization is a great way to help a client feel like their shopping experience is “curated”. Moreover, a more seamless connection is created between customer and store when sales associates can easily connect with their clients about sales, specials, etc.

– I do worry though how clients would respond in terms of how they feel about their privacy. Would it be weird if you are shopping in a Saks in a new city and the sales associate knows all about your past purchases? It is different when you get a promotion on a faceless website like Amazon.. but might be weirder in human-to-human terms.

– In terms of online presence, I saw recently that Neiman Marcus is going to feature Rent The Runway (HBS grad company!) in store to differentiate itself from other brick and mortar retailers that are trying to make it in the digital space. It would be interesting to see how Saks could join forces with retail start ups to boost sales online and in store!

This is so interesting. I am particularly intrigued beyond the article how can a city that has been iconic for its real estate development in the last +50 years embark on a total turnaround. Levine is committing investment to mitigating flooding issues, but I worry that the solutions have not been proven and that this could be another way for developers to take in money without actually offering up viable solutions for the city of Miami.

Perhaps a way to align incentives is to only give permits to developers who will contribute X amount from their project to financing relief from climate change?

On November 7, 2016, DG commented on How to help farmers in Uganda adapt to climate change? :

I love this! and I love how many of the same practices could be applied beyond Uganda to help farmers around the world. Particularly, I find it terrifying that 70% of fresh water in the world goes to agriculture – and your suggestion to look into a further step of drip irrigation is compelling. I would like to encourage farmers through education to use irrigation in a better way to avoid poor resource management. Given that water is limited, we need to make it work harder and go farther than it has in the past! I read a little bit more about the history of drip irrigation and came upon this Israeli company that pioneered it – http://www.netafim.com/ very interesting and worth having a read!

On November 7, 2016, DG commented on Powering the World, One Tofu Block at a Time :

This is so interesting! And something I would have perhaps never otherwise discover. I wonder where you see the biggest challenge for the use of tofu waste water in this way.

You write that we must standardize the process: You mention that there could be inefficient implementation – which is natural in the start of any shift such as this. I agree with you that there should be more planning to determine how the biodigesters are geographically distributed and further thought ought to be given to their capacity, and the demand – my concern is largely with exploitation and how to ensure that the tofu industry as it stands does not suffer as a result of this.

In terms of making the process more popular, it is great it has caught in Indonesia – and your point that the focus should be on converting households is spot on. But this might be a slower way to growth than if you focus on converting restaurants/businesses who heavily use tofu and have much more waste as a result.

You want to find international stakeholders – but I think we could also focus on driving international consumers of tofu in the same direction that Indonesia has taken along with getting stakeholders.

This is an incredibly poignant and relevant post. We should certainly use the Maldives as a ‘case study’ warning for other areas that could too fall victims of rising sea levels. I am also interested in how the Maldives is coping with how climate change is threatening access to fresh water – I remember reading that a few years ago drinking water had to be flown in from India for the capital when the only desalination plant was set on fire – which is in no way sustainable! Attached is the article from the Telegraph – would love to discuss it further with you!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/maldives/11276954/Maldives-facing-disaster-over-drinking-water-shortage.html

On November 7, 2016, DG commented on Ben & Jerry’s: If it’s melted, it’s ruined! :

It is interesting that the company’s analysis showed that 41% of Ben & Jerry’s carbon footprint came from cows. As such, it seems incredibly viable that turning to non-dairy ice cream (despite definitely requiring significant adjustment from Ben and Jerry’s current supply chain and operating model) could be a way for the company to diversify in a way that could make it less weak to climate change. I am not certain about tastes in the US, but in Europe there is definitely demand for non-dary ice cream.

“Demand for non-dairy ice cream is booming in Germany, as dairy alternatives are no longer strictly marketed to consumers with special dietary requirements, but appeal to a wider health-conscious consumer base. Indeed, new Mintel research finds nearly two-thirds (63%) of German ice cream consumers are interested in non-dairy alternatives, such as almond or coconut based ice cream.

Moreover, it seems German consumers are even willing to pay a premium price for these options, as one in five (20%) Germans say that they would be willing to pay more for non-dairy ice cream, rising to nearly one third (30%) among 16 to 24 year olds.”

http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/two-thirds-of-german-ice-cream-consumers-are-interested-in-non-dairy-alternatives