New Research on the Region

  • August 2023
  • Case


By: Thomas R. Eisenmann and Matt Higgins

The founders of Quotient, a web-based service for onboarding new engineers, face decisions about how to bring their nascent product to market amidst a tech sector contraction.

  • April 2023 (Revised September 2023)
  • Case

Levels: The Remote, Asynchronous, Deep Work Management System

By: Joseph B. Fuller and George Gonzalez

Levels is a highly innovative startup in the health care space. They intend to revolutionize health by linking behavior—eating, exercise, sleeping, etc.—to changes in metabolism. They believe metabolic health can be managed through careful monitoring of changes in variables like blood glucose levels using digital monitors. The company is, however, more interesting for its management model and organization structure. Founded prior to Covid, Levels is a ‘native remote’ company. All the management processes are designed to function without employees regularly interacting face-to-face. There is a great emphasis on information being prepared to support asynchronously. The company makes extensive use of tools that allow employees to generate effective content. It also practices radical transparency internally and externally, with the vast majority of its strategic documents, research agenda and product development agenda accessible freely to outsiders. Even more interestingly, the work process are designed to maximize employees’ opportunity to engage in ‘deep work.’ Deep work is a concept associated with the writing of Georgetown computer scientist, Cal Newport. It is based on the premise that humans are singularly bad at context shifting and that they require extended period during which they can apply themselves to difficult tasks without interruption or distraction. The Levels management model minimizes the number of meetings (i.e., no more than two a week for most people, many of those optional), real time communities, etc. Levels adherence to a native remote/deep work model provides a fascinating basis for evaluating innovative management structures and the challenges in running a distributed workforce.

  • March 2023 (Revised May 2023)
  • Case

Akamai Technologies: Expanding the Talent Pipeline

By: Christopher Stanton, Lynda M. Applegate, Allison Ciechanover, Emily Grandjean and Sophie Beck

In 2022, senior executives of Cambridge, MA-based Akamai Technologies met to consider whether and how to scale a successful technical training program. The program, Akamai Technical Academy (ATA), was launched in 2016 to address a key challenge at Akamai and in the technology industry at large—the need to create an inclusive and diverse workforce. ATA participants came from communities typically underrepresented in the tech industry. They went through six months of in-class training followed by a six-month on-the-job contract working with Akamai project teams. By early 2022, nearly 150 ATA graduates from the U.S., Poland, and Costa Rica had converted to full-time employment, and internal hiring managers were interested in recruiting future ATA graduates. Ultimately, the company wanted to build a robust and diverse global talent pipeline, as well as promote inclusion and diversity in the global technology industry. If ATA were to be a catalyst for these changes, it would need to scale. As they prepared for their meeting, the ATA executives grappled with whether and how to scale the ATA to meet growing internal demand, while also building the platform to transform Akamai and the global technology industry.

  • February 22, 2023
  • Article
  • Harvard Business Review (website)

How to Seed Organic Marketing in a Video-First World

Early direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies relied on plentiful capital and low-cost digital marketing to power growth. But as this sector has matured, capital is more constrained, social media is more cluttered, and customer acquisition costs are rising. DTC companies need new marketing techniques to find customers today, and the 4Cs—content, consumers, creators, and celebrities — can help.

  • February 2023
  • Case

Roblox: Virtual Commerce in the Metaverse

By: Ayelet Israeli and Nicole Tempest Keller

In 2022, Roblox had 58.8 million daily active users, including over half of all children and teens under the age of 16 in the United States. Roblox, a free-to-use “co-experience platform”, allowed users to come together in immersive 3D experiences to socialize, work, play, learn, and purchase virtual and real goods. Brands saw Roblox as a major metaverse testing ground and experimented by offering a variety of branded items and experiences. In 2022, Roblox was grappling with how to maintain revenue growth and generate profits, considering two key decisions. First, how should Roblox expand its partnerships with brands, and should Roblox allow brands to offer immersive advertising within experiences? Roblox would have to tread carefully to not raise the ire of watchdog groups who were wary of advertising targeted at children. Second, should Roblox change its economic model which was free to publish, and adopt a “scarcity economy” whereby Roblox would allow creators to only publish items in limited quantities and charge an upfront fee for item creation, similar to a manufacturing fee? On one hand, scarcity could prevent excess supply from driving down prices, but culturally Roblox users and developers were accustomed to unlimited supply, low prices, and virtually no upfront fees.

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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