Shikhar Ghosh

Professor of Management Practice

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Unit: Entrepreneurial Management


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Shikhar Ghosh is a Professor of Management Practice in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit. He teaches and is is the course head for Founders Dilemmas in the elective curriculum  and  teaches The Entrepreneurial Manager (TEM) in the required curriculum of the MBA program.

Shikhar has been a successful entrepreneur for the last 20 years. He has been the founder and CEO or Chairman of eight technology-based entrepreneurial companies and was the past Chairman of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MTLC) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) - two leading entrepreneurial organizations. He was selected by Business Week as one of the best Entrepreneurs in the US, by Forbes as one of the ‘Masters of the Internet Universe’ and by Fortune as the CEO of one of the 10 most innovative companies in the US. Companies he founded were selected as both the ‘hottest’ and ‘coolest’ emerging companies by business publications.

Shikhar joined the Boston Consulting Group after getting his MBA from HBS in 1980. At BCG he focused on organization and innovation in large organizations. He was elected a worldwide partner of the firm in 1987. Shikhar left BCG in 1988 to become CEO of Appex, an early-stage venture backed company that built the inter-carrier infrastructure for the US mobile phone industry. Appex provided centralized services that enabled independent mobile carriers to operate as a single seamless network. Appex’s services included call forwarding across carriers, fraud prevention services, billing and customer service. Appex was bought by EDS in 1990. By the time Shikhar left in 1993, Appex’s revenues exceeded $100 million with an order backlog of over $1 billion. It was selected by Business week as the fastest growing private company in the US.

Shikhar founded Open Market in 1993. Open Market was one of the pioneering companies in the commercialization of the Internet. It built the first commercial infrastructure for enabling secure commerce on the Internet and provided the software and services that enabled companies like Time Warner and AT&T to offer their services on the Internet. Open Market was one of the first Internet companies to go public. It was selected by numerous business publications as one of the companies that helped to make the Internet what it is today.

After leaving Open Market Shikhar has been the founder, CEO or Chairman of several companies in the wireless, payment, Internet marketing, and on-line retailing industries. He has worked in all facets of the entrepreneurial process – starting companies with technical teams, providing and raising capital with venture capitalists, buying and selling companies, or taking them public and closing down unsuccessful companies. He has been a keynote speaker in numerous conferences on innovation, entrepreneurship, digital media and on the future of the Internet.


Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Anthology: Pivoting the Business Model

    Shikhar Ghosh and Christopher Payton

    In July 2014, after 18 months and eight unsuccessful product launches, the CEO of Yabbly has agreed to sell his company to a larger, well-funded startup, providing a return of capital for his investors and a home for his team. Two weeks prior to the scheduled closing, the team launches a final experiment based on the results of a customer interview. After creating a quick landing page and announcing the product launch through social media channels, the company finds significant customer interest. With only two weeks of promising data, the CEO must decide whether or not to abandon the planned sale to pursue the new product, and if so, what terms he should offer new and existing investors to finance the next phase of product development.

    Keywords: Mergers & Acquisitions; Business Startups; business model; entrepreneurship; Business Model; Business Plan; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Innovation Strategy; Mobile Technology; Online Technology; Mergers and Acquisitions; Business Exit or Shutdown; Fairness; Valuation; Technology Industry; Consumer Products Industry; North America; United States; Seattle;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Christopher Payton. "Anthology: Pivoting the Business Model." Harvard Business School Case 817-066, November 2016. (Revised December 2016.) View Details
  2. Scaling a Distributed Organization

    Christopher Stanton and Shikhar Ghosh

    Kevin Borders and Joe Golden, co-founders and co-CEOs of, must decide how to grow their custom photo-products startup in the face of fierce competition. From 2011 through 2016, the business evolved from a hobby to a startup with $22 million in revenue and 45 employees, all of whom worked remotely from home. Customer acquisition was becoming more difficult and repeat purchase rates lagged behind Shutterfly, the industry leader. New hires would help to integrate new products and grow marketing efforts, but several experienced team members wondered whether virtual collaboration could continue to work with an influx of new people.

    Keywords: Online Technology; Organizational Structure; Competitive Strategy; Employees; Business Startups; Growth and Development Strategy; Consumer Products Industry; Service Industry;


    Stanton, Christopher, and Shikhar Ghosh. " Scaling a Distributed Organization." Harvard Business School Case 817-038, September 2016. View Details
  3. Dinr: My First Start-up (A)

    Shikhar Ghosh and Kristina Maslauskaite

    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?

    Keywords: exit strategy; Startup; entrepreneurship; food; start-up; Business Exit or Shutdown; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Food;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Kristina Maslauskaite. "Dinr: My First Start-up (A)." Harvard Business School Case 816-080, February 2016. (Revised May 2016.) View Details
  4. Jim Sharpe: Operational Cash Flow Tool

    Joseph B. Fuller, Shikhar Ghosh and Christopher Payton

    In this exercise, you will examine the cash flow implications of different operating model assumptions and the effect that this has on financing decisions.

    Keywords: Cash Flow; Financing and Loans;


    Fuller, Joseph B., Shikhar Ghosh, and Christopher Payton. "Jim Sharpe: Operational Cash Flow Tool." Harvard Business School Exercise 816-070, February 2016. View Details
  5. Intuit: Turbo Tax PersonalPro - A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs

    Shikhar Ghosh, Joseph Fuller and Michael Roberts

    The case tells the story of a product manager within Intuit who develops an idea for a new product that spans two of the company's existing business units—professional tax software, sold to accountants, and the consumer focused TurboTax product. The new product —TurboTax Personal Pro—connects consumers with professional accountants online, allowing them to have their taxes prepared by a professional. The cycle of product development transpires within the larger, corporate context of Intuit, where founder Scott Cook has been attempting to transform the enterprise into a leaner, more innovative company. The case describes in detail the lean startup methods used by the new product team, and how their attempts bump up against the existing, entrenched systems and processes of the larger enterprise.

    Keywords: Business Units; Business or Company Management; Software; Accounting; Product Development; Financial Services Industry;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, Joseph Fuller, and Michael Roberts. "Intuit: Turbo Tax PersonalPro - A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs." Harvard Business School Case 816-048, September 2015. (Revised March 2016.) View Details
  6. Clover Food Lab: Building Out the Team

    Shikhar Ghosh, Christopher Payton and Ali Huberlie

    Keywords: hiring; firing; foodservice industry; Business Startups; Selection and Staffing; Resignation and Termination; Food; Food and Beverage Industry; Boston;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, Christopher Payton, and Ali Huberlie. "Clover Food Lab: Building Out the Team." Harvard Business School Case 816-042, August 2015. (Revised October 2015.) View Details
  7. Yabbly (A)

    Shikhar Ghosh and Christopher Payton

    In November 2013, with less than 10 months of cash on hand, Tom Leung, the founder and CEO of Yabbly, must decide where to focus his resources. His startup, a question-and-answer application for shopping decisions, had benefited from a strong showing at the SXSW Accelerator competition and had a dedicated and engaged user base. However, Leung knew that the current growth trajectory would not lead them to the milestones needed to receive an additional round of financing. Leung must decide whether to continue pursuing user acquisition experiments, explore other product ideas, or begin searching for a potential acquirer to achieve a "soft landing" for his team and his investors.

    Keywords: Business Plan; Startup; mobile; online product reviews; consumer products; Business Model; Business Plan; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Innovation Strategy; Mobile Technology; Online Technology; North America; United States; Washington (state, US); Seattle;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Christopher Payton. "Yabbly (A)." Harvard Business School Case 816-030, August 2015. View Details
  8. Yesware (A)

    Shikhar Ghosh, Christopher Payton and Ali Huberlie

    Matthew Bellows founded Yesware, a Boston-based tech startup, to solve a problem that he'd encountered as a sales manager: sales people hate entering data, rarely do it accurately, and almost always input data that can't be synthesized in a way that is useful for the manager. Together with a friend, he developed software to solve this problem—while also working towards the goal of founding a company that would be "the best place to work." But as the company grows past $5 million in annual revenue, Bellows faces challenges balancing the dual goals of continuing to scale the company and adhering to the values established for the company.

    Keywords: firing; culture change; Startup; technology; hiring; entrepreneurship; Negotiation; Sales; Human Resources; Technology Industry; Boston;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, Christopher Payton, and Ali Huberlie. "Yesware (A)." Harvard Business School Case 816-039, August 2015. View Details
  9. Venture Capital Investment in the Clean Energy Sector

    Ramana Nanda and Shikhar Ghosh

    In this note, we examine the extent to which venture capital is adequately positioned for the rapid commercialization of clean energy technologies in the United States. The need for a revolution in clean energy is driven not just by environmental consequences of energy use, but also by the need for energy security, to address growing concerns about a crisis in the balance of payments, and as a potentially important source of domestic jobs. Our premise in this note is that a key aspect of such widespread change is that these issues cannot be "solved" by a single technology. Rather, technological changes will have to be pervasive and will require a whole range of different products and processes to come to market. Some of the technological progress will come from incremental innovations that do not depend on venture capital.

    Keywords: entrepreneurial finance; Entrepreneurship; Finance; Financial Services Industry;


    Nanda, Ramana, and Shikhar Ghosh. "Venture Capital Investment in the Clean Energy Sector." Harvard Business School Technical Note 814-052, March 2014. View Details
  10. Maricopa, Inc.: Finding the Right Treatment for Growth

    William A. Sahlman, Thomas R. Eisenmann, Joseph B. Fuller and Shikhar Ghosh

    The founders of Maricopa, Inc., a startup that sold proprietary hair-care products directly to salons, were preparing a board presentation to address the young company's inability to meet financial projections. While the products had caught on with customers, the financial shortcomings raised some questions about the company's business plan. The company had gone through much of its cash and needed additional funding to continue operating.

    At the same time, two VC investors were deciding how to proceed with their investments in Maricopa. The larger VC firm questioned Maricopa's management's decisions and was hesitant to further fund the company. However the Maricopa investment was much more important to the smaller VC firm, and its representative on Maricopa's board worked hard to convince her counterpart from the larger firm that while the firm had struggled, it was a young startup with strong potential. Without the larger firm investing again in Maricopa, the business was at risk of going under.

    Keywords: Business Startups; Financial Condition; Venture Capital; Financial Strategy; Financing and Loans; Expansion; Planning; Fashion Industry; Iowa;


    Sahlman, William A., Thomas R. Eisenmann, Joseph B. Fuller, and Shikhar Ghosh. "Maricopa, Inc.: Finding the Right Treatment for Growth." Harvard Business School Case 314-065, January 2014. View Details
  11. Steven Carpenter at Cake Financial (Abridged)

    Thomas R. Eisenmann, Joseph B. Fuller and Shikhar Ghosh

    Steven Carpenter reflects on the successes and failures of his recent venture, Cake Financial. Carpenter had just sold the four-year-old startup and was at work on a new business plan. But first, he wanted to understand why Cake Financial, a service that allowed users to access their brokerage accounts on one platform and also see how other users were investing, had not been widely adopted by customers despite positive receptions from technology and financial observers. The startup had also received financial support from prominent angel investors. Carpenter asked himself what he should have done differently with the technology supporting the platform, and how Cake should have better targeted customers and responded to their unique needs. He also wondered whether he had made the right decisions about when, and from whom, to seek funding at various stages of the company's growth.

    Keywords: Corporate Entrepreneurship; Business or Company Management; Business Model; Growth and Development Strategy; Business Strategy; Internet; Financial Services Industry; Web Services Industry;


    Eisenmann, Thomas R., Joseph B. Fuller, and Shikhar Ghosh. "Steven Carpenter at Cake Financial (Abridged)." Harvard Business School Case 814-054, January 2014. View Details
  12. Myomo: Getting Sales in Motion

    Frank V. Cespedes, Shikhar Ghosh and Matthew Preble

    In late 2012, the management team of Myomo, a startup which had designed a unique myoelectric arm brace for patients with dysfunctional arms, was deciding which of the three sales models the company had tested to pursue as its sales strategy going forward. Each model had its own unique merits and risks. The team planned to fully examine each strategy to determine how to best get the brace into the hands of those who needed it most, the patients, and identify which one enabled Myomo to grow.

    Keywords: Technological Innovation; Technology; Marketing Strategy; Decision Choices and Conditions; Health Care and Treatment; Business Startups; Sales; Growth and Development Strategy; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; Health Industry;


    Cespedes, Frank V., Shikhar Ghosh, and Matthew Preble. "Myomo: Getting Sales in Motion." Harvard Business School Case 814-034, October 2013. (Revised April 2015.) View Details
  13. FanMode: Launching a Global Sports Venture

    Shikhar Ghosh, William R. Kerr and Alexis Brownell

    Neven Murugan is developing FanMode, an app that allows sports fans all over the world to broadcast their reactions in real time into stadiums where their team is playing. It also provides social networking across sports fans. The company is growing, and its founders face the questions of where to locate their headquarters and how to structure their company, and the legal issues surrounding these decisions, including intellectual property regulations, tax laws, and ownership structure. This case provides an example of a company that, due to the nature of its product, has had to operate globally from its earliest days and establish itself in many locations simultaneously.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; app development; Location choices; structure of the firm; sports industry; social media; global; Entrepreneurship; Sports Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; United Kingdom; South Africa;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, William R. Kerr, and Alexis Brownell. "FanMode: Launching a Global Sports Venture." Harvard Business School Case 813-190, June 2013. (Revised February 2014.) View Details
  14. MuMaté: Funding Growth

    Shikhar Ghosh, Joseph B. Fuller, Thomas R. Eisenmann, Alex Godden and Andrew Sandoe

    Keywords: Startup; venture capital; Business Startups; Financing and Loans; Consumer Products Industry; United States;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, Joseph B. Fuller, Thomas R. Eisenmann, Alex Godden, and Andrew Sandoe. "MuMaté: Funding Growth." Harvard Business School Case 814-063, January 2014. (Revised January 2014.) View Details
  15. Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

    Paul W. Marshall, Thomas R. Eisenmann, Shikhar Ghosh and Lauren Barley

    Provides background information for a negotiations exercise in which students will represent either Keurig, a startup that has developed an innovative "portion pack" coffee brewing solution, or Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), a fast-growing premium coffee roaster interested in licensing Keurig's technology. The negotiation will determine the royalty to be paid to Keurig by GMCR, which will bear capital expenditures, and whether GMCR secures exclusive distribution rights to Keurig's system.

    Keywords: Negotiation; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Marshall, Paul W., Thomas R. Eisenmann, Shikhar Ghosh, and Lauren Barley. "Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters." Harvard Business School Case 812-101, December 2011. View Details
  16. Keurig: Confidential Information for Negotiation with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

    Thomas R. Eisenmann, Shikhar Ghosh and James K. Sebenius

    Case provides confidential information for students assuming the role of senior executives of Keurig, a startup that has developed an innovative "portion pack" coffee brewing solution, in a negotiation to license technology to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). The negotiation will determine the royalty to be paid to Keurig by GMCR, which will bear capital expenditures, and determine whether GMCR secures exclusive distribution rights to Keurig's system.

    Keywords: Negotiation; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Eisenmann, Thomas R., Shikhar Ghosh, and James K. Sebenius. "Keurig: Confidential Information for Negotiation with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters." Harvard Business School Case 812-102, December 2011. View Details
  17. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Confidential Information for Negotiation with Keurig

    Thomas R. Eisenmann, Shikhar Ghosh and James K. Sebenius

    Case provides confidential information for students assuming the role of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) senior executives in a negotiation to license technology from Keurig, a startup that has developed an innovative "portion pack" coffee brewing solution. The negotiation will determine the royalty to be paid to Keurig by GMCR, which will bear capital expenditures, and determine whether GMCR secures exclusive distribution rights to Keurig's system.

    Keywords: Negotiation; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Eisenmann, Thomas R., Shikhar Ghosh, and James K. Sebenius. "Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Confidential Information for Negotiation with Keurig." Harvard Business School Case 812-103, December 2011. View Details
  18. The Sandbox: Creating a Bottom-Up Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

    Shikhar Ghosh, Lynda M. Applegate, Rhea Ghosh and Amar Kumar

    Discussion of new model of Social Enterprise that applies the venture capital model to social enterprise.

    Keywords: Social Entrepreneurship; Non-Governmental Organizations; Venture Capital; Business Model;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, Lynda M. Applegate, Rhea Ghosh, and Amar Kumar. "The Sandbox: Creating a Bottom-Up Entrepreneurial Ecosystem." Harvard Business School Case 811-053, April 2011. View Details
  19. Skyhook Wireless

    Shikhar Ghosh and Thomas R. Eisenmann

    Ted Morgan, the founder of Skyhook Wireless just received a call from Steve Jobs of Apple asking for a meeting. Ted must decide how to prepare for a meeting that could finally give Skyhook an anchor customer. Ted and his team have worked for three years to build a new approach to location based services that uses WiFi rather than the well-established satellite based GPS technology. Skyhook's approach is more accurate than GPS in urban areas and, unlike GPS, it works indoors. Yet, large device manufacturers are reluctant to be the first ones to use it. Skyhook has no customers. The board and investors are getting restless. Should Ted offer Steve Jobs a free license, or pay him for Apple's user base—or should he insist on a substantial license fee? The case examines the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in creating a technology-based company and in getting market traction against an established standard.

    Keywords: Wireless Technology; Information Technology; Business Ventures; Business Startups; Technology Industry;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Thomas R. Eisenmann. "Skyhook Wireless." Harvard Business School Case 809-119, April 2009. (Revised May 2017.) View Details

    Research Summary

  1. Overview

    by Shikhar Ghosh

    I am focused on exploring the human side of developing early stage entrepreneurial ventures. these enterprises are charecterized by the pursuit of opportunity, shortage of resources to pursue their goals and uncertainity at every step of the journey. Some of the questions that I explore are - How should founding teams be structured? What are the tensions that develop as these teams face complex challenges and develop into larger organizations? - How do the challenges faced by founders change as their organizations grow? What is the correct balance between informal and formal systems and processes as the organization outgrows the ability of the founding team to actively direct operations? What are the typical transition points as the organization becomes more complex? - How do entrepreneurs face the challenges of success and failure? What metrics so they use to measure their progress and make choices around the critical exit decisions - should I continue or stop the venture, should i sell or stay in the venture? - How well do most commonly used frameworks and approaches for managing large stable organizations address the needs of small, rapidly growing organizations that face uncertainty in all facets of their operations?

    Keywords: Scale; exit; Founders' agreements; Success measures; Entrepreneurial risk; entrepreneurship; failure; founding teams; Entrepreneurship; Failure;