Berkeley Haas Case Series

Case Information

Google and Niantic Labs: The Professional Entrepreneur and Innovation in the Silicon Valley (A)
Engel, Jerome S.
Publication date: 7/1/2016, pages 1-26

The case study focuses on the entrepreneurial career of John Hanke, a 1996 MBA graduate of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a professional entrepreneur. While the case’s central storyline centers on whether Hanke should spin-out his most recent venture - an entity called Niantic Labs that develops augmented reality (AR) games for use on smart phones from Google - in early 2015, there are multiple subplots that make this a potentially discussion-rich case for classroom use: (1) How the different components of the "Culture of Innovation" ecosystem in the San Francisco Bay Area impacted Hanke’s career, starting from the time when he first enrolled at Berkeley-Haas in Fall 1994 up to his current situation now; (2) How he successfully created several start-ups before Google acquired his third one, Keyhole, an 3-D online mapping company, in 2004 and then rebranded it as Google Earth; (3) How he was able to scale-up Google’s Geo-products division over an eight-year period and within a large corporate setting by applying the concepts of "lean start-up", "open sourcing", and "open innovation" that led to the eventual creation of Google Maps and Google Street View; and (4) The importance of "time and place", which demonstrates how Hanke, as a successful and experienced entrepreneur, foresaw the intersection of multiple converging technology trends, including the increased power of handheld computing, digital graphics, space-based imagery and geo-location with the ubiquitous use of mobile devices and the possibilities of new and related online products, services, and other forms of social interaction. Please note: This case also has a (B) supplement available.

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