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Prize winner
Subject category: Entrepreneurship
Published by:
RSM Case Development Centre (2015)
Revision date:
24 pages
Data source:
Field research


The Fairphone case examines the emergence of and challenges facing start-up social enterprise, Fairphone, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Founded by industrial designer, Bas van Abel in January 2013, with a mission to 'produce a seriously cool smartphone putting social values first,' Fairphone aimed to: (1) produce a competitively-priced, aesthetically-appealing, mid-range smartphone that would rival any in its price category; and (2) to do so in a way that ameliorated the dark side of the mobile phone industry-use of conflict minerals, poor working conditions in East Asian factories, and electronic (e)-waste dumped in developing countries. At incorporation in January 2013, the company had no phone, no distribution network, and no customer; none of the founding employees had experience in the mobile phone industry. By February 2014, however, van Abel and the Fairphone staff had produced and delivered 25,000 'fair' smartphones to customers in 32 countries. Having taken its first steps, van Abel felt that Fairphone had to scale up production to become a 'real' company in order to fulfil its dual mission. How should Fairphone reach a larger audience with its message and product? How should the organisation be designed in order to achieve this dual mission?

Teaching and learning

This item is suitable for undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education courses.


Social entrepreneurship; Start-up; Conflict minerals; Congo; Smartphone; Campaign; Supply chain


The events covered by this item took place in 2014.

Geographical setting

the Netherlands; China; Republic of the Congo

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Company name:
Mobile phone

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