Curated Insights 2018.05.13

Who’s winning the self-driving car race?

Only Waymo has tested Level 4 vehicles on passengers who aren’t its employees—and those people volunteered to be test subjects. No one has yet demonstrated at Level 5, where the car is so independent that there’s no steering wheel. The victors will also need to pioneer businesses around the technology. Delivery and taxi services capable of generating huge profits is the end game for all.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts that robo-taxis will help the ride-hailing and -sharing business grow from $5 billion in revenue today to $285 billion by 2030. There are grand hopes for this business. Without drivers, operating margins could be in the 20 percent range, more than twice what carmakers generate right now. If that kind of growth and profit come to pass—very big ifs—it would be almost three times what GM makes in a year. And that doesn’t begin to count the money to be made in delivery.

Waymo had three collisions over more than 350,000 miles, while GM had 22 over 132,000 miles.

After Waymo, a handful of major players have demonstrated similar driving capabilities. It’s hard to say anyone has an edge. One advantage for GM: There’s a factory north of Detroit that can crank out self-driving Bolts. That will help GM get manufacturing right and lower costs without relying on partners. Right now, an autonomous version of the car costs around $200,000 to build, compared to a sticker price of $35,000 for an electric Bolt for human drivers.

Musk wants to use cameras and develop image-recognition capabilities so cars can read signs and truly see the road ahead. He has said Tesla is taking the more difficult path, but if he can come up with a better system, he will have mastered true autonomy without the bulky and expensive hardware that sits on top of rival self-driving cars. “They’re going to have a whole bunch of expensive equipment, most of which makes the car expensive, ugly and unnecessary,” Musk told analysts in February. “And I think they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

China’s got Jack Ma’s finance giant in its crosshairs

The rules will force Ant and some of its peers that straddle at least two financial industries to obtain licenses from China’s central bank and meet minimum capital requirements for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The companies’ ownership structures and inter-group transactions will also be restricted, the people said, adding that the rules need approval from China’s State Council and are subject to change.


Starbucks: A big deal should mean a sharper focus

The deal appeared positive because it ”accelerates the reach of Starbucks’ channel development segment globally by providing Starbucks with a strong distribution partner; and enables Starbucks to step up shareholder returns.

CEO Kevin Johnson said as much on the conference call. “We’ve been very focused on streamlining the company in a way that allows us to put our focus and energy behind the highest priority value creation drivers for the company,” he said. “And certainly, our retail business in the U.S. and China are the two big growth engines.”


Tinder: ‘Innovation’ can help it fight off Facebook

“In digital, and especially on mobile, there is always one brand that defines each core use case,” Ross wrote. “In dating, it is Tinder, whose user base and subscription base continue to explode globally. We don’t see that changing, even with scaled competition from Facebook.”

Tinder’s brand, scale and “freemium” model—with free basic access and the opportunity to pay up—should continue to make it appealing to users (particularly younger ones) even as new competitors emerge, according to Ross. “There is no real reason for singles not to still use the platform,” he wrote.

“The hard paywall brands tend to be those that are for the more serious online dater,” Ross noted, including older users and those seeking comparatively long-term relationships. “This is not only where Facebook has said it will focus, but also where it can best leverage its data and recommendation capabilities.”


Why A.I. and cryptocurrency are making one type of computer chip scarce

Crypto miners bought three million G.P.U. boards — flat panels that can be added to personal and other computers — worth $776 million last year, said Jon Peddie, a researcher who has tracked sales of the chips for decades. That may not sound like a lot in an overall market worth more than $15 billion, but the combination of A.I. builders and crypto miners — not to mention gamers — has squeezed the G.P.U. supply. Things have gotten so tight that resellers for Nvidia, the Silicon Valley chip maker that produces 70 percent of the G.P.U. boards, often restrict how many a company can buy each day.


PayPal: How it can fight back against Amazon Pay

“Given its two-sided network of 218 million consumers in the PayPal digital wallet and 19 million merchants for whom PayPal provides online & mobile merchant acquiring services, plus Xoom and Braintree, PayPal benefits from one of the most extensive payments ecosystems globally. Within this ecosystem, PayPal offers the best mobile wallet with an 89% conversion ratio from shopping cart to payment, creating strong consumer and merchant lock-in.”

It has other ways to provide incentives. “PayPal enjoys strategic alliances with Visa, Mastercard, Google, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba, Baidu, and a number of financial institutions, including Bank of America and HSBC, allowing it access to a vast customer base and potential consumer incentive plans,” they wrote, noting an HSBC offer to pay customers $25 if they link their cards to PayPal.

Etsy CEO: ‘Signs of progress’ in boosting repeat business

Etsy isn’t trying to become a place people shop every day, but it does want people to shop there more often. (The company cites figures saying 60% of customers buy just once a year.) It said both new and repeat buyers were up 20% year-over-year in Q1, which Silverman called “early signs of progress.”

Management wants to increase the “lifetime value” of a shopper by creating a cycle in which the company pays an acceptable rate for a new user, converts them to a buyer and then a repeat buyer, and then translates the money that buyer provides into more efficient marketing that acquires more new customers.

As Warren Buffett’s empire expands, many jobs disappear

Despite Buffett’s folksy image, Berkshire has thrived for years by keeping things lean and buying companies that—in his own words—are run by “cost-conscious and efficient managers.” The result? Buffett hasn’t shut down many operations during his five decades atop the firm. But more than two dozen of his companies employ fewer people today than they used to.

Berkshire often doesn’t note in the data when one of its businesses buys another, which can make it seem like there’s hiring when the conglomerate is just absorbing people. The company also doesn’t always make clear when units are combined or spun out of others.

The formula behind San Francisco’s startup success

Losing money is not a bug. It’s a feature. Not making money can be the ultimate competitive advantage, if you can afford it, as it prevents others from entering the space or catching up as your startup gobbles up greater and greater market share. Then, when rivals are out of the picture, it’s possible to raise prices and start focusing on operating in the black.

You might wonder why it’s so much better to lose money provided by Sequoia Capital than, say, a lower-profile but still wealthy investor. We could speculate that the following factors are at play: a firm’s reputation for selecting winning startups, a willingness of later investors to follow these VCs at higher valuations and these firms’ skill in shepherding portfolio companies through rapid growth cycles to an eventual exit.

Cheap innovations are often better than magical ones

Much of what we call “artificial intelligence”, say the authors, is best understood as a dirt-cheap prediction. Sufficiently accurate predictions allow radically different business models.

If a supermarket becomes good enough at predicting what I want to buy — perhaps conspiring with my fridge — then it can start shipping things to me without my asking, taking the bet that I will be pleased to see most of them when they arrive.

Another example is the airport lounge, a place designed to help busy people deal with the fact that in an uncertain world it is sensible to set off early for the airport. Route-planners, flight-trackers and other cheap prediction algorithms may allow many more people to trim their margin for error, arriving at the last moment and skipping the lounge.

Then there is health insurance; if a computer becomes able to predict with high accuracy whether you will or will not get cancer, then it is not clear that there is enough uncertainty left to insure.


The future of digital payments? Computational contracts, says Wolfram

Wolfram anticipates at least three levels of computational contracts, from minor transactions (less than $50) to mid-level (thousands of dollars) and high-end (in the millions).

“The lowest level–typically involving small amounts of money–one will be happy to execute just using someone’s cloud infrastructure (compare Uber, AirBnB, etc.),” he writes in his blog post. “There’s then a level at which one wants some degree of distributed scrutiny, and one expects a certain amount of predictability and reliability. This is potentially where blockchain (either public or private) comes in.

“But at the highest level–say transactions involving millions of dollars–nobody is going to realistically want to completely trust them to an automated system (think: DAO, etc.). And instead one’s going to want the backing of insurance, the legal system, governments, etc.: in other words one’s going to want to anchor things not just in something like a blockchain, but in the ‘weightiest’ systems our current society has to offer.”

A hedge-fund fee plan that only charges for alpha

Consider a hypothetical traditional hedge firm that has $1 billion of assets under management and another that charges a fulcrum fee of 0.75 percent, plus a quarter of the profits. If the markets rise 10 percent and the fund outperforms by 200 basis points, or 2 percent, a traditional hedge fund would charge $20 million (2 percent of $1 billion), plus a performance fee of $24 million (20 percent of the $120 million in gains) for a total of $44 million. Our hypothetical fulcrum fund would charge $12.5 million — a management fee of $7.5 million (0.75 percent of $1 billion), and a performance fee of $5 million (25 percent of the 2 percent above-market gain). The breakdown of the $24 million performance fee portion of the traditional hedge fund works out to $20 million for plain old beta and $4 million for alpha. That total is five times more than what the fulcrum shop charges for investment gains.

Now imagine a scenario where the market is up by 10 percent and a fund is up only 8 percent, or has 2 percent underperformance. The traditional hedge fund would have charged $20 million (2 percent of the $1 billion in assets under management) plus a performance fee of $16 million (20 percent of the $80 million in gains) for a total of $36 million dollars. Meanwhile, the fulcrum fund would charge $7.5 million (the 0.75 percent management fee), but it also would give a refund of $5 million (25 percent of the 2 percent, or $20 million, in underperformance). The net charge to clients would be $2.5 million. This is a small fraction of the amount charged by a standard hedged fund.

Why winners keep winning

With that 20% initial advantage, the final market share increases significantly. What is even more amazing is that this advantage was only given in the first round and everything after that was left to chance. If we were to keep increasing the size of the starting advantage, the distribution of final market shares would continue to increase as well.

The purpose of this simulation is to demonstrate how important starting conditions are when determining long term outcomes. Instead of marbles though it could be wealth, or popularity, or book sales. And most of these outcomes are greatly influenced by chance events. We like to think in America that most things come down to hard work, but a few lucky (or unlucky) breaks early on can have lasting effects over decades. If we look at luck in this way, it can change the way you view your life…

I ask you this question because accepting luck as a primary determinant in your life is one of the most freeing ways to view the world. Why? Because when you realize the magnitude of happenstance and serendipity in your life, you can stop judging yourself on your outcomes and start focusing on your efforts. It’s the only thing you can control.

Curated Insights 2017.12.03

A dynamic knowledge tool to understand the issues and forces driving transformational change across economies, industries, global issues and the Forum’s system initiatives.

How to tame Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple

The problem with price regulation is that Google doesn’t charge high prices—at least not to consumers, the traditional victims in monopoly cases. The company initially helped wipe out the profitability of newspapers and magazines, in part, by undercutting the price of print advertising. These days, however, Google can charge hefty prices to advertisers because it controls so much inventory and user data. Advertisers can feel they have no choice but to pay up, while consumers pay precisely zero to do searches or send emails.

Amazon is a “cheetelephant,” said one analyst: an elephant that runs as fast as a cheetah. It’s considerably faster than the regulators and lawmakers who have been caught flat-footed and are now wondering what, if anything, to do about its increasing market power, from books to groceries to moviemaking.

“If you look at the business models of these firms, none of these is a predatory pricing model. These firms are making a lot of money doing what they’re currently doing,” said Penn’s Hovenkamp. Besides, he said, “there are constantly new entrants” that would prevent a company from earning monopolistic profits. For antitrust enforcers, the problem is that by the time you know for sure whether a company predatorily drove rivals out of business, it’s too late to prevent it.

Facebook, in other words, is damned if it does censor and damned if it doesn’t. How is this likely to evolve? One possibility is that Facebook will tire of taking the heat and voluntarily submit to government regulation. A regulated Facebook would still have to employ people and algorithms to scour its website of forbidden materials, as it does today, but at least it could point the finger at lawmakers and regulators if questioned about its choices. The same would go for Google and some companies not covered here, such as Twitter.

It’s a good bet that there will be more such orders in coming years. Governments want money, and the four tech giants have a lot of it. In the meantime, while trying to come up with a better tax system, Europe is toying with the idea of taxing the tech companies’ revenue rather than their profits. The reasoning is that revenue is harder to manipulate. But revenue is a crude measure of a company’s ability to pay taxes. Revenue-based taxation would be too hard on companies with lots of revenue but little profit, and too easy on companies with little revenue but lots of profit.

Under an apportionment system, each country is still permitted to set its corporate tax rate however it chooses. But it will be able to charge its rate only on its little slice of the company’s global profit—a slice that’s determined by an agreed-upon formula. A country can no longer grab a bigger piece of a shrinking corporate-tax pie by cutting its rate below other countries’. In one stroke, the race to the bottom in tax rates is cut short.

Getting low-tax countries to go along with an apportionment system would be tough, though. No country wants to give up what makes it special. So something like the current tax system, albeit with fewer loopholes, is likely to persist for at least awhile. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon will keep finding ways to pit countries against one another.


Why Tencent Could Become an Advertising Powerhouse Like Facebook

Tencent’s ad revenue could more than double to $11.4 billion by 2019, according to researcher eMarketer. The company is estimated to increase its market share in China’s digital ad space to 15 percent from about 9 percent, eMarketer said.

Social advertising, which relies on information from a user’s network, is still a nascent business in China. The model that drives Facebook only accounts for about 10 percent of mainland digital marketing with e-commerce and search ads still taking the lion’s share. Lau expects that to change. “Social advertising can play a larger role,” said Lau. “In China, we are kind of pioneering the categories” of that.

So Tencent’s chosen to exercise restraint, usually showing just one ad per day on WeChat’s “Moments”, a function similar to Facebook’s news feed, capping inventory by intention. That’s why it earns just $2.10 per daily active user on WeChat, versus Facebook’s $30.10, Morgan Stanley estimates.

To do that, it’s enlisted an army of more than 250 computer scientists to expand in artificial intelligence, focusing on natural language processing, image recognition and user behavior prediction. That investment is showing up in some areas: Tencent worked with BMW to target high-end users based on their friends and location logs, sending them WeChat ads through which they could book test drives. The end game is converting ads into purchases, which is why the company’s exploring also hotels, dining and property, Lau said.


How Tencent could help Snapchat

Integrating gaming into Snapchat might be a good idea – not just because it creates more ways to generate revenue, but also because it can enhance user engagement. Globally, more people watch gaming videos and streams than HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu combined. As Snapchat strives to add users globally, it would be smart to tap into the millions of gamers worldwide who are already spending hours each day playing games, many of which Tencent has invested in.

“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term. We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”


Amazon focuses on machine learning to beat cloud rivals

The industry has turned into a race to provide customers tools and functions to use that data in new ways. Those tools are helping speed the transition to the cloud, since companies that don’t have access to them will be at a competitive disadvantage, Jassy said. “We are in a transition stage right now. Relatively few companies will own their own data centers, and those who do will have significantly smaller footprints. That means all of that data is moving to the cloud.”

The cloud computing market will grow to $89 billion in 2021, up from $35 billion today, according to technology research firm Gartner Inc.


Amazon AWS: Is that what the second headquarters is about? Asks Goldman

“While Amazon has never discussed any plans for a spin or any HQ2 plans relative to AWS, it is possible that the location of the new headquarters could provide some insight into the way management is thinking about the positioning of AWS.”

Terry’s curiosity is piqued by the fact that Amazon increasingly competes in the same industries that are customers for AWS, including gaming, healthcare and life sciences. Presumably, a separation of AWS might lessen the conflict there. Terry sees AWS being worth $430 billion, on a sum-of-the-parts basis, equaling 60% of Amazon’s enterprise value.


Broadcom could bid as much as $100 for Qualcomm and still see a payoff, says Canaccord

We assume Qualcomm settles its licensing dispute with Apple with Apple paying roughly half of what it previously paid Qualcomm for iPhone royalties. We also assume Qualcomm settles its dispute with Huawei or the other large OEM currently not paying Qualcomm royalties. We believe Broadcom management has solutions for Qualcomm’s disputes as part of its reasoning to make a bid for Qualcomm, but we have used these assumptions based on our Qualcomm scenario analysis used for our Qualcomm price target in our last published Qualcomm note. We also assume $500M in synergies achieved between Qualcomm and NXP in our scenario analysis including NXP. Further, we assume a 4% interest rate on combined debt for an acquisition with NXP and 3.5% for an acquisition without NXP given larger debt levels needed if the acquisition includes NXP. We also assume $1.5B in F2019 synergies between Broadcom in Qualcomm and a combined company tax rate of 15%.


Beyond Tesla’s semi truck: The future of trucking and transportation

We are currently entering a period of a rapid change in our transportation systems. And as I see it, it’s the innovator’s dilemma playing out in the wild: Incumbents like General Motors are moving too slowly to adapt to an all-electric future—wasting billions of dollars on stock buybacks—while upstarts like Tesla, unencumbered by legacy business models, are forging a path into a clean, fully-electric, fully-autonomous future. (GM has spent almost $17 billion in the last several years buying back its stock, three times what Tesla has spent building Gigafactories.)

One is that the cost of trucking falls by at least 50%, if not more. No driver, double the passive productivity, and in essence, you eliminate most of the safety problems. And by the way, if you apply this [autonomous] technology, many of the concerns we have from a safety standpoint about large trucks go away and you can make the trucks bigger. So, the costs fall at least in half. Transit time falls at half too, because you’re not waiting.

Let’s look at it from a technical standpoint. There are two competencies that keep trucking firms alive. The first one is their ability to match demand and supply; which is very important, and the second is their ability to manage drivers. There’s a modest competency with respect to equipment, but it’s not that important. Well, in the first place, if you if you eliminate the drivers, you eliminate half of the value-added that the trucker provides. And second, if you go to integrated big data, the business of matching capacity to demand becomes much easier. So, what it does is it either eliminates, or dramatically changes the principal competencies of whatever we call this entity which we now call “trucker” provides to the marketplace. So it’s big, big changes.


Why Tesla’s fuel efficiency advantage won’t last

At the early part of the 2000’s trucks getting 5 mpg were common. Today’s fleet is more like 7 mpg. That two miles per gallon increase means diesel used falls from 20,000 gallons a year down to under 15,000 gallons. Best-in-class trucks today might approach 9-10 miles per gallon. That three mpg increase versus fleet average (presumably what Tesla used in its cost calculator) is another 30% drop in fuel use, down to 10,000 gallons. The SuperTruck programs that get 12 or more mpg, (using many of the same aero techniques that Tesla’s Semi uses) would use around 8,000 gallons of fuel. In other words the opportunity to lower the Tesla cost of ownership with fuel savings is currently 15,000 diesel gallons a year, but will soon enough be only half that, using current line-of-sight technologies. At current fleet average diesel costs the savings opportunity on 100,000 miles per year is $37,500 per truck. At current best-in-class the available pool of offset-able fuel cost is $25,000. On future trucks, perhaps not too far distant from Tesla’s launch, is only $20,000 per year. All this assumes you can run a truck 100,000 miles a year in 300 to 500 mile increments.

The future difference between Tesla’s astonishing 19 mpg equivalent and the SuperTruck 12 mpg is only 3,000 gallons a year of diesel equivalent. Compared with the 7,000 gallons per truck per year already in the diesel improvement pipeline, that 3,000 gallons doesn’t look as compelling.


Inside the revolution at Etsy

Inside Etsy, Mr. Silverman’s reorganization has upended parts of the company once considered sacrosanct. Last month, Etsy changed its mission statement. Gone was a verbose commitment “to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.” Instead, the mission was reduced to just three words, “Keep commerce human,” accompanied by a spreadsheet outlining its goals for economic, social and ecological impact. And because remaining a B Corp would require the company to change its legal standing in Delaware, where it is incorporated, Etsy will let that certification lapse.


Paytm aims to become largest full-service digital bank

“Digital payments was our entry point, we want to become a vertically-integrated financial services company.”

Payments banks can accept deposits and remittances but cannot lend. Paytm is one of less than a dozen entities that got permits to start payments banks to bring financial services within easy reach of about a fifth of India’s 1.3 billion people who do not have access to organized financial services.

Paytm Payments Bank is majority-owned by Sharma. One97 Communications, which is backed by Alibaba Group Holding, Ant Financial Services and others, holds the remaining 49 percent. The payments bank morphed out of Paytm’s digital wallet which got a huge boost and amassed over a hundred million customers after India took its high currency bills, totaling nearly 90 percent of the value of cash, out of circulation last November.

Sharma may have found a way around the regulatory hurdles that bar lending. One97 Communications will introduce a charge card and offer monthly installment-based loans, he said. “We will launch share trading and insurance products very soon,” said Sharma. “We want to become an Internet-age financial services company.”

Business lessons from Ben Thompson of Stratechery

“Zero distribution costs. Zero marginal costs. Zero transactions. This is what the Internet enables, and it is completely transforming not just technology companies but companies in every single industry.” “Aggregation Theory is a completely new way to understand business in the Internet age.”

“instead of some companies serving the high end of a market with a superior experience while others serve the low-end with a “good-enough” offering, one company can serve everyone…. it makes sense to start at the high-end with customers who have a greater willingness-to-pay, and from there scale downwards, decreasing your price along with the decrease in your per-customer cost base (because of scale) as you go (and again, without accruing material marginal costs). Many of the most important new companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb and more are winning not by giving good-enough solutions to over-served low-end customers, but rather by delivering a superior experience that begins at the top of a market and works its way down…”

“Apple and Amazon do have businesses that qualify as aggregators, at least to a degree: for Apple, it is the App Store (as well as the Google Play Store). Apple owns the user relationship, incurs zero marginal costs in serving that user, and has a network of App Developers continually improving supply in response to demand. Amazon, meanwhile, has Amazon Merchant Services, which is a two-sided network where Amazon owns the end user and passes all marginal costs to merchants (i.e. suppliers).”

“Once an aggregator has gained some number of end users, suppliers will come onto the aggregator’s platform on the aggregator’s terms, effectively commoditizing and modularizing themselves. Those additional suppliers then make the aggregator more attractive to more users, which in turn draws more suppliers, in a virtuous cycle. This means that for aggregators, customer acquisition costs decrease over time; marginal customers are attracted to the platform by virtue of the increasing number of suppliers.”

“Breaking up a formerly integrated system — commoditizing and modularizing it — destroys incumbent value while simultaneously allowing a new entrant to integrate a different part of the value chain and thus capture new value.”


Active vs. passive vs. Amazon et al.

“Sectors such as finance, information technology, media, and pharmaceuticals — which have the highest margins — are developing a winner-take-all dynamic, with a wide gap between the most profitable companies and everyone else.”

“I have long described Amazon as a Field of Dreams company, one that goes for higher revenues first and then thinks about ways of converting those revenues into profits; if you build it, they will come. In coining this description, I am not being derisive but arguing that the market’s willingness to be patient with the company is largely a result of the consistency with [which] Jeff Bezos has told the same story for the company, since 1997, and acted in accordance with it.”

“These models have an in-built structure where they are going to tip into winner-take-all areas. The cost of adding a new user gets smaller and smaller the bigger you get. [This starts] creating a competitive advantage that gets harder and harder to bridge.”

It’s not unusual for a few stocks to drive broader market performance in a given year, but we would be foolish to ignore that it has been the same several stocks quite frequently in recent years. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google are responsible for roughly 20% of the S&P 500’s performance this year, and generated more than the entire return of the index in 2015.


The secret to tech’s next big breakthroughs? Stacking chips

The advantage is simple physics: When electrons have to travel long distances through copper wires, it takes more power, produces heat and reduces bandwidth. Stacked chips are more efficient, run cooler and communicate across much shorter interconnections at lightning speed.

Chip stacking enables totally new capabilities too. Some phone cameras stack an image sensor directly on top of the chip that processes the image. The extra speed means they can grab multiple exposures of an image and fuse them together, capturing more light for dim scenes.

But Mr. Dixon-Warren says the spread of 3-D chips is rapid and their takeover inevitable. A decade ago, this technology was limited almost exclusively to university labs; five or six years ago, it was still hard to find commercial examples. But now it’s popping up all over, in applications like networking and high-performance computing and in high-end wearables like the Apple Watch.


How does Costco sell 18-year-old single malt Scotch for $38?

“Costco has a volume deal with [spirits] companies including Edrington and Diageo. They agree to buy a certain amount of product at a certain price, which is far lower than everyone else is paying. For products like Johnnie Walker Blue or Macallan, it’s virtually impossible to beat Costco on price.”

“If Costco can control the importation of the whisky, get someone to distribute it to them at cost (or at very slim single-digit margins due to high volume) and then sell it at very low margins, then they’re golden.”

Finally, one reason rarely considered for why Costco might be able to offer better pricing is proof. Typically, whisky connoisseurs would want that 25-year-old Scotch to have some decent heft after all those years of concentrating in barrel. Alcohol is a conduit for flavor, after all. But all Kirkland Signature Scotches are sold at 80 proof, meaning that these whiskies are watered down to the absolute lowest legal limit and, thus, Costco is able to empty barrels into way more bottles.


Big oil and auto makers throw a lifeline to the combustion engine

The new lubricants are meant to help auto makers build smaller, turbocharged engines that are still quite powerful, resulting in efficiency gains close to 15% compared with older models. Optimizing internal combustion engines could boost efficiency by an additional 25%—a calculation that might tempt auto makers from spending more on electric-vehicle technology. Other efforts to enhance performance include adding gears to transmissions and making vehicles more aerodynamic.

The gains from engine oil alone are limited, however. Industry experts say the latest lubricants typically boost fuel economy by less than 1%, primarily by reducing the amount of energy needed to pump a piston. Even so, it is a highly cost-effective solution that adds up when spread across millions of vehicles.


‘It’s beautiful’: This Toronto startup is investors’ secret weapon to beating the market

Legal experts say investors may be risking more than their capital when using such alternative data since case law hasn’t yet determined what crosses the line into privacy violations or insider trading, but it’s a risk a growing number of financial institutions are willing to take, especially since in Apache’s case, and many others, it has paid off.

“That is the original alpha source, knowing something the market doesn’t know. It’s beautiful,” he said. “If you can come to them with a genuine information advantage, where they can know something their peers in the market do not know that’s tradable, that’s hugely valuable.”

Quandl is particularly interested in companies that produce what it calls “exhaust” data, or data collected as part of a company’s normal operations without intending to turn it into a revenue source. For example, insurance companies keep records of how many new car insurance policies they sell, as well as which vehicle manufacturer’s model is being insured, which happens to be a great predictor of new car sales before the automakers release the data themselves.

But Quandl faces a dilemma after convincing suppliers to sell their data: the more clients the company sells the data to, the less of an investing edge it provides, making it less valuable. To solve that problem, Quandl uses the data to build a predictive model to make an educated guess about how much money could be invested before the data loses its advantage and then sells it to a limited number of clients accordingly.


About 11% of land in Japan is unclaimed

That’s about 41,000 square kilometers (16,000 square miles), which is equivalent to the size of Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, or almost as large as Denmark. By 2040, land equivalent to Japan’s second-largest island of Hokkaido will be unclaimed or abandoned, according to a panel of experts and government representatives. This will cost the nation roughly 6 trillion yen ($54 billion) over the period 2017-2040, including lost development opportunities and uncollected taxes, the panel says.

“Land prices are falling in the depopulating regions,” Yamanome said. “Not only is it impossible to make money by owning some land, but also you can’t get rid of it because regional real estate markets are stale.”


Great products vs. great businesses

A product is something that solves someone’s problem. A business is a product that works so well that people will pay more than it costs to produce.

But losses come in different flavors. There is a difference between a company that loses money because it’s investing in the infrastructure needed to become a profitable company, and a company that loses money because it can’t charge customers a price that reflects what it costs to run the business. But we often conflate the two, treating all loss-making startups with a sense of, “It’s OK, they’re growing.”

Companies are staying private longer than they used to. So venture investors that specialize in the early phase of big-losses-because-we’re-investing-in-what-it-takes-to-build-a-profitable-business have found themselves holding mature companies that in a different era would have been passed onto investors who demanded a sustainable business model with profits. In any other era, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, and others all would have been public companies by now. And public markets almost certainly wouldn’t let losses pile up for as long as they have. We’ve seen this with Blue Apron and Snap, whose shares have fallen between 50% and 70% since going public just months ago. Both make amazing products that attracted armies of users, which VC investors oogled over. But public investors took one look at their business models and said, “What the hell is this?!” Who knows what that means for their future as standalone companies.


Pricing power: Delighting customers vs mortgaging your moat

The problem with this source of pricing power is that it comes with an off balance sheet liability. A sort of “negative goodwill” that grows every time you increase prices. While the profits might roll in for awhile, one day the customers will revolt. At the very least, the perceived excessive pricing of the well water will create a huge incentive for customers to try any new competitor that comes to town. While the high pricing makes it look like the company has a competitive advantage, in fact the excess returns are being created by a process that increases the likelihood of a successful competitive assault sometime in the future.


Lessons from a legendary short seller

“Because I never wanted to get up in the morning hoping that things would be getting worse. All intellectuals I think — and I don’t use that as a particularly flattering term — but all intellectuals tend to have a pessimistic streak.”

“I would forget the shorting. I think it’s over. It’s over for one simple reason: If shorts start working, that is, stocks go down for any sustained period of time, a great many people who are not now shorting will start shorting. There is a limited supply of stocks to borrow to sell short. Those stocks that are good shorts tend to be very obvious. As I’ve often said, I can predict with confidence that you’ll die. I cannot predict that you’ll be born, and so failure is analytically obvious and everybody piles into the same short. . . . I do believe if shorting really becomes profitable again, it’s going to become so crowded that most people won’t be able to borrow stock.”

Pulling iron from brain may offer hope in Alzheimer’s fight

The familiar metal is key to numerous brain functions, but too much of it is toxic. Researchers in Melbourne showed two years ago that iron levels in the brain can predict when people will get Alzheimer’s disease. Now, the team aims to show how removing excessive amounts with a drug called deferiprone can stave off the memory-robbing disorder.


Laptops are great. But not during a lecture or a meeting.

Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces.


Earnings Call Digest 2017.08

Apple (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Services revenue hit an all-time quarterly record of $7.3 billion representing 22% growth over last year. We continue to see great performance all around the world with double digit growth in each of our geographic segments. Over the last 12 months, our services business has become the size of a Fortune 100 company, a milestone we’ve reached even sooner than we had expected.

Sales of Apple Watch were up more than 50% in the June quarter and it’s the number one selling smartwatch in the world by a very wide margin.

We’re also seeing incredible enthusiasm for AirPods with 98% customer satisfaction based on Creative Strategy’s survey. We had increased production capacity for AirPods and are working very hard to get them to customers as quickly as we can, but we are still not able to meet the strong level of demand.

We are very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view. We do have a large project going and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view, autonomy is the mother of all AI projects. And the autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways and a vehicle is only one.

The App Store was a major driver of this performance. And according to App Annie’s latest report, it continues to be by a wide margin the preferred destination for customer purchases, generating nearly twice the revenue of Google Play. Revenue from our Apple Music streaming service and from iCloud storage also grew very strongly. And across all of our Services offerings, the number of paid subscriptions reached over 185 million, an increase of almost 20 million in the last 90 days alone.


Square (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

One of the drivers of our results is our work on automation, which I mentioned is an area of increased focus for us this year. Automation has always been a core differentiator for us. We’ve used machine learning and data science to manage risk since the beginning of Square. We’re constantly looking for ways to make our services more automated and more self-serve and machine learning is perfect for that.

First, automation allows us to give more people access to the financial system. More than 90% of sellers are automatically approved and self-onboard to process payments, and we’re able to onboard individuals to Square Cash with just a zip code and an e-mail address or phone number. We’ve extended this approach to risk management in Square Capital to provide financing to the underserved.

Second, automation helps us scale as we grow. For example, we currently automate risk assessment for more than 99.95% of transactions. We’re also able to make improvements to our manual handling; our fraud models have already allowed us to resolve 40% more cases every week, compared to beginning of the year.

And third, automation allows us to help our sellers grow. You can see this in our unique suite of CRM tools. We leverage our deep understanding of the customer to build marketing and loyalty programs that are easy to use, measurable and effective. Our loyalty programs are tracked and managed by Square point-of-sale and our technology automatically recommends programs optimized for the seller’s particular business.

Subscription and services-based revenue nearly doubled on a year-over-year basis as Instant Deposits, Caviar and Square Capital all benefited from stronger adoption, both within our installed-based and for bringing new customers to the Square ecosystem.


Tesla (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

What we have ahead of us, of course, is an incredibly difficult production ramp. Nonetheless, I think we’ve got a great team, and I’m very confident that we will be able to reach a production rate of 10,000 vehicles per week towards the end of next year. And we remain – we believe on track to achieve a 5,000 unit week by the end of this year.

So, if you can sort of see where we came from, the Roadster – we were making only 600 units a week where the non-powertrain portion of the car was made by Lotus. And we did the powertrain and final assembly of the car, and then we went from that to 20,000 units a year of the Model S, a far more complex car, where we did the whole thing. And then with Model 3, we are more vertically integrated. I think people should really not have any concerns that we will reach that outcome from a production rate.

…We’re also thinking hard about, where do we put Gigafactorys three, four, five and six? We expect to keep the majority of our production in the U.S., but it’s, obviously, going to make sense to establish a Gigafactory in China and Europe to serve the markets there, because it’s not to build cars in California and truck them halfway around the world, particularly when you’re trying to make things as affordable as possible – that really hurts. We really want to make our cars as affordable as possible. And so that does require some amount of local market production, particularly for the mass market vehicles in order to make it as accessible as possible.

Model Y, or our compact SUV – it’s called Model Y. It may or may not be – would be a totally new architecture. Upon the council of my executive team – thank you. Thanks, guys – who reeled me back from the cliffs of insanity – much appreciated – the Model Y will in fact be using a substantial carryover from Model 3 in order to bring its market faster. Yes. So that will really accelerate our ability to get to Model Y to market faster, because fundamentally people prefer a sedan, people prefer an SUV. And in fact, the SUV market is larger. It’s the biggest single product I believe in the world.


Tableau Software (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

With subscription, our customers get the full power and simplicity of Tableau but with lower risk and a lower initial investment. And the move to subscription also creates recurring revenue streams, generates more predictable results over the long-term and expands the overall market.

For example, this quarter TransUnion, a credit reporting and global risk information provider that serves over 45,000 companies and more than 500 million customers, standardized their analytics on Tableau across multiple areas from credit reporting to health care and auto lending, amongst many others. By signing a subscription agreement, TransUnion will be able to flexibly scale their deployment as they grow and build out their analytic solutions…We continue to believe that subscription is the right long-term decision for all of our stakeholders and will only help us to sharpen our commitment to our customers on a daily basis.

Our passionate customer base is not just a U.S. phenomenon; it’s global. And it’s been incredible to see our community thrive around the world, across various user groups, training groups and conferences. For example, in the UK, Jet2.com, a leading British leisure airline and package holiday specialist, recently chose Tableau to visualize complex data that was difficult to analyze and access within Excel. With Tableau, Jet2 is now able to better analyze a range of data to attain faster speed to insight.

And in APAC, Mercedes-Benz expanded their self-service analytics capabilities with Tableau in their China Financial Services Group. Now the company, including the most senior management has real-time visibility on the organization’s auto financing, leasing and insurance performance and now makes daily strategic business decisions from a single source of truth through Tableau.

Turning now to customer momentum in the cloud, we’re seeing strong demand from customers who want to be able to run their analytics in the cloud. And with Tableau, customers can deploy on their choice of cloud, whether it be AWS, Azure or Google or a fully managed SaaS solution via Tableau Online. That flexibility and choice has already attracted thousands of customers running on Tableau Online and thousands more running Tableau on the public cloud. In fact, over one-third of our Tableau server trials today are deployed in the public cloud.

Turning now to product, I want to focus on two important areas: giving our customers choice with how they connect to their data and enriching our smart analytics offering via machine learning recommendations. Tableau now has over 65 native data connectors from on-premises databases like Oracle and SAP, Hadoop systems like Cloudera and Hortonworks, and cloud databases like Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery.


IAC/InterActiveCorp (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

…it is a very – the SVOD market is very crowded and cost were skyrocketing.

In terms of new M&A, the thing that worked well for us are this concept of product – the scale improved the product, not just the price. That is the way – the way we think about network businesses or marketplace businesses and that’s what we’re looking for.

…there is again a natural tailwind today are in terms of the online migration, in terms of video being more relevant in a lot more places than it used to be, to a lot of businesses than it used to be, to lot more individuals than it used to be.


Activision Blizzard (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We invest in creative and commercial excellence in order to expand reach, deepen engagement and provide more opportunity for player investment which then allows for reinvestment in creative and commercial excellence and for the growth cycle to continue.

Let’s start with audience reach, which was 407 million monthly active users this quarter. Blizzard did not have any new full game releases this quarter, yet a strong stream of content updates across Blizzard franchises drove an all-time MAU record of 46 million, up 38% from last year and up 12% from the last quarter. Blizzard’s community has now more than doubled in MAUs since early 2015, underscoring the ability to grow audience reach across the portfolio of platforms, regions, genres and business models.

As illustrated by the frequency with which players reengage each month, it remains at an all-time high. To put this in perspective, the time spent per player per day inside King franchises is 35 minutes, higher than that of Instagram or Snapchat.


Workiva (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

A large regional bank is using Wdesk for its call reports which are quarterly filings required by the FDIC. A large sporting-goods company is now using Wdesk for corporate performance management. The company will use Wdesk to consolidate spreadsheets into a linked workbook, thereby reducing manual data entry. The treasury department of a private electrical products manufacturer is using Wdesk for debt compliance reporting.

We remain focused on our leadership in the SEC compliance market. We continue to add new customers at both large and small public companies, because we believe that Wdesk is widely regarded as the best practice for SEC reporting and XBRL. In the first quarter of 2017, Wdesk was used to file 53% of all XBRL facts with the SEC. So as you can see, we have room to grow in this market. Customer press releases this quarter reported that a multinational agri business is achieving an ROI of 266% and reaping more than $677,000 in total savings and benefits over 3 years by using Wdesk to streamline its management reporting.

We finished Q2 with 2908 customers, a net increase of 286 customers from Q2 2016 and a net increase of 83 customers from Q1 2017. Our subscription and support revenue retention rate, excluding add-ons, was 96.1% for the month of June 2017 compared with 95.1% in both March 2017 and June 2016. Customers being acquired or ceasing to file SEC reports accounted for a majority of revenue attrition, consistent with our experience to date. With add-ons, our subscription and support revenue retention rate was 106% for the month of June 2017 compared with 106.6% in March 2017 and 110.2% in June 2016. Increased subscription revenue on non-SEC use cases from existing customers continues to be the primary driver of our add-on revenue retention rate.


Etsy (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

There has been much speculation about the size of the market for handmade. But handmade is not a purchase occasion nor is it representative of all of our 45 million listings. Etsy is about so much more than handmade. Buyers come to us when they want something special. And being the destination for something special is powerful because special can’t be commoditized.

But how big is the market for special? We believe the market for special is huge. Etsy shines specifically in three types of purchase occasions. Celebrations, gifting and style. If you think about it, these types of occasions happen regularly throughout the year. These occasions drive purchases across six primary categories, clothing and accessories, home and living, jewelry, craft supplies, art and collectibles, and paper and party supplies. Not surprisingly, these are also Etsy’s top six categories based on GMS.

First, we are building trust and reliability throughout the buyer experience. Trust is essential for any marketplace but is even more so for one that’s both on original and unbranded goods. Our goal is to bolster trust not just in the item and the seller, but in the Etsy brand.


NVIDIA (Q2 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Data center is a very large market, as you know, and the reason for that is because the vast majority of the world’s future computing will be largely done in data centers. And there’s a very well accepted notion now that GPU acceleration of servers delivers extraordinary value proposition. If you have a data-intensive application, and the vast majority of the future applications in data centers will be data intensive, a GPU could reduce the number of servers you require or increase the amount of throughput pretty substantially. Just adding one GPU to a server could reduce several hundred thousand dollars of reduction in number of servers. And so the value proposition and the cost savings of using GPUs is quite extraordinary.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain is here to stay. The market need for it is going to grow, and over time it will become quite large. It is very clear that new currencies will come to market, and it’s very clear that the GPU is just fantastic at cryptography. And as these new algorithms are being developed, the GPU is really quite ideal for it. And so this is a market that is not likely to go away anytime soon, and the only thing that we can probably expect is that there will be more currencies to come. It will come in a whole lot of different nations. It will emerge from time to time, and the GPU is really quite great for it.

Volta was a giant leap. It’s got 120 teraflops. Another way to think about that is eight of them in one node is essentially one petaflops, which puts it among the top 20 fastest supercomputers on the planet. And the entire world’s top 500 supercomputers are only 700 petaflops. And with eight Voltas in one box, we’re doing artificial intelligence that represents one of them. So Volta is just a gigantic leap for deep learning and it’s such a gigantic leap for processing that – and we announced it at GTC, if you recall, which is practically right at the beginning of the quarter.

A neural net in terms of complexity is approximately – not quite, but approximately doubling every year. And this is one of the exciting things about artificial intelligence. In no time in my history of looking at computers in the last 35 years have we ever seen a double exponential where the GPU computing model, our GPUs are essentially increasing in performance by approximately three times each year. In order to be 100 times in just four years, we have to increase overall system performance by a factor of three, by over a factor of three every year.

And yet on the other hand, on top of it, the neural network architecture and the algorithms that are being developed are improving in accuracy by about twice each year. And so object recognition accuracy is improving by twice each year, or the error rate is decreasing by half each year. And speech recognition is improving by a factor of two each year. And so you’ve got these two exponentials that are happening, and it’s pretty exciting. That’s one of the reasons why AI is moving so fast.

The second major component is our self-driving car platforms, and a lot of it still is infotainment systems. Our infotainment system is going to evolve into an AI cockpit product line. We initially started with autonomous driving. But you probably heard me say at GTC that our future infotainment systems will basically turn your cockpit or turn your car into an AI. So your whole car will become an AI. It will talk to you. It will know where you are. It knows who’s in the cabin. And if there are potential things to be concerned about around the car, it might even just tell you in natural language. And so the entire car will become an AI.

The next revolution of AI will be at the edge, and the most visible impactful evidence will be the autonomous vehicle. Our strategy is to build a ground-up deep learning platform for self-driving cars, and that has put us in pole position to lead the charge.


The Walt Disney (Q3 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

It’s been clear to us for a while with the future of this industry will be forged by direct relationships between content creators and consumers. Given our incomparable collection of strong brands that are recognized and respected the world over, no one is better positioned to lead the industry into this dynamic new era, and we’re accelerating our strategy to be at the forefront of this transformation.

With this strategic shift, we’ll end our distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases beginning with the 2019 calendar-year theatrical slate. These announcements marked the beginning of what will be an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the opportunities the changing media and technology industries provide us to leverage the strength of our great brands.

But we’ve already begun the development process at the Disney Channel and at the Studio to create original TV series and original movies for this service. So if the Studio makes, let’s call it, roughly 10 films a year or distributes 10 films a year – that includes Marvel and Pixar and Star Wars and Disney-branded and Disney Animation. We’ve commissioned them to make, to produce more films with the incremental films being produced very, very specifically and very exclusively for this service. So this will represent a larger investment in Disney-branded intellectual property, both TV and movies.

I think there are forces, whether they’re technological in nature or sociological or economic in nature, out there that are changing the way media is consumed in general, and I don’t think this is either going to hasten them or exacerbate things in any way. What it does do, though, is a couple of things. First of all, it gives us the ability to leverage the strength of our brands, which a lot of our peers and competitors do not have. Secondly, it gives us what we’d call optionality. It’s a word I’ve not used very much in my life, but it gives us the flexibility, really, to move our product to the consumer in many new ways, ways that we’ve not been able to do before, because of just how strong this platform is that we bought control of.


TripAdvisor (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We have large app penetration and a great ability to offer attractions to our users, so marketing efficiency, but then just operational efficiency as well. So initially, a lot of manpower going into both site development as well as supply expansion and we’re now reaping some of the leverage benefits from that going forward. So you are right, we are managing the business not for profitability. We’re managing it for growth. There’s just tremendous opportunity in terms of the TAM of this – particularly the attractions market space. We feel we have an early lead and we continue to invest aggressively to capitalize on that advantage. So, we’re not seeking margin expansion, and going forward, we will continue to emphasize revenue growth. But the way the business has evolved has allowed us to see some margin expansion this year.

In terms of the monetization, there’s likely to be always a delta between monetization on desktop and on the phone. It is just more plausible that you book a larger trip, a multi-day, multi-destination trip on your desktop in the comfort, obviously, on your big screen and more detailed photos and skew the more immediate purchases to the phone.

As we are working on our conversion improvements, they’re all aligned with matching our advertising campaign and matching our value proposition that delivering to travelers of helping them save money on this trip. We’re so well known for reviews, which is wonderful, incredible differentiator. It’s hard to imagine anyone could ever make a serious inroad to us in terms of being a competitor in that space. But as we move the product, the display, the visibility and the impression of TripAdvisor on the part of our travelers, to view us as that review site, that review site that actually saved me a ton of money because it offered me a great value hotel that I wouldn’t have otherwise find with a better price or it helped me find the best place to actually reserve a room at this hotel that I want to go at, and that’s kind of a new piece and so part of the site redesign was clarity. Part of the site redesign was easier shopping experience, but one of the things that we love the most from our testing that we’ve achieved in this redesign is that we are educating our users, our travelers that we’re helping to save them money, that we’re finding them great prices. And we see that come through in our surveys, we see that come through in those anecdotes in the stories, and that matches, of course, the big message in our brand campaigns.


MakeMyTrip (Q1 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The latest estimates from IAMAI, the Internet and Mobile Association of India, indicates that India now has roughly 420 million mobile Internet users and this base is expected to keep growing rapidly.

Large opportunities for new user growth will likely come from the non-urban parts of the country where penetration levels are estimated at 16%. Affordable smartphones and data plans are easily available via the recent disruptive offers from the telecom players led by Reliance Jio.

Additionally, a significant government initiative which can facilitate online penetration is the unified payments interface app called BHIM, which creates a common nationwide payments platform for simple and quick transfer of money.

Indian carriers collectively have already placed more than 1,300 new orders, with 250 planes expected to be put into service over the next two to three years. Furthermore, demand for air travel is expected to increase with the launch of the government’s regional air connectivity program called Udan by operationalizing up to 100 regional airports out of a total 400 unserved or underserved domestic regional airports by fiscal year 2019.


DISH Network (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

I think each carriers offer a little bit different strategy today. I mean, obviously AT&T is getting more heavily into the content side of the business. Verizon’s got more of a small cell strategy and T-Mobile is just taking away a lot of the pain points that are out there. So each have strategies that those guys are a lot more knowledgeable about the wireless business than I am, so each of the – there’s no reason that each of those strategies can’t work.

So, all those things are going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that if you’re born today in the United States, you’re probably not going to have one second of your life you’re not connected. And you’re going to use a lot of data during your lifetime. And there’s going to be – and that’s just people. And every microprocessor and every light and every other thing is going to have a sensor that’s going to be connected. And that’s just – it’s going to make us more productive. And it’s going to save companies money. And so there’s going to be very large companies coming out of the connectivity business on a big scale, and we hope to play a part in that.

You can’t have all the profits going to three or four companies and have the guys that are – the companies that are providing them the raw material to make that money, not get wake up one day and get a little smarter. That’d be my guess, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But at some point, all the money going one direction, a lot of people are enabling that. They’re going to wake up and say maybe they should get – I’ve been through this business long enough to know that the money ebbs and flows between distribution and content. It’s probably going to continue to do that today. And a lot of the content companies, probably the distribution guys, probably are going to be in position to get a more of it. Then it may go the other direction.

The average smartphone probably consumes, I don’t know, 5 gigs a month. Use cases that are being discussed around 5G that will start to materialize in the early 2020s, they’re going to dwarf that in terms of the amount of data consumed whether that be drone network or autonomous vehicles or healthcare or massive connectivity. So to look at the marketplace in terms of today’s four big competitors and the new entrants, I think you have to really think about how the market will get redefined in the next five years to seven years to ten years.


The Home Depot (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We’ve had obviously a protracted recovery here, and it has been clearly driven from housing which has been a steady but slow recovery in the market. You know we continually look at months of supply, there is 4.3 months of supply in the market of housing availability against a historical norm of six, that clearly is helping to drive improvement in home value appreciation, but housing starts haven’t returned to their norm yet either. The only thing that’s kind of run on an historical averages is housing turnover. So, we see this housing favorability continuing as we look forward. And I think the watch out for us is, you wouldn’t want to see affordability become an issue, but that at this point doesn’t seem to be a concern for us at all.

Right. As we look at the affordability index, it stands at 153%, so long ways to go before that would be a watch out for us. And recovery is a difficult thing to put your arms around. But if you look at simply PFRI dollars they’ve only recovered 70% of the loss. The other thing that’s really interesting to us is the age of the housing stock. We’ve talked to you a lot about 66% of the housing stock being older than 30 years. Did you know that 51% of the house stock is older than 40 years and as houses age, well, they need more of repair.


TJX Companies (Q2 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

Our key pillars for growth remain driving comp sales and customer traffic and our global store expansion. Our consistently strong performance tells us that our strategies to drive customer traffic and comp sales are working. Further, we see enormous global store growth potential for TJX. We have plenty of white space or markets to fill in throughout our current countries. Long-term, we see the opportunity to open 5,600 stores with just our current banners and that’s about 1,700 more stores than we have today. We continue to see store openings as an attractive investment and a very good use of capital. We are convinced that these growth drivers will allow us to continue to capture additional market share both in the U.S. and internationally.

We see our treasure hunt shopping experience as an advantage. As today shopper spends more on personal experiences, particularly millennials they constructed dollars further in our stores in both our apparel and non-apparel categories. We are very pleased that across our major divisions we continue to capture a broad age demographic with new shoppers skewing towards younger customers. We see this as a great indicator for our future.

In closing I would like to emphasize that the key advantages that I have discussed today are all built on our 40 years plus of experience in building, developing and refining our off-price retail model. While we were trying to keep our business simple and focused, the ability to operate and highly integrate international – to operate a highly integrated international off-price retail business doesn’t happen overnight and we believe would be extremely difficult to replicate. We have decades of experience to build international teams and infrastructures that we see as key advantages. We believe our buying organization of more than 1,000 associates is best-in-class. We have great longevity among our buyers which we attribute to our very strong corporate culture. Our worldwide vendor universe also took us decades to build. We see ourselves as a global sourcing machine. Our processes, systems and logistics are all built to support our off-price opportunistic buying. Further, we have been operating internationally for well over two decades and are the only major international off-price apparel and home fashions retailer.


Tencent Holdings (Q2 2017 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

We have been investing heavily in AI but relatively quietly, as we view AI as an essential capability that enhances user experience and empowers us to capture the new exciting opportunities to grow our businesses for the future. We’re confident that our existing strength in computing power, data, engineering, technologies as well as use cases coupled with our proactive build-up of AI content — talent will give us a favorable position in this strategic initiative. Especially a wide and diversified business scope creates a variety of use cases for AI research and application across a range of AI fundamental research areas, such as machine learning, computer vision, speech recognition and natural language processing. We will be persistent but patient with our AI investment, because we believe it is a long-term initiative, and we do not necessarily require a research to generate revenue directly in the short-term. On the other hand, AI will significantly benefit all of our existing products, services and businesses in many ways.

There is a lot of usage, more and more people are watching online video at longer and longer time, on a daily basis. But at the same time — and at the same time, advertising revenue has been increasing, and there is also an increasing willingness from consumers to pay. So, the subscription number as well as revenue has been increasing quite rapidly. On the other hand, the flip side of this is the cost of content has been increasing, even faster. So, what we see is that over time, we believe the content will continue to increase, but the rates would probably be lower. And the subscription, as we continue to increase, would deliver higher revenue per active user. So, we will get closer to a more equilibrium between cost and revenue at some point in time. But I think unfortunately at this point in time, the net loss of the business is still increasing.

It’s a little bit tough to make advertising revenue from that because we usually — these video are relatively short; and depending on how aggressive you are in terms of balancing user experience and monetization, I think if you really care about user experience and the trends of putting advertising on these short videos are more limited.

In terms of the advertising, I think most of the growth has actually been from the click-through rates as well as the improvement in targeting technology. As a result, the pricing achieved has been higher. There is some help from the other two factors, which is slight increase in terms of the inventory and an increase in terms of the general traffic. But, I think from the inventory angle, we have achieved a second ad for some cities, but within a 24-hour period, not everybody is seeing two ads. So, compared to our international peers, I think the amount of inventory is relatively small. And at the same time, the traffic increase has been most significant around Moments. Then, if you look at our performance ads, it’s across pretty large number of different properties. So, the traffic growth in the other areas might not be as great as the Moments traffic increase.

At this point, my guess is that the big advertisers have a certain budget for television and then for online video and then they have a separate budget for social and a separate budget for search and so forth. And then, the migration between those buckets happens relatively slowly, typically at the beginning of each year rather than happening on a month-by-month basis.

In terms of providing AI-as-a-service, I think this is definitely a one direction that we are going into in our cloud business already and we are seeing a lot of demand on that. And we have been able to sign up a lot of customers because of our ability to offer them AI capability. And that’s just the beginning. Over time, I think we will do much more on that.

In terms of games and targeting, if you look at games playing globally, particularly on the personal computer, it’s moved from being media driven to being increasingly community driven. 20 years ago, people discovered new games on the PC in the U.S. and Europe through computer magazines; now, they’re discovering them through reddit, through Twitch, through those kinds of more communal venues. And some of the same trends are underway in China. And what we’re trying to do is working with the game developers to make sure that we target their games to the users who are likely to be most receptive.


Alibaba Group (Q1 2018 Results) – Earnings Call Transcript

The macro way of looking at the landscape is e-commerce accounts for 15% of total retail in China. The retail segment in China is about $5 trillion economy in value. 15% of e-commerce still leads, 85% of retail that is offline.

In this new world of consumption expectations, the distinction between online and offline would disappear.

Mobile Taobao is the Chinese consumers’ leading destination for online shopping and the total MAU for mobile apps with access to our China retail marketplaces has grown to 529 million. No other commerce app in the world compares to mobile Taobao’s consumer engagement and user stickiness. Our user stickiness measured by the DAU divided by MAU ratio continues to remain above 40% due to our relentless focus on more content and community-driven engagement on the approximately, allowing consumers to enjoy the fun of discovery and exploration. We not only satisfy existing user needs but more importantly we’re able to stimulate new demand as user experiences have become more content-driven by community of consumption-related content generators, such as influencers and key opinion leaders have emerged alongside buyers and sellers in the ecosystem.

What unifies the businesses in the Alibaba economy is our mission, to make it easy to do business anywhere. We believe the path to value creation becomes extremely clear when we focus on a single mission. In the next 5, 10, 15 years, you will see an unfolding of how we execute the new retail strategy as it becomes an integral part of the Alibaba economy. Shareholder value will follow when we create value for our customers. So, understanding this is important to understanding a long view of Alibaba.

Our cloud computing business continues to enjoy high growth at scale with annualized revenue growth well exceeding $1 billion, while paying customers surpassed 1 million. An important milestone in a landscape where every industry is seeking to migrate to the cloud, we believe 1 million is merely a starting point.

Regarding 30-minute delivery, as an example of where new retail can be very disruptive to existing ecommerce. Consumer demand is generated from an in-store experience and then that consumer says, well, I am going to a movie, so I don’t want to a carry bag with me, so I am going to have it delivered to my home within a very short period of time. That’s where logistics — your traditional e-commerce logistics infrastructure can be disruptive because you’ll need to fulfill out of that retail location as opposed to out of a warehouse that is not even in the city center. So, the expectation becomes 30 minutes and not overnight or 24 hours. So, that’s going to be very, very disruptive to existing infrastructure and investments that have been made.