First Look

June 28, 2016

Is it time for Dinr?

A new case study follows the thoughts of Google employee Markus Berger as he decides whether to pursue a startup idea to deliver upscale food ingredients to at-home chefs in London. "Was Dinr a good business opportunity? Would it be attractive to outside investors? What were the risks involved?" ask case authors Shikhar Ghosh and Kristina Maslauskaite. The case is titled Dinr: My First Start-up.

How Costa Rica built an ecotourism trade

Ecotourism takes more than lovely weather and beguiling ecosystems to make a business. A recent working paper looks at the behind-the-scenes work in Costa Rica of small entrepreneurs such as tour operators and ecolodging providers, many of whom are American expatriates. The paper, Entrepreneurs and the Co-Creation of Ecotourism in Costa Rica, was written by Geoffrey Jones and Andrew Spadafora.

Starting a new fund in energy startups

The case study Saudi Aramco and Corporate Venture Capital reviews the tactical and strategic questions around formation of what has become the world's largest investor in energy-related startups. According to the authors, "the case provides a vehicle for discussing the basics of corporate venture capital and the challenges large corporations face in participating in the world of startups." It was written by Joseph Fuller, Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, and Nathaniel Burbank.

— Sean Silverthorne
  • forthcoming
  • Management Science

The First Deal: The Division of Founder Equity in New Ventures

By: Hellmann, Thomas F., and Noam Wasserman

Abstract—We examine the trade-off between efficiency and equality within the context of entrepreneurial founding teams. Using a formal theory where founders may have preferences over relative outcomes, we derive predictions about the antecedents and consequences of dividing equity equally among all founders. Using proprietary survey data, we empirically test the predictions. Our central finding is that teams that split equity equally are less likely to raise funds from outside investors. The relationship appears not to be causal but instead driven by selection effects across heterogeneous teams with varying degrees of inequality aversion.

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  • 2016
  • The Impact of Incomplete Contracts on Economics

Oliver Hart's Contributions to the Understanding of Strategic Alliances and Technology Licensing

By: Lerner, Josh

Abstract—No abstract available.

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  • forthcoming
  • Organization Science

Growing New Corporate Businesses: From Initiation to Graduation

By: Raisch, Sebastian, and Michael Tushman

Abstract—Large companies initiate many new businesses, but few of them reach scale. The ambidexterity literature describes how companies create exploratory businesses, but says little about how they subsequently scale these businesses. The strategy literature uses real option theory to explain the transition to scale, but does not consider the complex relationships between corporate ventures and their parent organizations. By comparing six longitudinal cases of large firms’ new business initiatives, we find that corporate businesses that scale undergo a graduation process in which they meet the varying expectations of multiple organizational resource providers. At the unit level, they convince established core units that the potential value from combining their resources exceeds the cost of cannibalization and internal competition. They do so by initially differentiating themselves to develop distinctive capabilities, but subsequently integrate these capabilities with those of the core units. At the corporate level, the new units demonstrate their value by adding strategic capabilities that complement those of their main organizations. They initially integrate with their corporate parents to ensure resource flows, but then differentiate themselves to develop their own strategic profile. We contribute to the ambidexterity literature by unpacking the triggers, conditions, and interaction patterns that allow exploratory units to scale. We also contribute to the strategy literature by showing the importance of multi-level exchange relationships, complementary resources, time effects, and identity dynamics for corporate decisions on whether, and when, to scale new opportunities.

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  • Spring 2016
  • Business History Review

California Fair Trade: Antitrust and the Politics of 'Fairness' in U.S. Competition Policy

By: Sawyer, Laura Phillips

Abstract—In the decades before World War II, U.S. antitrust law was anything but settled. Considerable pressure for antitrust revision came from the states. A perhaps unlikely leader, Edna Gleason, organized California's retail pharmacists and coordinated trade networks to monitor and enforce Resale Price Maintenance (RPM) contracts, a system of price-fixing, then known as “fair trade.” Progressive jurists, including Louis Brandeis and institutional economist E.R.A. Seligman, supported RPM as a protection to independent proprietors. The breakdown of legal and economic consensus regarding what constituted “unfair competition” allowed businesspeople to act as intermediaries between heterodox economic thought and contested antitrust law, ultimately tailoring federal policy to accommodate state regulations.

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Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment

By: Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel

Abstract—Several CEOs are receiving significant media attention for taking public positions on controversial social and environmental issues largely unrelated to their core business, ranging from LGBT rights to race relations to gender equality to climate change. We provide the first evidence that such "CEO activism" can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes. Our field experiment examines the impact of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public statements opposing a pending religious freedom law that critics warned would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Our results confirm the influence of issue framing on public opinion and suggest that CEOs can sway public opinion, potentially to the same extent as prominent politicians. Moreover, Cook’s CEO activism increased consumer intentions to purchase Apple products, especially among proponents of same-sex marriage.

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Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning

By: Di Stefano, Giada, Francesca Gino, Gary P. Pisano, and Bradley Staats

Abstract—How do organizations learn? In this paper, we build on research on the microfoundations of strategy and learning to study the individual underpinnings of organizational learning. We argue that once an individual has accumulated experience with a task, the benefit of accumulating additional experience is inferior to the benefit of deliberately articulating and codifying the previously accumulated experience. We explain the performance outcomes associated with such deliberate learning efforts using both a cognitive (task understanding) and an emotional (self-efficacy) mechanism. We study the proposed framework by means of a mixed-method approach that combines the reach and relevance of a field experiment with the precision of laboratory experiments. Our results support the proposed theoretical framework and bear important implications from both a theoretical and practical viewpoint.

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Entrepreneurs and the Co-Creation of Ecotourism in Costa Rica

By: Jones, Geoffrey, and Andrew Spadafora

Abstract—Between the 1970s and the 2000s, Costa Rica became established as the world’s leading ecotourism destination. This working paper suggests that although Costa Rica benefited from biodiversity and a pleasant climate, the country’s preeminence in ecotourism requires more than a natural resource endowment explanation. The paper argues that the ecotourism industry was a co-creation of the public, private, and tertiary sectors. While the role of the government and conservation NGOs is acknowledged in the existing literature, this study draws attention to the critical role of small entrepreneurs. Making extensive use of oral history, this working paper demonstrates the role of tour companies in drawing affluent Western ecotourists to the country, as well as profiling the creators of ecolodges and other forms of accommodation in providing them with a place to stay. These entrepreneurs, many of them expatriate Americans, helped ensure that formally protected areas remained sustainable parks and reserves by providing revenues, conservation education to tourists, and community development and jobs. Clustering created positive externalities for new entrepreneurs to enter the industry who could also learn from knowledge spillovers. There were downsides to the new industry, however. The creation of the national image of a natural paradise enabled many businesses that were not environmentally sustainable to free-ride on the green image. Even values-driven ecotourism entrepreneurs faced questions about their impact as they expanded the scale of their operations. While scaling was a sign of success and delivered many benefits to Costa Rica, there were distinct drawbacks from a sustainability perspective.

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Social Networks, Ethnicity, and Entrepreneurship

By: Kerr, William R., and Martin Mandorff

Abstract—We study the relationship between ethnicity, occupational choice, and entrepreneurship. Immigrant groups in the United States cluster in specific business sectors. For example, the concentration of Korean self-employment in dry cleaners is 34 times greater than other immigrant groups, and Gujarati-speaking Indians are similarly 108 times more concentrated in managing motels. We develop a model of social interactions where non-work relationships facilitate the acquisition of sector-specific skills. The resulting scale economies generate occupational stratification along ethnic lines, consistent with the reoccurring phenomenon of small, socially isolated groups achieving considerable economic success via concentrated entrepreneurship. Empirical evidence from the United States supports our model’s underlying mechanisms.

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Abstract—We consider the impact of cohort turnover—the planned simultaneous exit of a large number of experienced employees and a similarly sized entry of new workers—on operational performance in the context of teaching hospitals. Specifically, we examine the impact of the annual July turnover of residents in U.S. teaching hospitals on the average length of hospital stay and mortality rate in teaching hospitals relative to a control group of non-teaching hospitals. Despite the anticipated nature of the cohort turnover and the supervisory structures that exist in teaching hospitals, the annual July turnover of residents results in increased resource utilization (i.e., longer average length of stay) for both minor and major teaching hospitals, relative to a control group of non-teaching hospitals. We find limited evidence of negative effects on quality as measured by mortality rates. In major teaching hospitals, we find evidence of a substantial anticipation effect that presents as a gradual decrease in operational performance beginning several months before the actual cohort turnover. We identify higher overall quality of nursing and increased intensity of potential quality assurance as managerial levers for mitigating the decrease in hospital operational performance both at the time of and in the months leading up to the cohort turnover.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 216-057

Canadian Pacific's Bid for Norfolk Southern

In December 2015, Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) has just made its third bid to acquire Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC), one of the largest railroads in the United States. Having rejected the prior offers, NSC’s CEO James Squires and the NSC board must now value the current offer including the projected merger synergies as well as a recently added contingent value right (CVR) designed to “sweeten” the offer and decide how to respond.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 816-068

Saudi Aramco and Corporate Venture Capital

Saudi Aramco launched an internal venture capital arm in 2011, which promptly became the world's largest investor in energy related startups. In choosing to proceed, the company's New Business Development unit (NPD) wrestled with a number of challenges. How should the fund be structured, as a fully independent, venture capital partnership or as a business unit? How should it be governed, and how should the investment committee function? Could mechanisms be developed that ensured the expertise of Saudi Aramco's famously conservative engineering resources could be harnessed in the investment process and its business units enlisted to work with portfolio companies? How could the fund be structured to reflect Saudi Aramco's role in modernizing the economy of Saudi Arabia? The case provides a vehicle for discussing the basics of corporate venture capital and the challenges large corporations face in participating in the world of startups. It also describes how certain industries, like energy, are poorly suited to the investment profile of traditional venture capitalists. The product development cycle is too long and the capital required to develop and test products too great for ordinary, general partnerships to sustain. The case also introduces interesting themes in the role of parastatals in contributing to national economic competitiveness.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 816-080

Dinr: My First Start-up (A)

In May 2012, a young employee at Google's London office, Markus Berger, was thinking whether he should quit his job and go after his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Berger's idea was to create Dinr, a company that would offer an upscale food ingredient delivery service in London. A customer would choose a recipe on Dinr's website and would receive all premeasured ingredients the same evening at their doorstep. Contrary to many existing similar companies, Dinr would not require a weekly subscription, but would operate one-off orders like other traditional food delivery services. Berger had already carried out an alpha test of the service and completed an in-depth survey of potential customers to explore the market. Most of the feedback was positive, which confirmed Berger's intuition about this market opportunity. Berger had found a more experienced co-founder with technical expertise who was willing to join Dinr part time and gathered £40,000 of initial capital. Yet, making the decision to leave his corporate job and become an entrepreneur was not easy: Was Dinr a good business opportunity? Would it be attractive to outside investors? What were the risks involved?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 916-031

Scaling Well by Doing Good: Motivating Talent at b.good

Boston-based fast-casual chain b.good was founded on the idea of healthy food, sourced locally, and prepared in-store. The founders had built a value-based business and worked hard to cultivate a sense of family—among employees, customers, and suppliers. In 2015, they had entered a period of substantial growth, with the company doubling in size over the past 12 months, and planned to double again over the coming 12 months. The management felt this purpose and sense of family had served them well, but were worried that growth would water down these key ingredients to their success. As they enter 2016, they are particularly focused on ensuring that they get the "people" systems right.

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  • Harvard Business School Case 316-124

Gotong Royong: Toward Sustainable Palm Oil

In late 2015, Jeff Seabright, chief sustainability officer at Unilever, had to report to Unilever CEO Paul Polman on the effort to transform palm oil cultivation. Historically, palm oil was produced using unsustainable methods that included burning large tracts of forest land, which destroyed wildlife habitats, displaced native populations, and emitted greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Global demand for palm oil was increasing, which made the situation worse. Unilever was the largest single buyer of palm oil, purchasing about 3% of global production, and had been an active promoter of sustainable palm oil production. In 2015, 60% of globally traded palm oil was covered by sustainability commitments, up from 5% in 2008, but there was more to be done. Palm oil-driven deforestation and different kinds of social issues continued across the world, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, which produced 80% of palm oil. The case discusses the sustainability strategy implemented by Unilever across time with regards to palm oil, together with the efforts implemented by other organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, social and environmental NGOs, Unilever’s competitors, and the local governments in Southeast Asia. What more could Unilever do to advance the diffusion of sustainable palm oil?

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  • Harvard Business School Case 315-009

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Inc.

No abstract available.

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