Case details
About the authors

Jamie Anderson and Martin Kupp, both of the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin, on Zopa.com.

How did you identify the need for the case?

Actually we were researching another case on Kiva.org, a new web-based microfinancing site that helps to match lenders in developed countries with entrepreneurs in developing countries when we were told about Zopa by Kiva's founder. 

Launched in early 2005, Zopa is a peer-to-peer online brokerage that couples British residents who want to lend with those who want to borrow. The company represents a new business model in the retail financial services industry - a classic disruptive innovator. It was quite clear to that this business model was so radically different that it had the potential to change the retail banking industry, and we decided that we just had to write about it.

This is a field based case, how was the contact with the featured organisation made?

We spent time reflecting on the key theoretical concepts that a business school professor could use on a discussion of Zopa to address in the classroom, and then quickly came up with an outline of the case study This was followed by several days of desk-based research and the development of a first draft version of the case. We then emailed this version to James Alexander, the CEO of Zopa, who liked what he saw. The following week we were in London interviewing members of the Zopa management team. 

We often take this approach of developing an initial case outline from secondary sources, as this demonstrates to the organization that we are serious about learning more about the company. It is sometimes surprising to companies how much information can be sourced from the public domain, and often senior management than are keen to have their own input to the story.

Did you encounter any difficulties when writing the case and/or teaching note, and how were these overcome?

The main challenge was agreeing upon the key theoretical frameworks to use as a lens to discuss the case. Zopa is an extremely rich source for business analysis as it addresses themes from marketing, entrepreneurship, strategy and finance. 

Through the experience of writing this case what advice can you give to other case writers?

As soon as we started researching Zopa we recognized that we had discovered a 'hit' case. The company had won numerous awards during 2006 for the innovative nature of its business model, and we realized that it was only a matter of time before other researchers also stumbled upon this wonderful story. 

So our advice to others is that if you find a 'hit' case story move fast and throw all of your energy into research, writing and getting the commitment of the company. We were the first to register a case on Zopa with The Case Centre, but as with other top-selling cases on innovative companies such as EasyJet, Zara, Ryanair and Amazon we are sure that we will not be the last! 

The whole case was written within about two weeks and it proved to be advantageous to move with such momentum. The outline and the early first draft also helped to convince James Alexander and the others at Zopa that we could write a very professional case, and this resulted in the management team supporting us throughout the process. 

What teaching objectives did you hope to satisfy with this case and were they met?

The case explores how Zopa enters in a long established, mature market for retail financial services through an innovative business model. It helps students to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts of positioning, value innovation, sustainable competitive advantage, and how established firms should respond in the face of disruptive innovation. 

What type(s) of student group(s) have you used this case with?

The case study is intended for MBA courses in Strategic Management, Innovation and Marketing. It can also be used in executive education program, for example as part of a competitive strategy program to discuss issues related to positioning, value innovation and sustainable competitive advantage. We have used the case equally successfully in MBA and executive courses in Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Finland, so it seems to have a wide appeal. 

Based on the experience of teaching this case were any modifications made to it?

We have not made any major changes to the written case. This comes from the fact that we spent a good deal of time identifying the theoretical concepts that we would use to analyse the case in the classroom before we actually put pen to paper. It was only once we had agreed on our pedagogical approach that we started to write, and this helped us to focus on the essentials - demonstrated by the fact that the case is quite short. We have, however, been working on a video supplement to the case that should be registered with The Case Centre within the coming weeks. The video includes interviews with members of the Zopa management team and adds a much more 'human' aspect to the written case. 

Case details

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Ref ESMT306-0065-1
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Teaching note

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About the authors

Jamie Anderson is Senior Lecturer in Strategy and Innovation at the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin, Germany. 
e anderson@esmt.org

Martin Kupp is Lecturer and Program Director at the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin, Germany. 
e kupp@esmt.org

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