Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2009 (Revised September 2011)

Big Spaceship: Ready to Go Big?

by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind

Abstract

Big Spaceship, a digital marketing agency, faced a rather big challenge: How to scale the distinctive culture that was essential to its competitive strategy? Renowned for the cutting-edge websites that it developed to market major Hollywood movies and leading consumer brands, the firm had won numerous awards and garnered considerable attention within the advertising industry. In mid-2008, Big Spaceship remained small (it had fewer than 50 employees) but was poised for significant growth. For founder and CEO Michael Lebowitz, the central challenge was to figure out whether and how the agency could retain its boutique culture while transcending its boutique size. The case begins by briefly outlining Lebowitz's background, along with the history of Big Spaceship since its founding in 2000. Then the case shifts to a discussion of external dynamics: the firm's value proposition, which focused on providing start-to-finish, strategy-driven digital marketing solutions; its interaction with clients; and its relationship with established players in the advertising industry. Next, the case examines the firm's internal dynamics. Here, in addition to describing the culture of Big Spaceship, the case puts special emphasis on the firm's recent shift from a functional structure to a team-based structure. Finally, the case provides an overview of key issues that Lebowitz and his team must consider as they plan for the firm's growth—how to raise capital, how to gauge the optimal size for the company, and how to manage an expanding staff. A major highlight of the case is the inclusion of more than a dozen graphically compelling exhibits, which help to illustrate the firm's value proposition, its innovation-oriented culture, and its evolving organizational design.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Management; Human Capital; Growth and Development Strategy; Marketing; Organizational Culture; Organizational Design; Groups and Teams; Competitive Strategy; Value Creation;

Citation:

Groysberg, Boris, and Michael Slind. "Big Spaceship: Ready to Go Big?" Harvard Business School Case 409-047, February 2009. (Revised September 2011.)