By George Foster, Ryan Kissick
2016 | Case No. E590 | Length 22 pgs.

Near the end of 2014, Derek Belch decided to turn his master’s thesis into a virtual reality athletic training company called STRIVR Labs [Sports Training in Virtual Reality]. Born out of Stanford University’s famed Virtual Human Interaction Lab, STRIVR garnered immediate interest from a wide array of organizations. Having played and coached football at Stanford University, Belch had connections within several professional and collegiate football programs. Furthermore, he had tested STRIVR’s revolutionary product extensively with the Stanford University Football team throughout the 2014 football season. During this testing phase, Belch made drastic improvements to the virtual reality training solution, and several national media outlets began to take notice of the innovative technology. Against this backdrop, Belch was able to secure several meetings in the beginning of 2015 with coaches, scouts, and NFL executives, with the hope of acquiring a few customers. By the end of June, STRIVR had signed contracts with two NFL teams and six colleges. By the end of August, STRIVR had added an additional four NFL teams, three college football teams, the NBA’s Washington Wizards, and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

As STRIVR grew its customer base, it generated significant press, which led to even more inbound interest in STRIVR’s solutions. Much of the interest came from sports teams, eager to utilize STRIVR’s sports training solution. However, several companies approached Belch to discuss partnership opportunities outside of sports training—some related to sports entertainment, and others in industries completely unrelated to sports. In less than a year, Belch and the STRIVR team had seemingly endless opportunities for growth. And while Belch was thrilled about the many potential avenues for STRIVR’s continued expansion, he knew that the excitement needed to be tempered with caution.

Learning Objective

“STRIVR Labs” explores the challenges faced by the early-stage start-up during this period of rapid growth. Specific obstacles addressed in the case include: financing a start-up, prioritizing customer and market opportunities, assessing pricing for a new product, and managing a large team of employees spread across more than half a dozen cities in the United States.
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