Transforming Ideas into Powerful Enterprises (IPE) - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Transforming Ideas into Powerful Enterprises (IPE)

Course Number 1292

Professor of Management Practice John R. Wells
Spring; Q3; 3 credits (Intensive)
28 sessions on 14 class meeting dates

Course Overview

This 3-credit course is designed for entrepreneurs looking to create high-potential business opportunities, turn them into fast-growth firms, and drive them to become powerhouses in their fields. The course should also appeal to intrapreneurs looking to trigger more innovation and change in larger organizations.

One of the organizing principles of the course is the business lifecycle, addressing the key challenges leaders face at the various stages of the development of an enterprise: foundation, launch, fast growth, transition to maturity, decline, and renewal (or death).

Course Structure

The course is divided into four modules:-

The module addresses where to look for a business opportunity, how to translate it into a fundable business model, how to prepare it for launch, and how to build it into a platform for fast growth;

Rapid Growth
This module covers the trials and tribulations of managing hypergrowth (more than 100% p.a.) while keeping the company agile to strategic opportunities both within the business and in related areas;

Transition to Maturity
This module addresses the challenges faced by CEOs (and the entrepreneurs trapped within large companies) as they seek new directions, either organically or through M&A;

Decline and Renewal
The final module warns against creating “zombie” companies and looks at the challenges of managing decline and driving reinvention.

Course Content

The course covers many emerging sectors, such as Brain-Tech, Fin-Tech, Energy-Tech, and Transport-Tech, as well as some more traditional industries such as FMCG, Media, and Computing. In several of the sectors examined, participants will have an opportunity to meet the entrepreneurs that created the businesses being discussed and/or the financiers who backed them. (See Below.)

Course Timing

  • Quarter 3, Spring 2020 (first half of the semester)
  • 14 double sessions taught on X schedule days
  • From 1:15 pm to 4:45 pm with a 15-minute break: 1:15 pm - 2:30 pm / 2:45 pm - 4:00 pm


  • 3 Credits
  • 65% class participation
  • 35% exam

Optional Paper

Those completing the course are eligible for an optional 3 credit paper in the second half of the semester.


  • Cross registrants welcome
  • The course will not accept auditors

Overview of Content

While the content may change, the following provides an overview of the case materials.


    • 1.1. WARDS, Rise of Circuit City, Fall of Circuit City, CarMax
  • 2. START UP
    • 2.1. BrainTech: Hello Self, Pymetrics
    • 2.2. Business Incubators: Y Combinator, Rocket Internet, Blenheim Chalcot
    • 2.3. Fintech: ClearScore, Salary Finance
    • 2.4. Grid Storage: MA State of Charge, Acelerex
    • 2.5. Electric Vehicles /Autonomous Vehicles: Electric Car Wars, Waymo, Cruise
    • 2.6. Batteries: Giga Factory Wars, Alevo, Innolith
    • 3.1. Renewable Energy in the UK: Making the UK Grid Smarter, Good Energy
    • 3.2. Renewable Energy Retailing: Bulb Foundation, Bulb Launch, Bulb Fast Growth
    • 4.1. Unrelated diversification: Danaher, Tyco, GE
    • 4.2. Corporate incubators: IBM Emerging Business Opportunities, Intel Capital
    • 4.3. Globalizing: JCDecaux, ClearChannel
    • 4.4. Diversifying into related products, services: P&G, Nestle
  • 5. DECLINE
    • 5.1. Managing Decline, Reinvention: Kraft Heinz, Reinventing Best Buy