By Robert Siegel, Yin Li
2015 | Case No. E562 | Length 14 pgs.

The case follows CircleUp, an online marketplace that connects early-stage consumer retail companies with prospective investors.  The case begins by describing the dynamics of the traditional private equity industry, which incentivize firms to favor investments in larger, later-stage companies.  As a result, promising founders struggle to fundraise.  Ryan Caldbeck and Rory Eakin, two alums of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, launch CircleUp to help these companies obtain funding.  Using technology to both select the companies eligible to be listed on the platform and to facilitate the transaction process, the team hopes to create a new asset class.  However, Caldbeck and Eakin face significant challenges in scaling both the supply side (companies) and the demand side (investors).  The case presents several of these challenges, including whether to continue to curate companies that are allowed to join the platform, how to grow the capital being deployed on CircleUp, and how to maintain a high conversion rate (percentage of companies funded) as CircleUp seeks rapid growth.

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