Runa: Driving Social Change through Passion and Profit

By Laura Hattendorf, Ryan Kissick
2016 | Case No. E549 | Length 21 pgs.

Near the end of 2008, Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie enrolled in an entrepreneurship course at Brown University.  During the class, they refined the business plan for Runa, a beverage company that would make drinks from guayusa, a little-known leaf that grew in the Amazon.  Beyond the potential of the business to make money, the two believed in Runa’s social mission―respecting the cultural traditions of Ecuadorian Kichwa communities, providing sustainable income streams to small farmers, and helping the Amazon rainforest thrive.

Just months after delivering their final classroom presentation for Runa, Gage and MacCombie found themselves in Ecuador, pursuing the idea full time.  “Runa: Driving Social Change through Passion and Profit” explores Gage and MacCombie’s journey from class project to a fast-growing start-up.  More specifically, the case explores the myriad challenges Gage and MacCombie faced in building Runa: raising money to launch the venture; establishing successful partnerships and overcoming deep-seated skepticism among Ecuadorian communities; building a supply chain from scratch; developing a successful go-to-market strategy; and maintaining their focus on social impact while simultaneously generating financial returns.

Learning Objective

The Runa case highlights several learning objectives: 1) Financing a socially driven venture; 2) Establishing successful partnerships both within, and outside, the United States; 3) Developing a go-to-market strategy; 4) Evaluating the authenticity of Runa’s founders.
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