How McKinsey Lost Its Way in South Africa

When the godfather of management consulting landed its biggest contract ever in Africa, it made the worst mistake in its storied nine-decade history.

Danaher’s Instruments of Change

Distinctive capabilities have been central to Danaher’s success since the mid-1980s, when Mitchell Rales and Steven Rales, two brothers who owned a commercial real estate business, discovered they had a knack for buying and turning around ailing manufacturing companies. Over the years, the company had evolved from a highly leveraged startup to a profitable family of ventures with a market capitalization of more than US$40 … [ Read more ]

The Tenets of A/B Testing from Duolingo’s Master Growth Hacker

Optimizing a product is always a mix of the grand and the granular. Gina Gotthilf, VP of Growth at language education platform Duolingo, knows that anything you send out to your users — even a dot — yields valuable data. So test it all, internalize every number, and use those results to inform what you do next.

By assiduously testing every notification, app screen and line … [ Read more ]

How Instacart Uses Data to Craft A Bespoke Comp Strategy

Under pressure, startups have a need for speed that makes freestyle negotiations or plug-and-play comp data resources attractive. But it doesn’t have to stay this way — and it can’t if a company wants a sound comp philosophy, one that prizes equity, transparency and employee happiness. Enter Jeremy Stanley, Udi Nir and Guissu Baier, the VPs of Data Science, Engineering and HR, respectively. They’re the … [ Read more ]

Pivot Survival Tactics from Kabam’s 3 Near-Death Triumphs

Kabam’s story is pretty well known. In a Cinderella story twist, the social network-turned-sports-turned-gaming company weathered three major pivots in 10 years to ultimately sell for $800 million. This is pretty much unheard of. But there’s a big chunk of this unlikely tale that hasn’t been told — how they managed to pull it off. In this exclusive interview, Co-founder and CEO Kevin Chou shares … [ Read more ]

Credit Karma’s CEO Built a Sexy Brand in an Unsexy Category with No PR Firm and a Tiny Budget — Here’s How

At First Round, we get asked all the time how companies can capture mindshare and customer fascination when they have hardly any resources to throw at it. Well, Kenneth Lin’s company Credit Karma did exactly that to create a company now worth over $3 billion, and he broke down how for the audience at our last CEO Summit. In this piece, we share his answers … [ Read more ]

ING’s Agile Transformation

Two senior executives from the global bank describe their recent journey.

Chipotle Eats Itself

Fast Company’s most extensive article in eight years, informed by hundreds of hours of interviews from inside and around the company, thousands of pages of documents that were leaked to us, on-site reporting from farms to industrial kitchens, and revealing discussions with Steve Ells, his co-CEO Monty Moran, and other top Chipotle leaders. It is an eye-opening, entertaining, and unvarnished look at a company and … [ Read more ]

Consistency Drives Success at Telus

The Canadian telecom giant transformed its business by adopting a clear, stable approach to strategy and culture.

How Adidas Found Its Second Wind

The sportswear giant’s embrace of its heritage shows how reconnecting with the past can inspire a company’s future.

Warby Parker Sees the Future of Retail

I spent more than three months embedded within Warby Parker to try to understand the making of this made-on-the-Internet brand. Among other things, I watched employees decide on frames for their winter season, wrestle with the nuances of their burgeoning retail strategy, and obsessively plan an employee ping-pong tournament. How, I asked—in meetings and during presentations in New York and over martinis in Los Angeles—have … [ Read more ]

The Inside Story Behind the Unlikely Rise of Airbnb

In 2007 Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were broke and looking to raise money to make their rent in San Francisco. They decided to rent out air mattresses in their apartment to attendees of a conference because all the hotels were booked. They called their service “Air Bed and Breakfast.” In a few years, this small experiment would create the hotel industry disruptor Airbnb. The … [ Read more ]

The Real Story Behind Jeff Bezos’s Fire Phone Debacle And What It Means For Amazon’s Future

In many ways, the Fire Phone is the perfect symbol of these opposing perceptions of Amazon. It represents everything proponents love about the company—the wild experimentation, the appetite for risk-taking—as well as everything that critics now deride: its huge expenditures, its blithe embrace of an imagined future where the big bets pay off, and its inability to create anything with real style. Understanding Amazon’s journey … [ Read more ]

A Broken Place: The Spectacular Failure Of The Startup That Was Going To Change The World

With almost $1 billion in funding and ambitions to replace petroleum-based cars with a network of cheap electrics, Shai Agassi’s Better Place was remarkable even by the standards of world-changing startups. So was its epic failure. A 21st-century cautionary tale.

Inside Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s Entertainment Empire

Snapchat boasts 100 million daily users—yet is wildly misunderstood even by key media partners. Here’s what everyone is missing.

This is a story about understanding Snapchat’s contradictions, the seemingly irreconcilable facts that make Spiegel and his creation as inscrutable—and undeniable—as Kanye West. In interviews with key Snapchat executives, board members, investors, and dozens of advertisers and media partners, the picture becomes clearer. While Snapchat declined to … [ Read more ]

Use (and Misuse) of Business Case Studies

I am a huge fan of learning through cases, but I’ve also seen a lot of mis-learning through cases. In particular, learning through the presentation of business situations and discussion in order to uncover the many competing forces within a given decision is super helpful. The unique aspect of learning by the formal case method is captured in the discussion more than in the documented … [ Read more ]