—Notes by the BiMBA Students on the Overseas Competitions
Faced with the times of ever deepening globalization and economic and trade relations between different nations, internationalization has become a trend for the managers and companies of China, and even for the opening-up China itself. Consequently, every business school in China now has to consider how to cultivate managerial talents with an international vision.
As a pioneer of international cooperation among Chinese business schools, BiMBA started to explore a pattern of developing internationalized talents as early as 10 years ago, and has upheld its educational philosophy of “Maintain Chinese Characteristics, Adopt International Standards” ever since its establishment.
The student team of BiMBA, “Dr. Seed”, has won two championships, a runner-up and a single-item prize at the world’s three top-class competitions, namely, Rice University Business Plan Competition 2007, Mcginnis Venture Competition 2007, and Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition 2007. On its road to these honors, this team defeated the teams from the business schools of the world’s top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. Undoubtedly, such successes are solid.
The brilliant achievements of BiMBA in the international competitions not only have justified the school’s educational concept and ideas, but also underscored the strength of BiMBA students.
The mainstream view of the West has long held a stereotype of Chinese as conservative while obedient to authorities, diligent but not innovative, which, however, these young people have overthrown. This team’s international image, creative plans filled with originality and inspiration, meticulous and mature execution procedures, and open and confident stage performance all deeply impressed the Western judges and media, and played a key role to its final success.
The success of “Dr. Seed” testifies that qualified internationalized talents can be cultivated within China through pertinent and international education in a good environment and atmosphere. This is what BiMBA has been doing, and delivering, too.
The Glorious Ten Months
As the national flags of different nations gradually lowered at the University of California Berkeley campus, the ten-month “Global Business Competition Program” of BiMBA concluded its current session.
In July 2007, a team comprised 9 students of BiMBA’s Full-Time06 Class, namely, WEN Ronghui, ZHANG Shizong, CHEN Zhiheng, LIU Xiaoli, WU Xiaoyu, CHEN Lizhang, JIANG Yi, ZHOU Guanyun, and XUAN Zaiyuan, initiated a program never undertaken by any Chinese business school, which was called the “Global Business Competition Program”, to confront the student teams from top universities around the world and compete with them on the quality of MBA education.
The nine members of this team, which is named “Dr. Seed”, come from China, the United States, Korea, Thailand and Canada respectively. This global team is a unique group in BiMBA’s history, integrating various elements from different countries, cultures, professions, and specialties. Since January 2007, this team has attended 6 international competitions and has become ever more active on the world stage of business management competition.
With painstaking efforts, this team successively defeated the MBA teams from the world’s top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, UC Berkeley, the University of Hamburg, Waseda University, and Indian Institute of Technology, and made historic breakthroughs in six world-class international competitions including Global Business Plan Competition, Rice University Business Plan Competition, and Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition.
Rice University Business Plan Competition 2007 was sponsored by Rice University of the United States. Among all business plan competitions in the world, this competition provides the most considerable amount of award. The competition fully simulates the real-life process in which the business undertaker has to raise the initial capital for the business from the venture capital funds and investors. The participants this year included the teams from Duke University, the University of Chicago, Harvard, Indian Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, and Yale. BiMBA won the championship for challenge competition and the runner-up for the 99-second speech.
Mcginnis Venture Competition, one of the top three venture undertaking plan competitions in the United States, is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University of the United States. It attracts business schools from around the world with a total cash award of 100,000 dollars for each session, and has grown from a small-scale competition to an internationally renowned event. The participants of its 2007 session included the teams from UC San Diego, the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Thammasat University of Thailand, and the National University of Singapore. At last, BiMBA won the championship.
Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition, based in Seattle in the United States, emphasizes the social benefits of the presented business plans and has aroused intense interests of the NGP organizations as an incubation platform for non-profit business plans. The participants of its 2007 session included the teams from Indian School of Business, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Morocco Business School, the National University of Uzbekistan, UC Los Angeles, the University of Toronto, and Seoul University. BiMBA won the runner-up and the best-team award.
In the following, let’s share the experiences and feelings of the BiMBA students during their “Westwards Expedition” through their notes.
Rice: Confront the Strong Rivals
Rice University, sponsor of the Rice University Business Plan Competition, is a century-old prestigious university located in suburban Houston and famous for its high-level scientific research and high-quality students. It enjoys the reputation as “Southern Harvard”.
The Rice University Business Plan Competition, called “RBPC” by insiders, is co-sponsored by Rice Appliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, the latter of which has long been reputed as the “Cradle of Entrepreneurs”. Though the competition has a history of only a few years, it has evolved into a summit contest based on real business projects attracting over 100 top business schools from around the world each year.
The 36 teams participating the semifinal of this session not only collected the top ten business schools of the United States including Harvard, Yale, MIT, University of Chicago, Duke, and UC Berkeley, together with other first-class U.S. business schools like Carnegie Mellon, John Hopkins, UC Los Angeles and Georgia Institute of Technology, but also gathered seven international business schools including the University of Toronto, the National University of Singapore, University of Columbia and Indian Institute of Technology. The 150 plus judges and the 70 plus sponsors for this session comprise internationally prestigious venture capital investment institutions, angel investors, successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Their presence rendered the competitiveness and reality of the session of competition more noteworthy.
The competition rules have that 36 teams would survive the first round of competition and attend the field semifinal of the competition at Rice University. These teams were divided into 6 groups, and the leading team of each group would compete in the final while the rest teams would take part in the challenge competition. Our team was assigned to a “Group of Death”, which consisted of Boston University and John Hopkins University, two powerful players which finally won the two most important awards respectively, namely, the Award for Sustainable Development and the General Championship, the University of Chicago and Duke University, which had long enjoyed high reputation in North America, and Indian Institute of Technology, the top university in India.
Then, the enemies of the members of the BiMBA team were limited to these strong rivals. We were tormented by the time difference and suffered poor acclimatization, and could hardly sleep. However, we confronted the adversities and courageously won one after another match. During the competition, our easy and confident on-site presentation, composure and calmness in answering the questions, and substantial and rigorous analytical data received praises from the judges. Though our project had no advantage and even suffered deficiencies compared with those of the American universities supported by an advanced economy, the judges very patiently granted to us their professional comments and advice. After three rounds of competition, the BiMBA team defeated the University of Chicago and Duke University and finally won the championship for the challenge competition.
The Rice competition gave us many precious opportunities and also provided a stage for us to demonstrate our unique advantages to the international business community. The competition provided each team with a very valuable chance for it to demonstrate its business plans to the investors and answer their questions. It is more suitable to call this competition a real mission to court capital, for it was identical with the actual situation in terms of either the credentials of the judges or the competition environment. At the awards ceremony, the founder of “The Container Store” shared with us his precious experiences of venture undertaking. All of this was a valuable opportunity for us to learn and experiment how to undertake business successfully.
During the competition, we received professional instructions. After each round of competition and product demonstration, each team had a chance to receive instructions from experienced venture capital investors and entrepreneurs. Hundreds of investors and entrepreneurs plus the judges gave us their treasurable opinions of each of our projects. Our demonstration was also conducive to our capital canvassing efforts and increased the odds of attracting interested investors in related industries. The survey indicated that 62% of the judges were willing to invest in the projects to their interest, or introduce the project to a third party. The project demonstration prior to award ceremony exposed the projects to over 600 investors and entrepreneurs as well as their connections. This greatly increased the chance of attracting attention and investment to these projects.
In fact, in the international capital market where the essence of a project receives far more attention than its form, most overseas investors do not understand the market of China. On the other side, against the backdrop of economic globalization, China will undoubtedly remain a “World Market” in a considerably long period to come and any enterprise with a global ambition cannot afford to neglect the Chinese market. However, lacking understanding of the political system of China, a considerable portion of the investors is still waiting with caution and hesitation, which means a current limit but also a huge opportunity. Chinese enterprises should take full advantages of the economic development of China, carry forward their national features, and bravely explore and dig the “gold mine” of the overseas capital market.
Our tour received unexpected attention. On the one hand, the attention came from the judges and investors. Though the judges directly pointed out the weaknesses of our projects, they attached great attention to these projects. Part of the investors even went so far to talk with us about the specific cooperation plans. On the other hand, the attention came from Chinese students and local Chinese in the United States. Seeing in the candidate list the name of “Beijing University” and the note of “from China”, many Chinese students and Chinese Americans had tearful eyes and felt proud that Chinese could participate in such a high-level business competition.
Carnegie Mellon: Pride in Technological Prowess
Among the series of business plan competitions that we participated, the Mcginnis Venture Competition held at Carnegie Mellon University was the most technological and brought us the most unexpected joy and pride. Thanks to the unmatchable status of the United States in the world in terms of national technological strength, most business plan competitions in North America underline product and technology. The plasma seed processor, the product that we, a Chinese team, promoted, was an agriculture hi-tech product fully and independently developed in China, and both the product and strategy of our project were based on the Chinese market. Nonetheless, we won the championship for technological product, beating the rest 20 plus university teams from North America which were very strong in scientific research and product development.
Our product for the competition, the plasma seed processor, is an agriculture high-technology product that treats seeds with physical technology and increases the yield by 10% to 20%, and is a domestic high technology completely and independently developed by China. In the spaceflight seed breeding experiments, Professor WU Ce, the inventor of the technology, discovered that the crop seeds returning to the earth from the spaceflights displayed exceptional advantages in terms of growth. He traced the cause of such yield increase to the exposure of such seeds to the plasma in the environment of high vacuum and low air pressure, which is the form of existence of most substances in the universe. Based on this theory, the plasma seed processor treats seeds in a simulated plasma environment and with simulated space electromagnetic waves in terrestrial conditions to achieve a similar effect as produced by spaceflights, and thus increases the yield of the crops.
Presently, our plasma seed processor technology has been listed as one projects of the “863 Program” (National Hi-Tech Research and Development Program), and its field experiments have been conducted in more than 600,000 mu of farmland in the three provinces of Northeast China, Shaanxi, and other provinces for nearly 6 years. Meanwhile, this technology has received support from the local governments of a number of provinces, and is currently in the stage of active market popularization.
It was our great pride that such a purely domestic technology could compete against the numerous advanced technologies of the United States on an international stage and finally won the championship for technological product in the competition. As remarked by the CNN in its reports on the interviews after the competition, we had a strong feeling that the “China Time” had arrived, and also vividly sensed the resonance of Chinese voice and force on the international stage.
Seattle: Shock of Public Welfare Concept
Different from the other economic interest-oriented business plan competitions, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) 2007 emphasized the social values that an enterprise could create. The projects for this competition concerned themselves with the impoverished and needy groups at the lower end of the society and regarded the enterprise as an important bearer of social responsibility, and aimed at elevating the living quality of such groups through their own implementation. However, this competition did not neglect the ability of the enterprise to make profit. It rather encourages the enterprise to channel continuously the profit to the masses of the bottom social stratum directly or indirectly while create endless values for the society.
In February 2007, the BiMBA team competed and exchanged with totally 20 other teams from 8 countries including the United States, China, India, Ghana, Morocco and Kazakhstan in Seattle. All the business plans presented by the teams were thought-provoking and inspiring.
The BiMBA team finally won the runner-up as well as the “Best Business Plan Award”. However, the competition process per se was more inspiring to us. The enthusiasm for public welfare displayed by the organizers, universities, sponsors and the whole society in the course of the GSEC deeply moved us.
The scale of the GSEC has highlighted the very high status of public welfare cause in the advanced countries of North America as well as many developing countries. Benefiting from many years of its successful organization and operation, the GSEC 2007 attracted nearly 50 U.S. teams and over 90 teams from developing countries in Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. For the students of business schools in many countries, participation in similar social entrepreneurship competitions has become a mainstream extracurricular practice. In the mean time, the whole class of business elites, as the backbone of the future society, has committed themselves to creating social values with great enthusiasm, and some of them have even chosen public welfare as the direction of their professional career.
From the qualification, warm-up, elimination, semi-final and final, this session of GSEC lasted for a whole week. The enthusiasm of the local community of the Seattle toward the competition shocked us. In the competition process, all the media in Seattle, including the television stations of Seattle, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, UOW News, and the Social Entrepreneur News website, all covered this event in detail. At the same time, the investors who were interested in investing in public welfare ventures also paid much attention to the competition. They had talks with a number of teams, and some of them even reached preliminary agreement on intention of investment cooperation. Another thing that I have to mention is that all the costs of the competition were covered by the donations from several local social enterprises, including Boeing, Varmos, and Pioneer Human Services. Their determination, enthusiasm and support for initiating social welfare enterprises moved all the participating teams.
Every lunch and every social party held with the donations from the sponsors through the competition period looked simple and implied the aspiration of the donors, those entrepreneurs with a strong sense of social responsibility. After every lunch or during every dinner party, these social entrepreneurs would share with us their social values, their concern with the life of people living at the bottom of the society, the heavy social responsibilities that they believed in, and their difficult experience of business undertaking.
Varmos, the largest sponsor to the competition, is the oldest and largest restaurant group in Seattle and also the best known social welfare enterprise in the city. Its founder Mr. Michael Varmos established this enterprise in 1924 with an aim to create as much social value as possible while develop the enterprise. During the dinner party held at the flag shop of Varmos, we enjoyed the real high-quality and considerate services, allowing a warm feeling of home for us, the competitors from various remote corners of the world.
We later learned from the current CEO of the group that such high-quality services originated in the cultural tradition of Varmos. As a social enterprise, Varmos had continuously created job opportunities for the society to enable more people to get employed. More surprisingly, Varmos Group had invested 70% of the annual profit of each year into social welfare causes, which won the admiration of everyone present. After Mr. Varmos passed away, this spirit had been inherited by one after another generation of Varmos people. This spirit had also attracted more and more people to dedicate themselves to social welfare causes.
The entrepreneurship of “Innovation and Enterprising” is what BiMBA has been vigorously advocating, and Dean YANG Zhuang has propagated entrepreneurship among us on a variety of occasions. That is also the original impetus to drive our MBA team to participate in all the business plan competitions. China needs entrepreneurship, and needs a new generation of MBA with an international vision and the spirit of innovation and enterprising, who will become the cornerstone to the future economic development.
Although the curtain of the ten-month “Global Business Competition Program” has set, a fresh journey of competition following this severe test for the BiMBA students, we believe, has just begun.