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Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Andrew Perkins. The Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby (referred as “Urbanbaby App” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Sales & Marketing. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Entrepreneurship, Mobile, Product development.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment




Case Description of Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby Case Study


UrbanBaby is a newly developed smartphone application (app) that allows users to address the difficult task of finding activities, restaurants and other forms of entertainment for newborns to young teens. A number of issues must be addressed if it is going to be profitable. First, the app's creators, Alex and Pavel, are unsure how to characterize the large potential target market, parents, or if there are other target markets that might be interested. This is critical, as the success of the app depends on the cultivation of a strong online community that will contribute content. Second, they have to find a reliable source of data to populate the app. Third, they must decide whether to focus on Apple's operating system, which is popular in North America, or put more of their energy into competing operating systems that are much more popular in the rest of the world. Finally, they have a number of strategic marketing choices to make and to prioritize, including whether to keep the UrbanBaby brand name and risk the ire of similarly named competitors, how to price the app, how to position and promote the app and how to time the rollout. How these initial choices will affect subsequent strategic and tactical decisions is also a matter of concern.


Case Authors : Andrew Perkins

Topic : Sales & Marketing

Related Areas : Entrepreneurship, Mobile, Product development




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10008999) -10008999 - -
Year 1 3460114 -6548885 3460114 0.9434 3264258
Year 2 3981762 -2567123 7441876 0.89 3543754
Year 3 3947662 1380539 11389538 0.8396 3314533
Year 4 3246687 4627226 14636225 0.7921 2571680
TOTAL 14636225 12694226


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2685227

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting


What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.




Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting


There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Net Present Value
2. Internal Rate of Return
3. Payback Period
4. Profitability Index

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Urbanbaby App have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Urbanbaby App shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.




Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Sales & Marketing Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Urbanbaby App often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Urbanbaby App needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10008999) -10008999 - -
Year 1 3460114 -6548885 3460114 0.8696 3008795
Year 2 3981762 -2567123 7441876 0.7561 3010784
Year 3 3947662 1380539 11389538 0.6575 2595652
Year 4 3246687 4627226 14636225 0.5718 1856304
TOTAL 10471535


The Net NPV after 4 years is 462536

(10471535 - 10008999 )






Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%


If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10008999) -10008999 - -
Year 1 3460114 -6548885 3460114 0.8333 2883428
Year 2 3981762 -2567123 7441876 0.6944 2765113
Year 3 3947662 1380539 11389538 0.5787 2284527
Year 4 3246687 4627226 14636225 0.4823 1565725
TOTAL 9498792


The Net NPV after 4 years is -510207

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9498792 - 10008999 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Urbanbaby App to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.



Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Urbanbaby App has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Urbanbaby App can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Urbanbaby App, then the stock price of the Urbanbaby App should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Urbanbaby App should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.




References & Further Readings

Andrew Perkins (2018), "Developing a New Smartphone Application: UrbanBaby Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.