Case centre

A unique case method resource for business education within a world-leading science and technology university. Make lecture theatres come alive by applying cutting-edge concepts to real-word business situations.

Entrepreneurship, Finance

Korzan Systems: Evaluating Venture Capital Investments

Katie had been working on the deal team at Forward Partners for little over three months. In her role as investor, she was granted a huge amount of autonomy sourcing and executing deals from day one. Forward Partners is a London-based venture capital firm making its primary investments across the pre-Series A spectrum, from solo-founders to late-seed. Being on their deal team required aptitude on a number of axes. VCs have little information to analyse – which can be uncomfortable – and there was a certain amount of skill required in getting to the right reasons to say ‘yes’ to a deal. Katie had identified a potential target in the nascent ‘modelling and simulation as a service’ (MSaaS) space, where Korzan Systems was at the cutting edge. Despite the limited information available, ahead of her next meeting with the partners, Katie was required to research the market and develop her own thesis on Korzan as a potential investment by preparing a memo that could offer a balanced assessment on the opportunity with relatively little information to go on. During the next partners meeting, she would need to be ready to present her thoughts, analysis and findings on whether this was a go or no-go investment.

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Topics/Industry: financial modelling, SaaS, valuations, venture capital Publication date: 25/06/2017 Published by: Imperial Enterprise Lab Authors: Chris Corbishley, Matthew Bradley Length: 14 pages Teaching notes: Available Geography: UK Supplementary materials: Pdf, Excel Spreadsheet

Structural Genomics Consortium: Innovation in Big Pharma

In 2005, Henry Goodman was head of the Protein Structure Group at Novartis. He had just finished reading an email from Brian Johnson who had a similar position at GlaxoSmithKline, one of Novartis’ main competitors. Brian had approached Henry with an invitation to join the ‘Structural Genomics Consortium’ (SGC), an academic-industrial collaboration in the areas of structural genomics. GlaxoSmithKline was one of the founders of the Consortium and at this time its only corporate member, but the organization was now looking to sign up further pharma companies to take part in this joint venture.

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Topics/Industry: big pharma, innovation strategy, pharmaceuticals Publication date: 01/03/2017 Published by: Imperial College Business School Authors: Markus Perkmann Length: 7 pages Geography: UK

Postcode Anywhere: Building Ambidextrous Organisations

Guy Mucklow (CEO) and Jamie Turner (CTO) set up Postcode Anywhere (PCA) in 2001. Their data technology has made them one of the leading providers of cloud-based address management services, processing over four million transactions per day through their platform. With over 8,000 customers ranging from government departments and FTSE 500 companies to self-service SMEs, PCA accounts for roughly 50% of all addresses captured through UK ecommerce websites. This case examines the background and rationale for how a business, which has grown at a relatively healthy rate of 30% annually on 30%-plus pre-tax margins, is looking to change its focus to a more aggressive growth target of 50% annual growth over the next 5 years to a £50 million turnover. It will explore the implications for how that might be achieved in a domestic market for the company’s current services which are both competitive and relatively mature, as well as the organisational and strategic challenges to their current business model.

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Topics/Industry: ambidexterity, analytics, capabilities, e-commerce, exploration, innovation Publication date: 01/06/2014 Published by: ELITE Authors: Chris Corbishley, Gerry George Length: 9 pages Geography: UK

Ellen De Generes: Comic Reflection with a Cause

Today, Ellen is not only a great comedian that makes America laugh and dream every day with her humour, but she is also the ambassador of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) community. Ellen is also involved in a number of charites, which got her to raise over $50 million over the years. As a result of her involvement in social causes, Ellen is deemed by many as an “advocate for change” (Seacrest, 2014). Let’s briefly explore why Ellen is admired by so many, examining how she enables, entices, and enriches people. Let’s explore how she manages to enhance people’s happiness offering these three kinds of benefits. Finally, let’s explore how Ellen was able to build and leverage an admired brand for herself. Although each of these concepts would deserve a deeper analysis to be fully understood, they are strictly related to each other and they are instrumental to show Ellen DeGeneres’s brand building process.

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Topics/Industry: marketing strategy, social media Publication date: 01/04/2017 Published by: Imperial College Business School Authors: Andreas Eisengerich, Lin Dong, Sofia Bettanin Length: 9 pages Geography: UK

Failing Fast and Often: Scaling High-Tech Ventures

Flying in from Boston, USA to speak to a group of female entrepreneurs at her alma mater in London UK, Dr Beth Marcus reflected on a long and exciting career as a serial entrepreneur. Beth had worn many hats throughout her lifetime, characterised by investors and media pundits at various points as a ‘tech guru’, ‘SheEO’ and ‘doctor’ of ailing start-ups. Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Beth had faced a series of inflection points that had nearly brought an end to ventures she had started or advised. Sharing these war stories with a younger generation of entrepreneurs got her thinking: How do technology entrepreneurs monetize and scale their innovations? How do you influence partners, customers or teams to succeed? What is the key to picking a winning start-up team, one that could continually overcome the challenges of a rapidly growing business? Towards the end, a student’s hand shot up to ask the question: ‘What is the single most important advice you could give to a female entrepreneur?’, Beth looked across the faces of so many young, over-achievers and future leaders, no different to herself at that age, and said with a smile, ‘fail fast and often’.

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Topics/Industry: hardware, scale-ups, technology Publication date: 21/03/2017 Published by: Imperial Enterprise Lab Authors: Alice Miksowa, Alice Tang, Chris Corbishley, Stephanie Hodgson, Yaqing Wei Length: 16 pages Geography: USA Supplementary materials: Video

Plumis (Part A): Customer Discovery

It was late in the autumn of 2010, and William Makant, CEO of Plumis Ltd., was sitting in his cramped London office asking himself what he and his co-founders could do to ramp up sales and reverse a flagging cash position. The company, which had started in 2008 with a £25k prize from a business plan competition and later raised £80k from an incubator programme, now had a cash balance of just £2,365. This would not go far even in the low-rent offices the company had taken, on a decommissioned battleship moored on the River Thames. Since launching its product Automist, a hassle-free fire safety device for the kitchen, onto the market early in the year, Plumis had sold just 3 demonstration units at an average price of £400 for a total revenue of £1,200, as compared with a sales plan of 27 units, in a price range of £500- £800 per unit, targeted for the year. The latter was the sales target announced to a group of angel investors who had agreed two months earlier to invest £100k, but the cash hadn’t yet arrived, and it looked as though more would be needed, sooner than planned.

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Topics/Industry: customer discovery, engineering, market entry Publication date: 01/12/2016 Published by: Imperial College Business School Authors: Sabrina Kiefer Length: 30 pages Geography: UK

Plumis (Part B): Subsequent Developments

After happening upon a customer whose problem of non-compliance with building regulations could be quickly and economically solved with Automist, Plumis did not completely turn its back on its old target markets, but it did shift its main focus to developing a new one. The company had to find a way to reach its new potential customers and learn about their tastes and needs at the same time.

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Topics/Industry: customer discovery, engineering Publication date: 01/12/2016 Published by: Imperial College Business School Authors: Sabrina Kiefer Length: 6 pages Geography: UK
Entrepreneurship, Finance

LendInvest: Credibility in a Crowded Market

LendInvest is the UK’s leading online platform for property lending and investing. Founded originally as Montello in 2008 by Christian Faes and Ian Thomas, it provides an online marketplace for people and institutions to invest in short-term loans secured against property to real-estate professionals. Today, LendInvest is a well-capitalised, well-backed and profitable company, and one of the fastest-growing businesses in UK financial services. By adopting a diversified lending model, with a healthy mix of investors, the platform is well positioned to manage the long-term risks associated with peer-to-peer (p2p) lending. Since launching the website in 2013, LendInvest investors have lent more than £640 million to hundreds of borrowers, financing 2,300 new and rebuilt homes, worth over £1 billion.

Looking ahead to the next two years, Christian and Ian had identified three main challenges to scaling up: How could they build-out LendInvest’s institutional investor base – a key component of their capital pool? If they continued expanding into the peer-to-peer lending market, how would they build a credible profile as a mainstream financial services brand, whilst distancing themselves from riskier ‘fintech’ players? Finally, to achieve scale, should they fully embrace the peer-to-peer lending market or rely on their track record to attract high net worth and institutional investors.

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Topics/Industry: analytics, data science, Peer to Peer Publication date: 01/06/2017 Published by: ELITE Authors: Chris Corbishley, Nelson Phillips Length: 10 pages Geography: UK

Bain Capital’s “Take Private” of China Fire

The case is on the 2011 buyout of China Fire, a NASDAQ-listed Chinese fire protection firm. The MBO, backed by private equity firm Bain Capital, comes amid a wave of ‘take China privates’ aimed at exploiting valuations depressed by fraud scandals at some US-listed Chinese firms. In response to the USD9 cash bid, China Fire’s board has formed a Special Committee to negotiate terms. As the committee’s financial advisor, Barclays Capital must conduct financial due diligence, including the valuing of China Fire with various methods. Learning objectives include: 1. Being able to value a company with different techniques. 2. Knowing the different rationales for a LBO. 3. Knowing what is a reverse merger and the reasons for employing this listing method. 4. Knowing why some Chinese companies choose to list on the US stock markets.

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Topics/Industry: M&A, reverse IPO, valuations Publication date: 27/03/2017 Published by: Case Centre Authors: Marc Kitten Length: 11 pages Teaching notes: Available Geography: USA
Entrepreneurship, Strategy & Leadership

Modus Seabed Intervention: Strategic Dependencies

MODUS is an integrated project service company and technology provider for subsea and seabed intervention based in the North-East of England. It operates a range of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) systems, used in surveying, marine trenching, construction support, drilling, and inspection and maintenance services. Since establishing the business in 2008, Jake Tompkins (MD) had acquired a number of lucrative contracts in renewable energy, oil and gas, telecommunications and defence industries. Following the opportunities emerging in North Sea offshore industries in the wake of the financial crisis, the business had grown to over £8million in revenues with a headcount of 52 people.

In 2014-15, the business faced major growth challenges on a number of fronts, which stemmed from: i) the firm’s decision to avoid speculative vessel charter due to oversupply in the North Sea ii) delivery delays on a key build project, and iii) the early curtailment of a trenching contract costing £1.4m in revenue. Reporting a fall in operating profit from £1.2m to a loss of £1.53m, Jake and his team were facing a number of difficult questions: How could the business diversify its customer base and market scope to avoid sector dependence on oil and gas, as well as reduce its geographical focus on the North Sea? Where could they identify opportunities for new market-entry? Was there potential for strategic partnerships to offset their scale disadvantages?

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Topics/Industry: diversification, growth strategy, renewable energy, strategic dependencies Publication date: 01/01/2016 Published by: ELITE Authors: Chris Corbishley, Nelson Phillips Length: 9 pages Geography: UK