Case Detail

Case Summary

Polaris Battery Labs: Startup Risk Management

Case Number: 5-118-005, Year Published: 2018

HBS Number: KE1081

Request PreviewBuy

Authors: Andrew Dilts

Key Concepts

Board of Directors, Corporate Strategy, Decision Making, Family Businesses, Growth Strategy, Manufacturing, Risk Management, Technology Management, Valuation, Venture Capital


Polaris Battery Labs was an Oregon-based startup that provided innovation services to companies in the lithium ion battery industry. Its operating philosophy and expertise in this fast-growing industry enabled it to provide great value to its clients, but as a startup that was seeking growth the company was subject to multiple risks.

For Polaris, taking clients, developing new manufacturing capabilities to meet unproven battery technologies, and even extending credit to its clients posed real risk. Many of its clients were startups themselves and had a significant probability of failure. Others were established firms testing new and unproven battery technologies, many of which were unlikely to gain traction in the market.

The case examines how a technology-driven firm managed the risk of working with startups, claiming appropriate intellectual property, and developing a sustainable portfolio of clients.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will be able to identify risk from startups; recognize the appropriate claim of intellectual property in manufacturing; manage risks from a portfolio of clients; and balance the goals of new technology exploration with the benefit of proven technology use.

Number of Pages: 8

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Oregon, United States

Industry: Batteries

Organization Name: Polaris Battery Labs

Organization Size: Small

Decision Maker Position: Founder and CEO

Decision Maker Gender: Male