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What I’m Reading: Week of 3/20/17

I’m going to try to post something weekly about what I’ve been reading, just because I like to share and you know what they say, sharing is caring.


  1. You might have see my two entries on Medium about blockchain (generally on blockchain and then applications of blockchain to connect EHR systems).  Back in February, McKinsey published a piece on applying the blockchain to public section data management.  I think it is a really good read and recommend it to those looking for a good read.
  2. The New York Times published a story on how self-driving cars could really benefit those who can’t drive, especially the elderly who sometimes lose their licenses.  This is one of the big benefits I really hadn’t considered and expands the market for who cars are for, which I think is pretty neat.   Wish I had thought about this before publishing my story “Cars of the Future” on Medium, but that’s life.
  3. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz handed the reins of Starbucks over to his successor and COO, Kevin Johnson.  Should be interesting to see what kind of things change with Schultz taking a less active role.
  4. ESPN Magazine  published a piece about a new addiction that is hitting locker rooms all around the NBA and it isn’t what you expect.  My friends got a chuckle out of this story and I think you will too.
  5. Scientists from Harvard Medical School are having success with a drug that reserves aging in the DNA of mice.  They’ve published their findings in the journal Science, but there is a more layman friendly story about this in Time Magazine.

A News Roundup of What I’m Reading

So, last week I did a good job with my new goal of writing more.  I posted 3 articles on Medium.com (you can find me there on my profile at this link).  I’ve been thinking a lot about a few things I’ve seen in the news and felt like this was a better place to share than on Medium, just because what I am writing about isn’t long enough for an entry there.

A couple days ago, Intel announced that they are purchasing Mobileye, an Israeli startup that makes cameras and sensors that are used for self-driving cars.  Interesting to see that Intel is getting into this business.  Intel likely sees how much potential the self-driving car market has and wants to try to get in.  They’ve really struggled to get any real footing with mobile devices.  This has been a problem, especially given the shrinking size of the PC market (desktops and laptops).  Fortune Magazine ran a good piece in June that I think is worth a read.

For any of my friends that are NPR fans, Morning Edition included a story about the Stradivarius violin that was stolen from Roman Totenberg (NPR Journalist Nina Totenberg’s father) nearly 40 years old.  Sadly, Mr. Totenberg died before the violin was finally recovered.  One of Mr. Totenberg’s students who Ms. Totenberg described as “like a sibling” became the first to play the instrument since it was recovered and restored.  Really a good listen if you have some time: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/14/519984134/a-stolen-then-recovered-stradivarius-returns-to-the-stage 

Janet Yellen announced today that for the second time in the last several months, the Federal Reserve increased the benchmark interest rate.  You can find really good coverage of this in the NY Times, Washington Post, and LA Times.  I don’t think anyone was too surprised by this.  The increase in the rate was modest, but Yellen suggested that there will be a few more increases in the rate as the year goes on.

As I have time, if I don’t have enough to write about one thing, I might post something like this.  I love sharing what I’m reading and if you want to share what you’ve been reading, I’d love to read it!

Banking in the Developing World

This article was originally posted on my account on Medium.com on March 6th, 2017.  I hope you enjoy!


I’ve seen a great deal of literature in the last year or two about the way that financial services industries are developing across the African continent. To really investigate this, look no further than Kenya, where mobile payments are easier than in Pittsburgh or Los Angeles and the leader in this market is M-Pesa (Swahili for mobile money).

96 percent of homes across Kenya us M-Pesa according to a recent report in CNET. That is the kind of market domination that Google Wallet and Apple Pay can only dream of and it is happening in a market that never really had traditional banking.

This all has had me thinking. This is one of those cases where necessity leads to the birth of innovation. It also means that companies like Apple and Google have a lot that they can learn from what M-Pesa is doing.

According to a report in Business Insider, mobile payments will make up $6.3 trillion of the payments that take place in China by the year 2020. Much like in Kenya, China didn’t develop the same kind of banking system that Europe and North America have, so they are for the most part also going through a similar LeapFrog.

This still leaves the existing banking infrastructure in China hurting. The state owned UnionPay loses out on the fees when mobile payment is used. The Financial Times in an article in August described this well.

UnionPay, along with issuing banks and acquiring banks, is hemorrhaging income from merchant fees. The trend is fueled not only by the rise of ecommerce but also by the dramatic increase of mobile payments to offline merchants such as supermarkets and restaurants.

Mobile wallet leaders like Alibaba and Tencent are dominant players in this space, while traditional banks are starting to try to get into the action. I’m truly interested to see how this will play out in the long-term, but one thing is for certain.

These companies are being faced with the challenge of minimizing elicit transactions while also growing a global network of users and agents involved in their transactions. To become an acceptable option in places like the United States, they will have to show their willingness to crackdown on those using their service for illegal services while also making sure their customers feel a sense of privacy.

One of the concerns growing out of the M-Pesa phenomenon is a fear that the platform will be used for money laundering (sound familiar to arguments against BitCoin?). In a US State Department report on International Narcotics Control Strategy, M-Pesa and the potential for money-laundering listed in the section about Kenya.

Mobile payment companies like M-Pesa, Alibaba, and Tencent are entering an era where staying afloat will be truly a balance acting. Only the most innovative companies will be able to continue adding value to the experience of their customers while also remaining a trustworthy firm.

Is Blockchain the Future?

This article originally appeared on Medium and you can find it here.

Media coverage of the blockchain is starting to pick up recently, so I thought it was important to gain a better understanding. On its most basic level, blockchain is a database that creates records for its transactions automatically. If you know anything about cryptocurrency (BitCoin for example), you have been part of one of the major users of the blockchain.

It seems like our future could be bound up in how effective this system is. As an example outside of what you might think about with BitCoin, Walmart announced a trial using blockchain to track to manage food safety. They know how dangerous problems with food, whether it is fresh, prepared, or otherwise.

In recent years, recalls of food due to contamination with listeria, e-coli, and salmonella have dominated the headlines. Look no further than the problems that have plagued Chipotle. While I’m sure they never intended to harm their customers, Chipotle has seen their stock value plummet from a high of nearly $750 per share to as low as $370 per share (on Friday, it closed at $416/share).

Chipotle could have avoided seeing its market cap cut nearly in half had this technology been available to more quickly ascertain the source of its food safety problems. To be fair, some of these problems may be linked to food prep, which this technology might not be able to fix unless the system included the transaction of who is cooking what at each period of time as well as who assembles each burrito, bowl, or salad.

Beyond this, time will tell what kind of value to the economy blockchain could eventually have in self driving cars, healthcare, identity verification and of course finance. I’m excited to see what the world with blockchain will mean, but until then, I’ll just be watching to see who succeeds implementing it.

Snap’s IPO

I think that the IPO for Snap is one of the most interesting in the social media marketplace.  SnapChat is this strange social media service that is personal, but also not.  It is about sharing, but not forever.  It doesn’t necessarily seem like they know where they are going to make money quite yet.  This morning, Snap was trading at around $24/share and at the time I published this story, Snap was trading at $25.24.

Much like a few social media companies that came before them (I’m looking at you MySpace), SnapChat has some business in hardware too.  Snap’s Spectacles are an attempt at what Google tried with Google Glass, but in a very simplified way.  Snap Spectacles come in at just $129.99 (Google Glass was more than $1,000 despite the fact it was basically still in Beta) and in 3 colors (Coral, teal, and black)

Snap Spectacles are basically just sunglasses that can take 10 seconds of video for your SnapChat account and wirelessly add the video to your snaps and SnapChat memories.  Obviously, this is much less feature rich than Google Glass, but simple enough to use for mass market appeal.

I hope Snap figures it all out, because I think the company has an interesting way of communicating, but I don’t know what the roadmap ahead looks like.


Other Tech IPOs for Comparison:


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IPO Date




Share Price




% Gain at Close




Deal Size  $16 Billion  $1.82 Billion

 $352.8 Million