New Research on the Region

  • November 2022
  • Case

Replika AI: Monetizing a Chatbot

By: Julian De Freitas and Nicole Tempest Keller

In early 2018, Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based chatbot Replika AI, was deciding how to monetize the app she had built. Launched in 2017, Replika was a consumer AI “companion app” developed by a team of AI software engineers originally based in Moscow. Replika allowed users to create their own customized AI avatar and then have free-flowing text conversations back and forth with it, like one would with a friend. Replika had a successful initial launch, signing up 2.5 million users in its first year, however, it was struggling to keep users on its app. Replika’s research showed that its heavy users tended to be struggling with a bouquet of physical or mental health issues. Two monetization options were being considered: develop a subscription model for the AI companion app or pivot into a mental health app. The subscription model would offer a host of added benefits for subscribers and could be marketed at a broad TAM of lonely people. The mental health app would combine talk therapy (with the chatbot) with clinically proven therapeutic exercises, and would be targeted at people struggling with mental health issues. On the subscription side, investors were concerned that the app’s users did not fit the typical profile of paid app subscribers. Yet pursuing the mental health app would mean venturing into a more regulated market and engaging in more carefully scripted responses rather than the freeform texting of the current app. The firm had been through a series of pivots and was hoping to find a clear path before venture funding ran out.

  • November 2022
  • Case

AES Corp: A Global Power Transformation

By: Tarun Khanna, Allison Ciechanover and Matt Higgins

  • October 2022
  • Case

Lyra Health: Transforming Mental Health

By: Rembrand Koning and Nicole Keller

In January 2022, Lyra Health was deciding between several different alternatives to grow the business. Founded in 2015, Lyra Health, was a digital mental health platform that combined technology with human therapists and coaches to deliver high quality mental health care to patients. One in five Americans suffered from mental health challenges each year, resulting in significant lost productivity. Yet access to mental health providers was severely limited since many providers did not accept insurance. Quality of care also varied as many providers did not use clinically proven therapeutic treatments. Lyra brought a new approach to the problem by offering easily accessible, high quality mental health services to employees of companies as part of a reimagined employee assistance program (EAP) that encouraged usage. To date, Lyra had focused on large enterprise customers, such as Starbucks, Facebook, and Morgan Stanley. The company believed there was significant untapped opportunity in the corporate enterprise market, but acknowledged that to continue to grow after 2025, it would need to tap into other customer segments. The company was considering expanding internationally, expanding into higher acuity care, targeting small business, and selling to government funded health plans. Each required significant changes to the product as well as operational changes, so realistically, Lyra could only focus on one or two growth options in the near term, and picking the order was important.

  • October 2022
  • Case

EducationSuperHighway 2.0

By: William A. Sahlman, Allison M. Ciechanover and Emily Grandjean

In 2012, Evan Marwell launched EducationSuperHighway (ESH) to address a major problem: though most public K-12 schools in the US had access to the Internet, only roughly 30% had true broadband access that would enable every student to have high speed connectivity. Marwell and his team raised philanthropic capital and worked with schools, telecommunications companies, and local, state, and federal government officials to meet that challenge. By 2019, over 99% of the public schools in the US had true broadband access. Marwell and his team had begun the process of winding down activities at ESH when the pandemic erupted. Students were working from home, not physically at school. They decided to try to help 18 million households with 47 million people to have affordable broadband access at home. In 2020, Marwell and Jessica Reid Sliwerski also launched a program to tackle a pernicious problem in education; by third grade, only about one in three US children were reading at grade level. Ignite! Reading offered students access to an individual science of reading tutor for 15 minutes a day over Zoom while at school. Early evidence suggested that for every week working with an Ignite tutor, kids gained over 2 weeks of reading comprehension. Ignite was organized as a public benefit corporation.

  • August 2022
  • Teaching Material

LooksRare: The Decentralized, Tokenized, NFT Marketplace

Teaching Note for HBS Case No. 822-119.

See more research

California Research Center Team

Allison Ciechanover
Executive Director
George Gonzalez
Senior Researcher
Emily Grandjean
Research Associate
Jeffrey Huizinga
Senior Researcher
Nicole Keller
Senior Researcher