Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2011 (Revised February 2014)

Cree, Inc.: Which Bright Future?

by David J. Collis, Mary Furey and Matthew Shaffer

Abstract

After its founding in the late 1980s, Cree Inc. quickly grew into a major player in the emerging LED market. By 2007, technological improvements in LEDs had made them suitable for TV, computer, and mobile "backlighting"; and concerns over global warning led to calls to shift to more energy-efficient sources of general lighting (which favored LEDs, as they were far more efficient than the traditionally-dominant incandescents). In this context, Cree faced a strategic conundrum: Should it focus on its historical expertise in manufacturing LED "chips" and components for use in other manufacturers' applications and screens, where LEDs now had established usage? Or should it instead attempt the risky venture of manufacturing its own LED light-bulbs for direct sale to consumers for general lighting? This case presents the history of Cree and information on the LED and general-lighting markets, as background for a debate on Cree's strategic choice.

Keywords: Cree; LEDs; lighting market; clean tech; energy policy; semiconductors; North Carolina; Business Growth and Maturation; Forecasting and Prediction; Innovation and Management; Decision Choices and Conditions; Market Entry and Exit; Competitive Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Technology Adoption; Electronics Industry; Green Technology Industry; Manufacturing Industry; United States; North Carolina; Raleigh;

Citation:

Collis, David J., Mary Furey, and Matthew Shaffer. "Cree, Inc.: Which Bright Future?" Harvard Business School Case 711-457, March 2011. (Revised February 2014.)