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Hotelvp: swimming with sharks

Yan Gong (China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China)
Ramakrishna Velamuri (China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China)
Liman Zhao (China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China)
Liang Dong (China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China)

Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies

ISSN: 2045-0621

Publication date: 26 November 2015


Subject area

This case is written for those people who are interested in entrepreneurship, and to generate discussions on the Lean Start-up methodology, as well as other topics related to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Study level/applicability

It can be used with senior undergraduates, MBAs, EMBAs and senior executives.

Case overview

In August 2011, Mars Ren and Gene Deng created a technology-based venture, Shanghai Tianhailu Network Information Technology Ltd. Filled with passion, they aspired to be the first “factory outlet” in China' hotel booking industry. To achieve this goal, they developed the Hotelvp app for mobile users. After 6:00 p.m. every day, users could book accommodation online in hotels above three-star standard for that same night at significant discounts. Hotels also benefited because they could sell their unsold room nights at the last minute and improve their revenue management. Ren and Deng were convinced that this win-win idea would take off. Unfortunately, it failed to fully satisfy either the users or the hotels. In spite of the founders' passion and energy, it was still acquired by a much more powerful player in the online sector,, in early 2014. This case is designed to stimulate in-depth discussions based on the question: What are the key obstacles when launching a startup and how to overcome them?

Expected learning outcomes

Through class discussion, it aims at teaching the student how to define and practice a start-up idea successfully by following the “Lean Start-up” methodology and/or take advantage of a practical tool, discovery-driven planning. Specifically, this case intends to teach students how: To identify and define a good start-up idea; To take actions based on the idea/opportunity, iterate and modify it along the way to create new start-ups, and finally lead the new start-ups to grow and succeed; To understand the key concepts, frameworks and theoretical logics of Lean Start-up methodology, and apply it in practice.

Supplementary materials

Teaching Notes are available for educators only. Please contact your library to gain login details or email to request teaching notes.



The authors appreciate helpful collaboration and support of Shanghai Tianhailu Network Information Technology Ltd. The authors also thank the CEIBS Case Center for its support.


Gong, Y., Velamuri, R., Zhao, L. and Dong, L. (2015), "Hotelvp: swimming with sharks", Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, Vol. 5 No. 8.



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Copyright © 2015, China Europe International Business School

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