WEEK 4: We Experienced the Thriving Midwestern Tech Hub in Downtown Minneapolis

Open Road — Week Four
By Team SASA

This post originally appeared on the Michigan Ross website.


Experiencing the virtual reality platforms on HTC Vive and hearing the innovative ideas of more than ten different tech entrepreneurs, we were blown away by the growing technology ecosystem in downtown Minneapolis. Our team arrived in Minneapolis on May 21 for the last leg of our amazing Ross Open Road experience. As we entered the 25-member premise of Flipgrid, a tech startup, we felt a strong connection to the office culture that promotes creativity.

The Business

​Flipgrid is a platform designed by Charlie Miller and Bradford Hosack at the University of Minnesota as an innovation to better communicate with their students. Flipgrid allows admins (teachers/professors/managers) to pose questions to which the students can respond via short video responses. The differentiation of this app is its ease of use and beautiful simulation of the classroom setting. Similar to an in-person classroom, the teacher can ask a question and the students can respond and also learn from each other by viewing the responses.

An example of an interesting grid can be viewed below:

  • #ESL — awesome professor at Academy of Art University who uses video questions to get his students talking

The Challenge

While Flipgrid has been successful in the education space, including K-12 schools and Midwestern universities, there is huge room for growth in the broader market. So far, the product has been selling itself through word-of-mouth publicity. The growth potential of Flipgrid is multidimensional, including new geographies, industries, and even new product features that could further improve the user experience in the education space.

During our engagement, we had multiple jobs to do for Flipgrid. First, we were tasked to find areas of high-impact growth for the company. Second, we developed marketing strategy by delivering recommendations on how to use content marketing to educate potential corporate consumers on the benefits of the app, and key messages the company can brand itself with.

The Approach

To analyze the growth potential in the video sharing app space, we identified potential competitors to understand their target customer base and their market positioning. We then drilled into the top three competitors to identify their strengths and cherry-picked the most relevant marketing ideas from each.

In parallel, we did primary research by speaking with both technical and non-technical people in the company to get a 360-degree view of the business. We interviewed the founders to capture their vision for the company and spoke with designers and developers to discuss the product features in the pipeline for the new version, Flipgrid 5.0. Supplementing these ideas with secondary research and brainstorming, we prepared a SWOT analysis of Flipgrid relative to the industry and converted the identified opportunities into recommendations.

The Recommendations

Having done so much research, we had a plethora of ideas in our minds, and the next step was to convert these ideas into actionable next steps for the entrepreneurs. Flipgrid can grow in many different ways, a few more challenging than others. We structured our final deliverable as four distinguishable recommendations, each having its own sets of pros and cons. We proposed what steps to take, how to proceed, and the reasoning behind those proposals. The immediate step was to develop a strong marketing campaign to educate consumers about product features and innovate uses in multiple industries. Certain industries have high entry barriers that may prevent the startup’s penetration. We identified partnership opportunities with other technology players to enter these industries. We also identified new technical features for Flipgrid, keeping the customer’s perspective in mind. The international diversity of the Ross Open Road team paid off when we identified a long-term growth strategy in emerging markets such as India and China.

Wrap-up

As we end the exciting Ross Open Road trip, we could not have asked for a better finish. We appreciated the affirmative response we received from Flipgrid and are excited to see the direction the founders choose for the company. In the crowded sea of apps, Flipgrid is truly an outstanding concept that can revolutionize the education space. We will continue to partner with Flipgrid in their efforts to expand in emerging economies and new universities, including our own!


Team SASA consists of Anita Lin, Sarah Haroon, Sanmeet Jasuja, and Alexander Ho, members of the Ross MBA Class of 2017.

Open Road is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and General Motors.

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