New Research on the Region

  • 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.

  • February 2023
  • Case

Nexus Market (A): Ukraine War Ripples into Silicon Valley

By: Tsedal Neeley and Jeff Huizinga

A Silicon Valley start-up executive must navigate tensions between its Ukrainian and Russian sub-contractors as war between the two countries rages. After war erupts between Ukraine and Russia, a team of subcontracted Ukrainian software developers threatens to cut ties with a venture-backed Silicon Valley startup if the company does not end its relationship with a team of subcontracted Russian developers. The start-up's VP of Product and Engineering works to smooth tensions and find a solution.

  • February 2023
  • Teaching Material

Nexus Market (B): After the Ultimatum

By: Tsedal Neeley and Jeff Huizinga

This case reveals how the situation with Nexus Market and its Ukrainian and Russian subcontractors was resolved. The conclusion to the story of a Silicon Valley start-up executive facing an ultimatum from a team of Ukrainian subcontractors to cut ties with a separate team of Russian subcontractors due to tensions stemming from the ongoing war in Ukraine.

  • January 2023 (Revised March 2023)
  • Case

OhmConnect: Energizing the Future

By: Jeffrey F. Rayport, Jennifer Fonstad and Nicole Tempest Keller

Founded in 2013, OhmConnect was a free consumer web app that alerted customers about peak hours of electricity demand, and paid them to lower their energy use at home during these periods. The company sold the aggregated reductions generated by thousands of households to the electricity market as “negawatt” hours. For each kilowatt-hour of electricity reduced, OhmConnect was paid the same as if a fossil fuel-powered “peaker plant” had generated that kilowatt-hour of electricity. OhmConnect shared a portion of this revenue with its customers in the form of rewards and prizes. By lowering energy demand when the electric grid was stressed, OhmConnect reduced the need for peaker plants to be fired up, saving money and reducing pollution. As of 2022, the company operated in three states in the U.S. with approximately 215,000 users. As a Series D venture that had raised more than $95 million in VC, OhmConnect was under pressure to grow. Yet regulatory hurdles and long lead times on electricity capacity procurement contracts had created significant challenges to scaling. OhmConnect needed to decide whether to continue to expand into new markets one-by-one with its existing business model or pursue a new national product that could attract national marketing partners, possibly lowering OhmConnect’s customer acquisition cost. Establishing a national footprint could also enable OhmConnect to build a national data hub on home electricity usage, which, in turn, might open doors to alternative monetization opportunities down the road and allow the company to access broader funding sources, including from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

  • January 2023
  • Case

Veeva Systems and the Transformation to a Public Benefit Corporation

By: Ranjay Gulati and Allison M. Ciechanover

Peter Gassner, the co-founder and CEO of Veeva Systems, steered the company through rapid scaling from its launch in 2007 to 2022. Year after year, the company had exceeded expectations, with its market capitalization reaching $50 billion at its peak. By 2022, the company estimated it had an 80% market share of the pharmaceutical customer relationship management software industry. Annual revenue was nearly $2 billion and its global workforce surpassed 5,000 employees. Throughout its growth, Gassner infused the company with a unique purpose and a set of values known as the “Veeva Way.” The company culture had always put its customers and employees first. In 2021, Gassner took this commitment to the next level, by transforming the organization from a c-corporation to a public benefit corporation, the first publicly-traded company in the U.S. to do so. While the company remained a for-profit entity, it was now legally required to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders such as employees, customers, society, and shareholders. Veeva’s new incorporation certificate included the specific public purpose to “help make the industries it serves more productive and create high-quality employment opportunities.” The case is set one year after the transformation. Gassner reflects on the decision to become a PBC and the process by which it unfolded. He takes stock of the company’s inaugural PBC report, an important marker of the new structure.

See more research

California Research Center Team

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