FastFig’s Growth Story—Capitalizing on Unprecedented Market Opportunity
Yina Bae, Madeline Demaree, Waldy Barrientos, Brian Whyte, Ty Taylor MBA
Subject area: Strategic Positioning and Corporate Level Strategy
Industry: Education Technology
Client: Jay Hotaling (CEO), Brian Peacock (CTO), Alexander Potts (Lead Developer)
Challenge: In 2020, the CEO of FastFig was faced with a dilemma at a key inflection point for the company’s growth. All three of FastFig’s founders found their own careers drawing them in new directions, which was taking time away from operating their business. However, they were still interested in the continuation of their business and product line because it had a material impact on the lives of students and educators. Additionally, they saw the unprecedented market opportunity related to online learning precipitated by COVID-19 and wanted to see their product grow in this hot market.
In order to take advantage of this market opportunity while still facilitating a change in the founders’ careers, the day-to-day operations of FastFig needed to change. The CEO needed a suitable corporate strategy to both grow the FastFig product line and to differentiate it in the market. This included a decision on whether they should pursue a strategic partnership to engage in an extension of their dominant core competencies or if they should build out an internal team, including a Board of Directors and a management and development operations team. The question really was which option—a strategic partnership or an internal team—would allow them to take advantage of the market opportunity and reach profitability the fastest while still allowing the founders to pursue their separate careers.
“FastFig’s Growth Story” as a “Making Your Case” project
Project Relevance/Our Team
We found the project to be quite relevant for our team given our group’s interest in a career within finance or consulting. This project gave us real-world consulting experience where we were tasked with coming up with a solution to a dilemma that a small startup was having. This project gave us direct experience in interacting with the CEO of a startup and we were able to learn about some of the challenges that come with running a business that has been through various levels of development. The project also gave us experience on how to do the necessary research in order to provide value to a company that we are developing a strategic initiative for.
Connecting with the Company’s Reality/Data Collection
We were fortunate to have first-hand information made available to us through direct communication with the CEO, Jay Hotaling, via various zoom meetings and email/text exchanges. We were also able to obtain primary data such as financials, timelines, email correspondences with potential brokers, and other relevant company information.
Through the analysis of the collected information and problem dilemma, various frameworks were utilized to provide a viable recommendation for the future growth of FastFig. These included PESTLE, VRIO, Porter’s Five Forces, SWOT, Industry Lifecycle, and Value Chain.
After analyzing the company’s case, the recommendation for FastFig is to pursue a strategic partnership by pursuing a focused differentiation strategy as well as a related diversification strategy.
Once an appropriate strategic partner that fits FastFig’s mission, vision, and culture objectives is found, it is recommended that they be onboarded through either an equity stake in the company, a profit-sharing agreement or a hybrid of the two. This will align company interests and ensure that both parties have an equitable relationship that will help FastFig be successful in the long term.
What’s Next and Project Utilization
Jay Hotaling: “I love talking about FastFig and the journey we’ve been on, but more importantly I love seeing FastFig help students and teachers. There are a number of directions to take the company/product and we’re excited to carefully consider each of them. Your fresh perspective [is] very valuable.”
- Yina Bae: Working directly with a company with such a strong customer-oriented vision provided me with the opportunity to apply strategic frameworks which I can carry over to my professional development. While I will not be pursuing a career in EdTech, the VRIO and SWOT frameworks, among others, will be applicable when working through a financial dilemma or challenge with future clients.
- Waldy Barrientos: This project gave me the opportunity to gain some first-hand consulting experience working with a start-up. It was very exciting to be able to collaborate with FastFig at an important stage of its growth. This opportunity also taught me new strategic frameworks that will be useful in my future professional and personal endeavors.
- Madeline Demaree: I enjoyed working with Jay and seeing his passion for his business and his product—it got me just as excited about his company and its future. Taking a close look at the product that was poised to capitalize on the truly unprecedented market opportunity in this sector was exciting. I am looking forward to taking my experiences with understanding client expectations and implementing a variety of analytical tools to meet those expectations into my next consulting roles.
- Ty Taylor: This project allowed me to connect to the company through case methodology and course frameworks. Being afforded an opportunity to have relevant strategic consulting experience by working with an interesting company was an invaluable experience in my future progression in the finance/investment consulting space. Regardless of the industry, the strategy principles we utilized throughout the course are transferable to other aspects of business and are provided a solid foundation for my understanding of strategy development going forward.
- Brian Whyte: This project allowed me to get more first-hand experience working closely with a startup. The project gave me the opportunity to do a full PESTEL analysis on the market they were looking to expand into. This was vital in coming up with a solution to their dilemma while building a strategy that would allow for future growth. As someone who has a strong interest in the venture capital/startup world, I think this type of experience will really benefit me in adding to my understanding of the growing pains that come with running a startup, as well as how venture capital firms interact with startups. Overall, I think this experience has given me valuable experience that will benefit me when it comes to my career trajectory.