Gone are Dropbox, Cake Financial, and RTR. Now what?

by Eilidh MacDonald

Fortunately for the RC class DropBox, CakeFinancial, and Rent the Runway have been moved to the TEM course, is this unfortunately for the upcoming ECs? Jeff and Tom have the unenviable task of replacing these great cases so to help them I have put down some of my thoughts on what make the cases so goods that when searching for replacements they have a student perspective on what to think about.

Dropbox. Our first case of the semester was perfect for letting us all warm up our business model analysis muscles – think Customer Value Proposition, Technology and Operations Management, Go-to-Market Strategy and Profit Formula. We were all familiar with Dropbox, the majority of us having used it to share files while at business school and I think that made the case more valuable. In the class discussion we were able to really able to focus on the details and not the general overview. When calculating LTV and CAC, we really understood what this meant to the business and so got a better understanding of the concepts. This set a good base for the rest of the semester and being able to translate that base learning to more foreign business models, and even our own. So Tip One: make the first case a widely-known or understood business model so that the students can focus on applying the case note learnings and not spend time trying to figure out the basic business model concept. The semester discussions will be the better for the ease-in start.

Cake Financial. Probably my favourite case of the year. Why? Because we learned that even a good idea and an HBS grad can fail. This is not a common story we hear at the Harvard Business School but we are better for it. With the wave of entrepreneurial enthusiasm flowing through the Aldrich and I-Lab halls we need a reminder to pay close attention to the cases and class discussion because failure is just around the corner, and the best way to avoid it is learn the Lean method…or know why you are going fat. Seriously though, the case brought to life the need for rigorous hypotheses testing, the dangers of false positives or false negatives, and the need for trade-offs in a business. Tip Two: Find someone as brave enough as Steve Carpenter. We need to learn from others mistakes and his was the perfect case that sent the Lean (and flexibility) message home to me. With half a semester full of wins we need to hear of a loss but one that so easily could have been a win is even better.

Rent the Runway. The HBS start-up darling. The RTR team launched an aspirational business but also spawned real aspirational hopes among the current 2012 class of HBSers. These girls graduated TWO years ago and have had great success. Forget what I just said above, we can do it too! There are great lesson in this case too with regards to the question of proving product-market fit before launching but honestly, the bestpart of this case is that we can relate to the founders. Neither of them had tech backgrounds or experience in the industry but they had an idea and went for it. That is scary and many of us are faced with the decision now to go safe (hello Goldman, McKinsey, Target) or go for it. So last tip. Pick a replacement case that inspires us in a real way. A case where we can all think and believe that it could have been me. Lets hope one of the LTV class of 2012 will give you the next RTR case show you the power of that message.

Good luck Jeff and Tom, you have a hard road ahead.

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