Orb: The Next Big Thing

By Pedro M Gardete, Debra Schifrin
2016 | Case No. M363 | Length 11 pgs.

Orb, a tiny Silicon Valley start-up, came up with a breakthrough technology. Before anyone else was doing it, Orb developed software that enabled every type of media on a PC (including music, photos, and videos) to be streamed remotely to any mobile device for free. Orb also enabled users to stream live TV onto their PCs and mobile devices. This was a significant technological feat in the days before the iPhone and other smartphones. When it launched the product in 2005, Orb won the “Next Big Thing” award from an influential technology publication. Orb had developed a sophisticated technology that generated positive press, yet the product did not immediately go viral, as the company had hoped. So Orb carried out several marketing, technological, and strategic pivots—and faced a lot of disappointment until it hit on what seemed to be a winning combination. The case, set in 2007, details these pivots and addresses the following topics: new product and feature development; customer acquisition; customer usage and retention; and marketing opportunities and challenges. The case ends with a decision about what the company should do next.

Learning Objective

Teaching objectives include:

  • 1) learning about the main principles and challenges of marketing in start-ups;
  • 2) familiarizing students with the significant amount of uncertainty start-ups face;
  • 3) questioning expectations about what constitutes a “good venture”; and
  • 4) considering the true “cost of capital” of venture capital, which often implies a “boom or bust” scenario.
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