Undergrads Who Examined Failure Win Cohort Case Comp

Winners and judges of the inaugural Cohort Finance Case Competition (l. to r.): Vicki Ni, BS 14; judges Matt Therian, MBA 13, and Sam Snyder, MBA 11; Kevin Hsu, BS 14; judge Tara Kramlich, BS 03; Esteban Zapata and Saba Ali, both BS 14.

A team of Haas undergraduates who delved into the possibility of TV flop on Wednesday won the first-place prize−a dinner with Dean Rich Lyons−in the school's inaugural Cohort Finance Case Competition.

The winners, who bested 26 other Haas teams, were Kevin Hsu, BS 14 (Bus./Econ.); Vicki Ni, BS 14 (Bus./Bioengineering); and Saba Ali and Esteban Zapata, both BS 14. Of the group, only Hsu had previous case competition experience through the Berkeley Investment Group, the first and largest undergradute investment club at UC Berkeley.

The competition required at least half of the members of each four-student team to have no previous case competition experience. It was designed by the Haas Business School Association (HBSA) to give more students Confidence Without Attitude, one of the school's defining principles.

"It felt a lot more like a learning experience than an actual competition," says Ni, who participated to learn more about case competitions. She noted that Hsu took the lead on the financials and modeling because he had more experience in those areas, and the judges also guided teams with questions and advice.

The case involved examining potential deals for company that sells cooking spices, including a cable TV show and issuing stock.

"We created three models: one assuming the show was canceled; one assuming a hit; and one assuming it was somewhere in the middle," says Hsu, who has competed in several case competitions and placed in three. "No other team thought about the possibility that the TV show could be a flop, but we really thought about the downside."

The cohort case competition was the first in a series of events organized by the HBSA to foster the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles. Each month, HBSA is planning to host an activity or event related to one of the four principles. In addition to the case competition in September designed to build Confidence Without Attitude, the events this fall will include : 

  • October, Question the Status Quo: Working with the university's Operational Excellence team to look at change within institutions.
  • November, Students Always: A fun trivia night with questions about business and Haas.
  • December, Beyond Yourself: A food drive.