Niantic Labs and the Professional Entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley: Google, Pokémon Go, and Beyond
by Jerome S. Engel
This case series 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.
The case series primarily centers on Hanke's most recent venture - San Francisco-based Niantic Labs that develops augmented reality (AR) games for use on smart phones - and tells the storyline in three distinct cases: The (A) case explores whether Hanke should spin Niantic out of Google in 2015; the (B) case asks what strategic choices Niantic should undertake, immediately following the successful launch of its Pokémon Go game in Summer 2016; and the (C) case ponders how Niantic should further execute on its strategy of scaling up in 2019, especially with the advent of G5 technology. There are also additional sub-themes in the case series that make this a potentially discussion-rich case for classroom use: (1) How the different components of the 'Cluster 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 Hanke successfully created several start-ups prior to Google acquiring his third one, Keyhole, an 3-D online mapping company, in 2004 and then rebranding 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 success of Google Maps and Google Street View; (4) The importance of 'organizational alignment and fit' with Hanke managing the transition of his core team, through Keyhole's acquisition, success within Google with the Geo Division, and ultimate spin-out of Niantic and its emergence as an independent company when scale no longer offset the benefits of entrepreneurial stand-alone flexibility; and (5) the importance of 'grasping the power of new technologies converging and impacting the consumer market.'
The purpose of this Niantic Labs case series - using the career of John Hanke, a 1996 MBA graduate of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, as the lens - is to explore the impact of a professional entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley as Hanke successfully starts, scales-up or sells/spins-out several companies (Archetype Interactive, Keyhole, Google Geo Products, and Niantic) - both outside and inside of the typical corporate environment. What all these start-ups have in common is that they are built around several emerging trends online: interactive gaming, GPS-based mapping, mobile, social media, and augmented reality. The 'spin-ins' or 'spin-outs' of these start-ups into or from a larger corporate entity are also discussed as well as the concepts of open innovation, cluster of innovation, and lean management.
Pub Date: Oct 31, 2019
Subjects: Divestiture, Mergers & acquisitions, Emerging markets, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Strategic alliances, Business models, Internet
Product #: B5946-PDF-ENG
Industry: Gaming, Online information services
Geography: California, Silicon Valley
Length: 12 page(s)
Berkeley Haas Case SeriesFollowThe Berkeley Haas Case Series is a collection of business case studies written by faculty members at the Haas School of Business. Cases are conceived, developed, written, and published throughout the year, on subjects ranging from entrepreneurship and strategy to finance and marketing. Each case includes a teaching note for use in the classroom.