Four undergraduate students from the USC Marshall School of Business placed first at the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition in Denmark on Feb. 27.
The competition, which was hosted and prepared by the students of the Copenhagen Business School, invited students from 11 other top-ranked schools to compete in what is considered to be one of the leading undergraduate case competitions worldwide.
USC Marshall students Craig Schleicher (’09), Justin Saks (’09), Emma Browne (’09) and Shreya Oswal (’10) joined students from the host school as well as from Escola de Administra�ao de Empresas de Sao Paulo in Brazil, McGill University in Canada, National University of Singapore Business School in Singapore, Thammasat University in Thailand, The University of Auckland in New Zealand, The University of Manchester in the U.K., Tsinghua University in China, Universidad de Navarra in Spain, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Florida to tackle a strategic business problem for Schibsted ASA, a Norwegian media company with holdings in print, film, movies, magazines and online media.
“It was very exciting,” Saks said. “I’ve placed in the finals in two other competitions, and it was a relief to win this one because we put in so much hard work.”
The Copenhagen competition is considered a big win for USC because only the three teams who make it to the finals are invited back in consecutive years.
“It’s great, your adrenaline gets pumping and it’s a rush to compete in front of hundreds of people,” added Oswal, who has competed in two other competitions.
The students had 32 hours to research, analyze, strategize and recommend how the company should enhance its profitable online business division Schibsted Classified Media and expand it into new markets.
The students created slides and an executive summary as part of their 20-minute presentation, which included a 10-minute Q&A in the preliminary round and a 15-minute Q&A in the final round. Part of the teams’ preparation included a video teleconference with upper management from the company.
The USC team competed against UC Berkeley, the University of Florida and the team from Singapore in the first round.
To craft part of their recommendations, the Trojans cultivated what was learned in their marketing classes, pulling statistics and creating a complicated algorithm with 50 metrics to narrow down which countries would be the most attractive to the company. Afterward, they delivered their preliminary presentation to a panel of four judges, including executives from Schibsted.
“The company is in 14 countries with 36 brands,” said Browne, a first-time competitor. “We recommended that they have one major brand in each country with different segments to provide functionality on its Web sites.” The students also gave recommendations for the European countries the company should enter next.
As one of the three finalists, the USC team competed against two other top schools, besting students from Auckland University in New Zealand and host Copenhagen Business School.
In the final round, the students gave their presentation to a panel of 14 judges, in front of an audience of about 500, including professors and students. The finals round was also broadcast as a live simulcast on the Internet.
“Walking into the final round, we should have been nervous, but we had been with the people in that room for a week, and we felt like we knew them so it was comfortable to be in front of them,” said Schleicher, who has competed in three other competitions.
The students were praised on the amount of research that they were able to accomplish within the 32-hour preparation window.
“I think it had to do with our team chemistry – we just kind of knew who would answer which question,” Browne said.
But the biggest compliment came from Schibsted representatives who told the students they were already at work on a similar solution to the ones the students presented.
“Our team was thorough, realistic and mature in its strategic approach to the problem,” said Naomi Warren, a USC Marshall associate professor of clinical management communication, who accompanied the team to Copenhagen.
While three of the students had prior competition experience, this was the first time they were on the same team.
“What set the team apart was its preparation and teamwork. The students trusted each other, took risks and thought realistically and pragmatically about the problem,” Warren said.