New Research on the Region

  • February 2024
  • Case

FIGS: Scrubbing the Status Quo

By: Jeffrey F. Rayport and Nicole Tempest Keller

In October 2023, FIGS had revolutionized the medical scrubs industry with its fashionable and functional designs, but the venture was at a critical juncture. The digitally native vertical brand (DNVB) had gone public in a successful IPO in 2021 and reached $500 million in revenue in 2022. Investors had dubbed FIGS the “Lululemon of healthcare apparel.” However, by 2023, FIGS was facing slowing growth, significant margin pressure, and a radical share price decline, exacerbated by macroeconomic headwinds and increasing competition. In response, CEO Catherine “Trina” Spear, who was also a co-founder, was contemplating three strategic growth initiatives to bolster FIGS’ competitive position: expanding international presence, targeting healthcare institutions (a move into B2B), and establishing retail stores. Each avenue of growth held potential. International was a large market opportunity, B2B could unlock a stable new revenue stream, and retail stores offered brand visibility and synergy with the online experience. Spear had to decide whether FIGS’s small team should pursue one or more of these opportunities, and, if so, whether to pursue them concurrently or with a phased approach.

  • December 2023 (Revised February 2024)
  • Case

Generative AI and the Future of Work

By: Christopher Stanton and Matt Higgins

Generative AI seemed poised to reshape the world of work, including the higher-wage, white-collar jobs typically pursued by MBA graduates. Informed by the latest research, this case explores generative AI's potential impacts on work, productivity, value creation, and the labor market.

  • November 2023
  • Case

Khanmigo: Revolutionizing Learning with GenAI

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

Already a leader in the edtech space since its 2008 launch, Khan Academy was now one of the first edtech organizations to embrace generative artificial intelligence ("genAI"). In March 2023, Khan Academy began beta testing Khanmigo, a genAI “guide” and tutor built with ChatGPT, a technology developed by the San Francisco-based AI research lab OpenAI. In addition to simulating historical and fictional characters, Khanmigo assisted students with learning math, debugging code, writing, and completing other learning exercises. Khanmigo was also designed to help teachers develop lesson plans and quizzes, brainstorm creative teaching approaches, and evaluate students’ progress, among other tasks. As the Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, Sal Khan felt that Khanmigo might just be “that holy grail we’ve all been reading about in science fiction for years, about an artificial intelligence that could emulate a human tutor.” However, he pondered what the societal—and, for Khan Academy, organizational—risks might be of using OpenAI's ChatGPT. Was it possible that Khanmigo would introduce new problems or exacerbate existing problems in classrooms around the world? If so, what more could Khan Academy do to prevent such outcomes? How might Khan Academy itself need to evolve to support and shepherd this new tool? At the most extreme, might genAI increase Khan Academy’s impact manifold, or might the new technology diminish its impact?

  • October 2023
  • Case

Fortinet: Cybersecurity Pioneer Ken Xie Considers the Long Game

By: Tsedal Neeley, Jeff Huizinga and Emily Grandjean

Ken Xie, cofounder of cybersecurity giant Fortinet, faced a critical decision that would validate his leadership. Fortinet became the industry’s second-largest pureplay cybersecurity firm by developing differentiated hardware and investing in R&D. However, after a stock downgrade despite strong financials, Xie weighed adapting messaging versus remaining steadfast. With competitors like Palo Alto Networks gaining accolades for cloud focus and acquisitions, some advisors pushed Xie to highlight Fortinet’s comparable cloud capabilities more. But doing so would diverge from Xie's conviction in hardware advantages in a complex, rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape. As threats became more sophisticated, agility in communication was essential. The impending earnings call forced Xie to consider his conviction with openness to new narratives. Xie grappled with how to amplify cloud messaging without having it overshadow and dilute Fortinet's core identity rooted in hardware expertise and advantage. The case analyzes how cybersecurity leaders make high-stakes decisions weighing competing demands between long-held beliefs and market adaptations in shaping their communication, where a wrong choice could expose customers to evolving threats.

  • October 2023
  • Case

Vida Health: Transforming Chronic Disease Treatment

By: William Sahlman and Nicole Tempest Keller

San Francisco based Vida Health, founded by Stephanie Tilenius, former vice president of Commerce and Payments at Google, was a B2B digital health startup focused on the treatment of cardiometabolic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Its innovative digital platform integrated technology with human care, and its treatment approach focused on physical health as well as mental health, creating a unique, holistic solution. As a Series D venture backed company with $188 million in funding, Vida was eager to scale the business faster. In 2023 Tilenius was grappling with whether to start prescribing weight loss drugs as part of Vida’s obesity management program. Consumer demand for newly FDA-approved semaglutide drugs (GLP-1s), like Ozempic, was surging. However, GLP-1s were already facing scrutiny for risks; they had known negative side effects; and there was no clear scientific proof that people could be taken off them and maintain weight loss. It was also not clear how the market would respond if Vida—which had differentiated itself through its behavioral management approach to chronic disease—entered the weight loss prescription drug business. Would Vida be characterized as a “pill-mill”? If Vida did decide to offer prescription weight loss drugs as part of its platform, it would also have to decide if it should roll out a B2C platform to reach consumers who were not covered through an employer plan or whose plan did not cover weight loss medications. Tilenius had significant experience with B2C brands and saw the potential. However, building a B2C brand would likely be a costly endeavor.

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California Research Center Team

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