New Research on the Region

  • July 2021 (Revised August 2021)
  • Teaching Material

Airbnb Emerges from the Pandemic: Lessons for Stakeholder Governance (B)

By: Benjamin C. Esty and Allison M. Ciechanover

As the COVID pandemic spread in early 2020, global travel ground to a halt. For Airbnb, the San Francisco-based platform for renting accommodations, the impact was both swift and severe as revenues plummeted more than 70% over the prior year. Responding to the sudden downturn was a challenge for CEO Brian Chesky and his leadership team because the firm had adopted a stakeholder model with five key constituents: guests (renters), hosts (landlords), employees, communities and shareholders. While all five groups could benefit in the long-term if the firm succeeded, it was less clear how they should balance the potentially conflicting demands in the short-term particularly given the mounting losses. For example, in the face of travel restrictions, Airbnb could support guests by requiring hosts to refund deposits or could support hosts by allowing them to keep deposits. Similarly, should Airbnb use existing cash to maintain employment levels or downsize to protect capital providers? In the highly uncertain environment that existed in April 2020, Chesky and his team had to make many critical decisions with little precedent and limited information to guide them. As one of the first Silicon Valley "unicorns" to adopt a stakeholder business model, the world would be watching to see what they did, how they did it, and why.

  • June 2021
  • Case

Mobileye 2021: Robotaxi and/or Consumer AV?

By: David B. Yoffie, Danielle Golan and Nicole Tempest Keller

In March 2021, Amnon Shashua, co-founder and CEO of Israel-based Mobileye, was preparing to meet with Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, to review plans for the future. Mobileye had been acquired by California-based Intel in 2017, but still operated independently. Mobileye was the global leader in vision technology for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) with a 70% market share and $1 billion in revenue. However, for Shashua, ADAS was just the first step towards his dream of leading the autonomous vehicle (AV) revolution. It was this vision that led Intel to acquire Mobileye for $15.3 billion. Shashua’s challenge was that consumer AVs were still years away due to concerns over safety, regulation, cost, and consumer acceptance. A nearer term use case for AVs was the robotaxi market—fully autonomous, driverless taxis. Shashua and his team were excited about the potential of robotaxis to change the future of mobility, projecting that the market would grow to $160 billion globally by 2030. Mobileye believed that it could generate at least $15 billion in annual robotaxi revenue by the end of the decade. Equally important, Shashua viewed robotaxis as a necessary first step toward consumer AVs. Mobileye could use its experience in robotaxis to improve AV technology, address regulatory challenges, and build high definition maps. The long-term question facing Mobileye was whether to: 1) invest billions of dollars to build-out a global, vertically integrated robotaxi business; 2) use robotaxis as an opportunity to learn and then revert back to a horizontal supplier of AV chips and software; and/or 3) do both? During most of Intel’s history, the company had been a horizontal semiconductor company which avoided vertically integrating into its customers’ businesses. Should Shashua make the case that it was time for a change—and Intel should run a full-stack vertical robotaxi company? Each strategic choice had different capital requirements, risk profiles, and margin opportunities. Shashua needed to decide which direction to recommend to Gelsinger.

  • May 2021 (Revised August 2021)
  • Case

Airbnb During the Pandemic: Stakeholder Capitalism Faces a Critical Test

By: Benjamin C. Esty and Allison Ciechanover

As the COVID pandemic spread in early 2020, global travel ground to a halt. For Airbnb, the San Francisco-based platform for renting accommodations, the impact was both swift and severe as revenues plummeted more than 70% over the prior year. Responding to the sudden downturn was a challenge for CEO Brian Chesky and his leadership team because the firm had adopted a stakeholder model with five key constituents: guests (renters), hosts (landlords), employees, communities and shareholders. While all five groups could benefit in the long-term if the firm succeeded, it was less clear how they should balance the potentially conflicting demands in the short-term particularly given the mounting losses. For example, in the face of travel restrictions, Airbnb could support guests by requiring hosts to refund deposits or could support hosts by allowing them to keep deposits. Similarly, should Airbnb use existing cash to maintain employment levels or downsize to protect capital providers? In the highly uncertain environment that existed in April 2020, Chesky and his team had to make many critical decisions with little precedent and limited information to guide them. As one of the first Silicon Valley "unicorns" to adopt a stakeholder business model, the world would be watching to see what they did, how they did it, and why.

  • April 2021
  • Case

Transforming BlackBerry: From Smartphones to Software

By: Ranjay Gulati and Nicole Tempest Keller

On the verge of failure, BlackBerry brought in John Chen as CEO in 2013 to orchestrate a bold turnaround of the company. Once an iconic leader in the smartphone market, BlackBerry was best known for its tactile QWERTY keyboard, strong security, and a focus on business users. By 2009 it had come to dominate the North American and global smart phone markets. But Apple and Android entered the market with a strong consumer focus and an extensive suite of apps. BlackBerry’s subsequent efforts to emulate their competitors was too little and too late. With few options left, the board brought in Chen. Under Chen’s leadership, Blackberry executed a full pivot from a hardware company to a software company, focused on the cyber security market. Leveraging their expertise in security, and funding it by monetizing their extensive real estate holdings and library of intellectual property, Chen led the successful transformation of the company into a software enterprise. Along the way came many challenges including how to delicately manage the ramp down of its hardware business as it ramped up its software business.By 2020, BlackBerry had $1 billion in software revenues, with strong gross margins, and positive operating cash flow. However, BlackBerry was at a crossroads. The stock price had stubbornly plateaued as investors waited for signs of significant growth. Yet in order to grow, BlackBerry might have to sacrifice profitability to gain market share as it competed against both deep-pocketed, large players and agile startups. The decision to invest heavily in growth would have far-reaching implications on BlackBerry’s go-to-market strategy, pricing, and distribution. Focusing on market share would violate the model that Chen had worked so hard to put in place. Was this the right strategy? Were there other options the company should pursue?

  • February 2021
  • Case

Braintrust: The Blockchain-Powered Talent Network

By: Christopher Stanton, Joseph B. Fuller and George Gonzalez

San Francisco startup Braintrust developed a talent network governed and incentivized by a blockchain token as a way to align incentives between clients and freelancers. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise of remote work and accelerated the growth of the platform; however, the founders must decide how to sustainably scale the network. They must also make key decisions around global expansion, feature adoption, and recruiting users on both sides of the platform--all while managing the logistics of a decentralized blockchain token.

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California Research Center Team

Allison Ciechanover
Executive Director
George Gonzalez
Senior Researcher
Jeffrey Huizinga
Senior Researcher
Nicole Keller
Senior Researcher