Family Education Networks 2001 A-B-C

Babson Professor Edward P. Marram, Case Director

Sheryl and Larry Overlan, Case Writers

Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship

© Babson College, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

At age 32, and after starting four businesses during and after his Babson College days, Jon Carson knew he wanted to start a business that would somehow make the world better. In 1990, he found what he was looking for – an opportunity to create a demand-side educational advocacy group that would link parents, teachers and students. For the next nine years, Jon Carson worked long hours to grow his enterprise, the Family Education Network (FEN). Always working on a shoestring budget and always trying to attract and retain experienced management as well as junior personnel, Jon, nevertheless, was able to become the key player in the Internet's K-12 parent-school educational arena by 1999.

When he set out to obtain additional venture capital, Jon's efforts reaped unexpected rewards. He had landed right in the midst of the red-hot dot.com wave. Instead of the $12 million Jon and his board of directors had set as a goal, FEN brought in $51 million in new financing. Faced with new competition, Jon hurried to maintain, as well as advance, the FEN leverage in the market and opted to make acquisitions. Though successful in securing thrifty purchases, Jon is hit with missed numbers and a Barron's cover story that predicted the "fume" date for 290 dot-coms. Still with no concrete business model, Jon looks for a buyer.

Location of the company: Massachusetts

Years spanned by the case: 1990-2000

Industry segments: Internet, education

Stage of the company: Start-up, early growth

Age of the entrepreneurs: 30's

Key Words: entrepreneurship, Internet, dot-coms, AOL, competition, acquisitions, tombstones, dot-com meltdown, investors, burn rate

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Teaching Notes

A four page case teaching package, written by Ed Marram, is available for this case and will be included. The teaching package includes strategies for case presentation, key concepts, solutions to the assignment questions in the case, and suggestions for the most effective ways to work this case into a course.