January 29, 2009

By Roey Gilberg

LOS ANGELES -- Five UCLA Anderson students took home the first prize at the 16th annual Deloitte Consulting Case Competition, held Saturday, January 10th.  Matthew Smith, Mark Arban, Charles McNally, Justin Huppe, and Jorge Notni, who together comprised the A-Team, each won a $500 American Express gift card and an iPod Touch, along with a copy of "The Strategy Paradox," by Michael Raynor.  Twenty-five teams of Anderson students entered the competition, which began on Thursday evening, January 8 and culminated on Saturday  January 10 with presentations throughout the day and an awards ceremony in the evening.

This year's case asked the students to come up with a strategy to propose to a venture capital firm looking to invest in social networking companies.  Given that the case allotted the students $400 million with which to formulate their investment scheme, along with the seemingly endless number of social networking companies around the globe, the assignment was very open-ended in its scope.  "The most difficult part was the depth of the case," said Charles McNally, a member of the A-Team.  "It felt very light at first but it was deceptive."

He noted that his team started by looking at over 250 different companies worldwide as potential investments.  "There was an incredible amount of research," he said, with the team ultimately offering an array of investments in Russian, Chinese, German, and Indian companies.

Teams were given 20 minutes to present their proposals in the initial rounds, after which they were questioned by several judges for another 10 minutes.  The competition was then trimmed down to five finalist teams, who presented once again, this time in front of a larger group of judges, who questioned them further.  It was the A-Team's abilities during this stressful round of probing that helped set them apart in the eyes of the judges.  "They were strong presenters," said Ely Dahan, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Anderson.  "They displayed lots of poise and clarity."

McNally agreed with this assessment.  "We were well balanced," he said.  "Everyone spoke well publicly, and spoke intelligently and to the topic."
Judges were also impressed with the overall ability of all the teams to deal with such a complex case.  "We're obviously doing something right when students can take so much data and so much uncertainty, and synthesize it all into something credible and clear," said Dahan.  On the other hand, judges were critical of groups who seemed to gloss over or leave out key steps in their decision-making processes.

Students received the case on Thursday evening, and most worked more or less continuously until presentations began early Saturday.  Although the pressure is great in such a short period of time, the process is also enjoyable.  "We were basically just a group of friends," said McNally.  "We got along well, so it wasn't unpleasant staying up late."

Media Relations