New Research on the Region

  • November 2021
  • Case

QuantumScape's Mission to Revolutionize Energy Storage for a Sustainable Future

By: William A. Sahlman, Allison M. Ciechanover and Jeff Huizinga

QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh juggles the many activities required to lead the next-generation battery pioneer. Founded in 2010, QuantumScape’s mission was to develop new “solid-state” car batteries that would improve upon traditional lithium-ion batteries in key areas such as range, charging speed, durability, cost, and safety. Success, they believed, would accelerate the transition from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles. Between 2010 and late 2020, QuantumScape operated in stealth mode and raised venture financing totaling more than $800 million. The team grew to over 200 employees, nearly all scientists and engineers working on the technical challenges associated with creating a solid-state battery that could be produced at scale. By summer 2020 it was clear to Singh and the board that the company required more capital to help fund its commercialization plan. In November 2020, QuantumScape went public by merging with a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). Now, with that capital in hand, production facilities under construction, and a signed joint venture with Volkswagen, Singh expected to see cars with its batteries on highways by 2025.

  • October 2021
  • Case

Chia Network: Reimagining Programmable Money

By: William A. Sahlman and George Gonzalez

Chia Network developed a novel blockchain platform that was more eco-friendly, decentralized, and scalable than Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other blockchains. Now, company leadership must decide how to scale the startup and prioritize various partnerships, use cases, and markets.

  • 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.

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California Research Center Team

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