All Roads Lead to the Oxford Said School of Business this weekend.
Well, at least for (as shown on the picture) Servio Carbera (Ecuador); Julian Hoennebeck (Germany); Frederik Harboe (Norway); Matthew Corker (Canada) and Martin Jørgensen (Denmark) [a.k.a. Miracle Workers].
The Miracle Workers will participate in the Venture Capital Investment Challenge (VCIC) competition where they are challenged to take the role of venture capital investors; and using their business skills, select the most viable entrepreneurial proposals presented at the competition. This is after being selected as the overall winners of the VCIC competition in Denmark during February.
At Oxford, they will compete against MBA teams selected from other top European business schools.
Matthew Corker is the selected representative for the Miracle Workers and he took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us about getting through the last round of the competition, maintaining a fine balance and the road to Oxford.
In brief, how would you describe the VCIC?
Matt: VCIC was an investment competition where teams of MBA students come together to evaluate the business plans of real entrepreneurs and then negotiate favourable investment terms with them - all in front a panel of real venture capitalist judges. It was 1.5 days of intense preparation and market research (Thursday and Friday) before meeting the entrepreneurs and attempting to get a feel for which business / people we would want to invest in on Saturday. It has been the best part of the MBA thus far, for sure.
What motivated you to participate in the VCIC?
Matt: Late last year, I realized my life at CBS was all about the classes. I was sitting in lectures, doing my readings, and completing the assignments and exams ... and that was it. While I was still enjoying my life in Copenhagen, my CBS experience was becoming monotonous and boring. When the opportunity to challenge myself through VCIC was proposed, I leaped at the chance, despite it being far away from my area of expertise. I wanted to add some more challenge and excitement into my learning experience.
How did you go about preparing for the competition?
Matt: We did some initial research into the role of a VC before receiving the business plans on Thursday. After we had the business plans, we divided the team into areas of focus (financial, operations, people, market, risks) and analyzed each plan thoroughly in those areas. Before meeting the entrepreneurs, we considered why we would or would not invest in all of the companies, and under what terms, so our meetings with them were well structured and focused on the key issues we wanted to investigate.
So what made your submission outstanding compared to the others presented on the day?
Matt: I think what made our submission outstanding was actually how we made the submission. We focused on building rapport with the entrepreneurs and on working as a team in both the planning and competing stages. The judges and entrepreneurs all commented that that was our "secret to success."
What was your greatest learning from participating in the competition?
Matt: I learned a lot about trusting the team and about not taking things personally. When ideas or data was brought forward from the person who was responsible for a focus area, we needed to have complete trust in that information. We didn't have time for second guessing. I also learned that the value of constructive debate in the planning stages is really realized when people don't take things personally. Rather than protecting or defending an idea or suggestion that others didn't support, we were able to separate ourselves from our ideas and not take the disagreements personally.
How are you feeling about the upcoming challenge at Oxford?
Matt: We are stoked! We know that we have to step up our performance for the next round, so we have a game plan for the next 3 weeks to prepare us for Oxford. So far, we are learning a lot and really working well together.
What are you expectations from the Oxford leg of the competition?
Matt: It is going to be much more intense than our internal round with much higher expectations of our performance for sure. Since all of our competitors were our classmates in this first round, we were relaxed around them and there was a felt sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. I don't know if that will be the same at Oxford as each team is coming from a different school. We are excited to see what its like and show the other business schools the talent that exists here at CBS.
How are you balancing everything: competitions, study and life?
Matt: It's a breeze. A little yoga, a little swimming, a little textbook reading, and lots of healthy food and rest is key. Everything can be done in the amount of time I have. It requires me to be diligent in prioritizing and keeping a live to-do list to keep me on track (the app TeuxDeux is my saviour these days!).
Matthew Corker is from Vancouver Canada and you can find more of his reflections on a life in Copenhagen via his personal blog, That's a Corker and some of his contributions on the CBS MBA Diary.