Sarah Walker

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On November 15, 2018, Sarah Walker commented on Revolutionizing personal credit with machine learning :

Interesting article on using machine learning to provide an alternate take on the FICO score. One possible barrier to entry for competitors is having access to the same kind of data Avant uses for predictions, but if the “10,000 variables” actually use a lot of info that can be found publicly/users can easily grant access to (e.g. info on a Facebook profile) then this isn’t likely to be more than a speedbump. Regulation, as cited, is more likely to pose a significant barrier to entry as the industry ramps up. Unfortunately, once competitors get past barriers to entry, I don’t see much the firms can differentiate on – it sounds like Avant is quite similar to traditional banks except for how they determine who to lend to, and the traditional banks don’t have much to compete on except possibly ‘frills’ like good customer service. “Money is a commodity”, and if pricing (aka interest rates) becomes the main differentiator it could spark a race towards lower and lower rates and thus lower margins.

Great article on the use of machine learning to support sales. I do not think that AI will replace sales reps entirely – machine learning makes its predictions based on patterns from the past. That means it will keep going after customers who look like the previous ones, and that isn’t necessarily what one wants especially if say moving into a new line of business, with different products and a totally different customer audience. And on the “soft” side of things, sales teams are essential for establishing and maintaining client relationships, which can be quite important in B2B. In the future, there are likely to be many more EdTech companies that pop up, and one way PluralSight can head off the competition is by leaning on long-term relationships with their existing clients. It’s similar to how many clients stay with certain consulting firms because they have a long relationship with those specific ones.

On November 15, 2018, Sarah Walker commented on Betabrand: Too Much Open Innovation? :

Great article on the use of open innovation in fashion. I’m actually less concerned about losing the customer base than about losing the co-creator base. I think generally of the customer base, only a small percent will serve as co-creators (say ~5%). There’s a good possibility that these are aspiring designers, who hope to use Betabrand’s products as a proof-of-concept when applying for positions at well-known fashion houses. If those fashion houses themselves start using open innovation, then the aspiring designers will likely switch to creating on their platforms instead.

I agree that Betabrand should find a better balance between the open innovation approach and the traditional top-down production approach. I don’t think this necessitates opening more brick-and-mortar stores (expensive), at least not soon – they could probably utilize lower-cost marketing to drive customers looking for quirky fashion to their website, at least while they are still one of the pioneers in the fashion open-innovation space.

On November 15, 2018, Sarah Walker commented on Modern Meadow: Using Additive Manufacturing to Reimagine Fashion and Food :

Great article on how 3D printing can be applied in ways to help save the environment. I would say that Modern Meadow’s time is better spent on traditional cow leathers, at least at first – it’s used in many more products (shoes, wallets, belts, etc.) and wide consumer exposure to bioleather versions of these common products would help bioleather gain acceptance. Also, exotic leathers are probably prized in part because they came from an exotic animal – those buyers probably want the imperfections because they prove that the leather is from a ‘real’ source.

Getting consumers to be comfortable with biofabricated food could be very tricky (it could suffer a similar backlash as the one against GMOs). One idea might be to initially channel it through some avant-garde restaurants as a novelty food, then allow word to spread of how it’s just like the ‘real’ thing, and expand the market from there.

On November 14, 2018, Sarah Walker commented on Open Innovation for League of Legends :

Very nice article on open innovation in esports. There’s an obvious parallel to be drawn to “mods” (modifications) in single player games as well; Valve’s Steam workshop encourages open innovation by providing a platform for people to submit game modifications.

For idea selection, I think allowing the community to vote on product changes is actually not a great idea as-is. There are quite a number of early-access games on Steam that changed some features in response to user feedback, only to find that users didn’t quite know what they really wanted (similar to how people will respond to marketing surveys). In my opinion, the best way to do this is let users “vote with their feet” – release potential product updates as mods/on trial servers and see which ones become the most popular.

I believe an esports game can have the staying power of a sport like basketball. Looking at similarities, rules/mechanics of basketball have never (significantly) changed, and games usually only improve on this front. The existence of star players and teams is the same. The most notable difference is the existence of a “home team”, where any given basketball audience member is linked to a particular team simply based on their hometown. Esports teams don’t yet have such an easy way for fans to affiliate with and feel close to their teams, but I think this is something which can happen and would cement esports as a ‘sport’.

On November 14, 2018, Sarah Walker commented on Can Organovo Bio-print a Human Organ Before Money Runs Out? :

This article provides a good perspective on a technology that, if successful, could significantly impact society – including no more need for organ donations and shorter wait times for organ transplants. It’s worth noting that Prellis Biologics has (claimed to have) found a solution to the issue of tissue vascularization. They use holographic printing technology and a photochemical reaction that happens in <5 ms, fast enough so that the cells will stay viable. (News article about it here: https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/25/implantable-3d-printed-organs-could-be-coming-sooner-than-you-think/). They don't currently have a peer-reviewed paper published on the technology, but it could be promising.

I think the ultimate cost-effectiveness of the NovoTissue regimen will be dependent in part on whether Organovo is able to 3D print tissues that a patient's body will recognize as its own, preventing transplant rejection. Currently organ transplant patients have to stay on immunosuppressants to prevent rejection, Thus, there's an opportunity for payors to save on cost if patients no longer need immunosuppressant drugs after surgery, and also potentially save on cost from fewer post-surgery complications. These savings might offset the high cost of tissue materials and labor costs of surgery.