Featured case:
The trivago Way – Growing without Growing Up?

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Rolf Schrömgens, trivago Co-founder and Managing Director.


One of Germany’s biggest start-up success stories of the early 21st century, trivago is a comparison site that allows travellers to find the best price for hotels.

Such was the success of the company, trivago sold 61.6% of its shares to Expedia and listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market.


Ever since Rolf launched trivago with his co-founders Peter Vinnemeier and Malte Siewert, who joined trivago after Stephan Stubner left in 2006, the goal of not ‘becoming corporate’ had been a core premise for building the company.

But preserving trivago’s entrepreneurial spirit became an increasingly challenging task as the company’s huge growth showed no signs of stopping.


After being founded in 2005, just 11 years later Rolf and his co-founders were in New York ringing the stock market opening bell at Nasdaq, and, thereby, realising the largest IPO of a German company in Nasdaq history.


trivago’s impressive Global Headquarter resides in Düsseldorf. The company has more than 1,200 employees helping to link 120 million travellers with 1.3 million hotels in 190 countries.

Key quote

"Would trivago be able to remain the entrepreneurial, driven company he had built and loved? Rolf Schrömgens and his co-founders had worked for large corporations that were focused on high efficiency but functioned on the basis of bureaucratic processes and rigid routines. As such, these corporations were not open to change or innovation, and Rolf and his associates felt they were not desirable places to work. Consequently, the goal of not “becoming corporate” became a core premise for building trivago.“ - selected quote from the case.

What next?

With trivago now on the stock market, Rolf looked over the New York skyline and was focusing on the need to 'stay entrepreneurial' in order to secure future growth and success.

Interested in finding out more?

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The trivago Way – Growing without Growing Up?
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Teaching note

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The authors

Philipp Viet, Sabina Pielken and Stephan Stubner

Philipp and Sabina discuss the importance of field research, editing a case, plus much more.

The need for field research

Philipp said: “In our teaching, we wanted to address how rapid growth firms could innovatively adjust to an increasingly complex internal environment.

“Formalising structures and processes as an answer to rapid growth often results in entrepreneurial firms becoming more and more bureaucratic, and losing their entrepreneurial core. From press coverage and discussions, we had the impression that travel meta-search giant trivago tried hard to avoid becoming such a classic ‘corporate’.

the need for field research

“To understand this ‘trivago way’ to growth management, we needed to gain a thorough understanding of both the development of trivago from its early beginnings until today and the organisational measures taken over time to stay entrepreneurial.

“With such a requirement, only field research could enable us to gain the necessary first-hand information to write an insightful teaching case, which also authentically represents trivago. We are very thankful for this great cooperation with trivago.”

Case editing

Sabina added: “Our data set comprised numerous transcribed interview hours, various company presentations, and additional secondary sources.

“Cutting through all that information was a tough challenge. In fact, we had to condense the case several times as everything seemed important at first. However, discussions within the author team as well as with colleagues and students helped us to shorten and strengthen the case.

“The supportive blind review provided by The Case Centre as part of our Case Writing Scholarship is just one example where critical reflection from an objective outsider identified further improvement potential.”

Attention to detail

Philipp continued: “A long teaching note works well because we provide comprehensive material which comes very close to a “ready-to-go” package (e.g. suggestions for structuring discussions, whiteboard figures, summaries).

“At the same time, we leave the instructor with the option to adjust to individual needs and time restrictions. Thus, we provide sufficient information not only for answering the case questions but also on potential student questions and short cuts.

“Overall, we aimed for optimally preparing the instructor to guide and lead inspiring class discussions and to maximise the students’ learning experience.”

scholarship support.jpgScholarship support

Sabina concluded: “As first-time case writers (Philipp and Sabina), the Case Writing Scholarship enabled us to improve our writing skills through the comprehensive case writing workshop, and by receiving valuable feedback on our draft case from reviewers.

“It also provided the financial resources to realise the multiple face-to-face interviews required for developing the case.

“We deeply appreciate The Case Centre’s support.”

About the authors

Philipp Veit is a Research Associate at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management.
e Philipp.Veit@hhl.de

Sabina Pielken is a Research Associate at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management.

Stephan Stubner is Chair of Strategic Management and Digital Entrepreneurship at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management.


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