By Robert Chess, Claire Magat, Jessica Morgan
2015 | Case No. E331 | Length 20 pgs.

This case follows the journey of Amyris Biotechnologies from being one of the most popular clean tech startups in Silicon Valley to being an out-of-favor public company.  This case explores the difficulties of changing a high capex business model and asks students to evaluate the best market for the company to apply a technology to. Students have to weigh the value of going after larger markets solving major problems for society versus focusing on short-term profitability.  The case also addresses the challenges of being a mission-driven organization.  There were many benefits for Amyris to being a company focused on curing malaria and then finding renewable fuel sources, but the mission could be seen as a disadvantage when trying to shift the focus to high-value chemicals such as cosmetics.

Learning Objective

To help students appreciate the difficulty of pivoting a high capex business model; evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of being a mission-driven organization; and observe the ups and downs of a venture-backed company.
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