We're going to the finals

March 12th, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

“Whoo hoo!” – Skye Manders, in an email to Professor Kudisch on Saturday night after we found out that we placed second in the Southeast Regionals for the VCIC.

I can’t state strongly enough how much my sentiments echo those that Skye expressed on Saturday night. Our second place finish guarantees us a trip to the International Finals of the Venture Capital Investment Competition, which will take place in April at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Congratulations go out to team from Virginia that came in first place and the UNC team that took home the Entrepreneur’s Choice award. Both teams shared our joy in the ACC sweep of the Southeast Region. We faced stiff competition from Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Indiana, and Wharton.

Our victory marks the first time that Maryland will be represented in the finals since 2001. As far as I know, it also marks the first time that a team of part-time MBA students has ever made it to the finals. If we work as hard as we did in the regional competition, we’re sure to do well. Along with Virginia, we’ll be facing Brigham Young, Chicago, Colorado, IESE, INSEAD, USC, Harvard, and MIT.

It was hard work indeed. I arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday night and stayed at the home of my roommate from my Johns Hopkins undergrad days. On Thursday morning, I swung by the airport and picked up Moshe, Skye, and Tom. Shad hooked up with us later. That night we headed over to the Georgia Tech College of Management for orientation. We got lost along the way, but managed to make it just in time for dinner and introductions. Each school was assigned a nom de guerre based on one of the streets nearby the GT campus. This is intended to prevent any bias in judgment that might occur due to the reputation of the schools. We ended up being called the Ponce de Leon Fund.

At 7:00 we received the business plans and fund profile, and then headed off to our breakout room to look over the plans. They were a motley assortment of entrepreneurial inspiration. We had to choose one company to invest in from a group that consisted of a Web 2.0 company creating a community for the 50+ demographic, a video gaming hardware manufacturer, a medical device firm, an internet retailer of kits for electrical hobbyists, and a designer of health monitors for the elderly and infirm. We spent a few hours reviewing the plans and then headed back to the hotel to come up with a list of questions. At the end of the night, we had narrowed down the list of investments to two. While we were working, we hit the snack room a number of times. Georgia Tech did a great job of keeping us fed and caffeinated. There was a never ending supply of Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Cheetos, Doritos, candy bars, cookies, nuts, and fruit for us to enjoy.

On Friday, we were due at GT at 1:00 to see the entrepreneurs deliver their pitches and have some lunch (pretty decent sandwiches). A number of the entrepreneurs pandered to the schools which were present, talking about how much they enjoy cheesesteaks, how if they weren’t wearing shoes they would have tar heels, and so on. Surprisingly, no one mentioned anything about Maryland. I wonder if the entrepreneurs at the finals will pander to the European schools. I can just imagine them saying how much they enjoy paella and real champagne, and then turning around to say that it is also OK to be a teetotaler just to be inclusive for BYU.

After the presentations, the entrepreneurs and judges split up and went to the due diligence (interrogation) rooms. We went from room to room to meet each entrepreneur individually. A judge was assigned to each room to assess our performance. Some of the Q&A sessions went better than others, but in the end we felt we had done a great job. We had a pretty good feeling about which investment was the most appropriate. At 5:00 we joined the other teams for some GT tacos and then headed back to the hotel. That was a big mistake. We returned to discover that the internet in the hotel had crashed. We still needed to find our comparables! So, we headed back to the school and stayed there til about 11:00 PM, when we found out that the network had been restored at the hotel. We still hadn’t found anything good. When we got back to the hotel, we finally came up with some comps and then the real work started. We stayed up til 3:00 AM (and some til even later) working on valuation, term sheets, an executive summary, and a presentation. After three hours of sleep, I was up at 6:00 AM on Saturday to finish things up. Our deliverables were due at 10:00 AM and somehow we managed to get them in on time. We had another two hours to finish up our Powerpoint slides.

At noon, we headed over to the Georgia tech hotel where we had a great buffet lunch. I avoided the cola and sugar during lunch since we weren’t scheduled to present until 3:00. By 2:00 I was downing all the Coca Cola I could get my hands on and consumed a few cookies as well. By 3:00, I was bouncing off the walls, which was surprising considering how little sleep I had gotten. The presentation went well, but we did get hung up on a few questions. We were seventh in line, so we only had a chance to see UNC present after us. When they were done, everyone headed out to the hall while the judges deliberated. After they had made their decision, they came out and joined us for some snacks. Reg Greiner of Southeastern Capital Partners came over to talk to our team for a bit and we asked if he had guessed where we were from. He had narrowed it down to three and guessed Carnegie Mellon. We were quite happy to have concealed our identity so well, unlike some schools (I’m looking at you, Wharton). We then returned to the auditorium for the announcement of the winners. I was so thrilled when we were announced as the runner up. We received a plaque and a big novelty check for $2000. After the awards were handed out we had a round robin debrief session with the judges. There was plenty of beer to be had, and I made the mistake of having a single bottle of Heineken, which hit me hard since I was working with so little sleep.

We went out to celebrate and ended up at a great Asian seafood restaurant called Silk. I had a very nice piece of sea bass, but it was Tom who really went to town. The Alaskan king crab he ordered looked and tasted great (he was kind and shared a bite).

Getting up to go home on Sunday was painful. The time change didn’t help at all. However, it was all worthwhile. We had an amazing time. We met some great students from the other teams. Our hosts from Georgia tech put in so much hard work to make this event a success, and it showed. The entrepreneurs and judges were a source of inspiration. This was truly the highlight of my time as an MBA student, and I get to do it all again next month.

In conclusion, if you happen to have classes with Moshe, Shad, Skye, Tom, or me, please stop by and wish us luck. We’ll be going up against some of the top schools in the world next month, and we could really use your support.