Case study taps into business aspects of technology start-up

How can entrepreneurs who developed a technical product deal with the business aspects of running their start-up? This is explored in a case study, written by master students Greta Grimaldi and Macio Minnemann from the MSc International Management/CEMS programme at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) as part of the elective ‘international entrepreneurship: from start-up to scale-up’.

The case is about a team of engineers from Italy who came together and created WiseAir; an innovative air quality sensor. The prototype proved successful but as engineers rather than entrepreneurs, the team have now reached a fork in the road. Should they sell their product to home supply retailers so they can continue focusing on technological development which they are good at? Or should they sell the product to consumers over the internet so they can collect big data, which on a long-term is more valuable?

Wiseair at a Crossroads is designed for advanced undergraduate- or postgraduate-level courses in entrepreneurship. It is suitable for business schools, and for business and industrial engineering students.

Learning objectives

Wiseair was developed by seven engineers. The air quality sensor is designed to not only map the real-time quality data of air around the city, but also to help people avoid pollution and improve their health by applying this data to their daily lives. The prototype of the product was ready in October 2018. The founding team had focused on technology and now had to look into the business aspects of the product, such as its competitive advantage, the product’s different values, and how to find new sources for capital.

The case, which can be purchased online via The Case Centre, leads the target audience to:

  • distinguish between B2B and B2C strategies and their implications on financing
  • identify ways technological innovations can be monetized, especially when the innovation concerns both hardware and software
  • differentiate between recurring and non-recurring revenue and illustrate how to generate them with technology innovations.

Every year, students in the ‘international entrepreneurship: from start-up to scale-up’ elective write case studies as part of their coursework, supervised by Dr Wim Hulsink. The students select the companies, interview them, and write the case studies and teaching notes. Before the writing process starts, they are trained by RSM’s Case Development Centre (CDC) on case writing, and receive general guidance and support.

International entrepreneurship

“The students were very active when it came to contacting founders of international new ventures and picking ‘hot’ topics,” says Dr Hulsink. “Their creativity was tested when presenting these challenges and strategic choices in well-written and accessible teaching cases. They also used their pedagogical skills when applying the relevant theories, concepts, and tools to develop a teaching note.”

The CDC supports case-based management education by turning exceptional business and management experiences into powerful learning tools. The Centre connects world-class research, education and business by developing and offering high-quality case studies available to all business schools.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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