By: Tiffany Chang
I can’t believe the competition is already over and our trip to China is winding to an end…but another thing I’m still trying to wrap my head around is WINNING FIRST PLACE!!
My team and our business idea, Style Star, a personal stylist mobile app, took first place among some truly excellent competing models, and the Smith School once again is coming home with such great honor and such excitement to actually put our $3,000 prize money to good use in launching our app development. Terps also took 2nd place and an assortment of individual awards.
Our day started early with a 10 a.m. departure to go to Peking University. My team had stayed up until 3:30 a.m. to finish our slides since we pivoted several times and had a lot of adjustments to make. We woke up four hours later at 7:30 a.m. to do run-throughs in our hotel rooms and hotel lobby before our departure. Let me tell you, there was a LOT of coffee and tea involved.
Three rooms were set up for three different judging/presentation opportunities. There were nine competing teams from the Smith School, Tianjin University, Nankai University and Zhejiang University. Each room held three different teams and given a strict six minutes to present with four minutes of Q&A.
We had the honor of being judged by:
- Alex Triantis – Dean, Robert H. Smith School of Business
- Brent Goldfarb – Academic Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
- Elana Fine – Managing Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
- Patty Carocci – Assistant Dean of Development & Alumni Relations, Robert H. Smith School of Business
- Yan Gao (Rock) – Deputy Director, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Guanghua School of Management
- David Liu – Executive Director, China Executive Education
- Junxi Zhang – CPG Capital Partners
- Yichi Zhang – Direct or Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Guanghua School of Management
- Winston Wang, Managing Director, Shipston Group
Each team went through three rounds, providing the same pitch three times. After all three rounds were completed, judges went into deliberation to select the top five teams to present in the final round. The final round was again a six-minute presentation but only two-minutes of Q&A, and in front of all judges at once.
Every team did an excellent job and it was really great to be able to hear all the incredibly clever ideas that each team brought to the table. For Smith students, it was especially special to finally be able to see all the ideas presented, having seen how hard my classmates have worked these past few months. After our last presentation before the final round, a student at Peking University who had just come in to watch, approached my team to offer his services as a software developer for our app in the future when we are ready to build. It was a fantastic indication that our product was indeed viable, interesting, and worth pursuing from a Chinese perspective.
There were business pitches for daycare apps, air filter fans, cleaning service apps, mobile mechanics apps, language training programs and more. What was most surprising to me was the level of presentation skills and business thinking that the Chinese students brought to the table. Some students were incredibly fluent with their English and were excellent presenters. One team in particular, BCDF, was very animated and had great stage presence. Ultimately, they took third place.
Smith team Mark Bizokas and Maurice Nick won 2nd place for their air filter fan product, Breathe, as well as the judge’s choice award for Best in Category Using Business to Solve Environmental Challenges.
Smith team Phillip Webster, Justin Gordon, and Zhejiang University student Victoria Jiang won the judge’s choice award for Best Use of Cross National Resources. I should also note that this team was also given the honor of presenting in Bengbu a few days prior to Anhui University.
After winners were announced we went to the Lakeview Hotel on campus at Peking University for a banquet dinner. All the schools mixed at the tables and dinner was a great way to do what we really came here to China to do – not to simply compete, but rather, connect with the Chinese.
All in all, I am walking away from this competition entirely humbled, completely blessed to have a new set of friends and better understanding of the Chinese culture, and excited that my team won!
Tiffany is a first year MBA at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Tiffany obtained her undergraduate degree in Media, Culture and Communications at New York University and has five years work experience in advertising on a variety of accounts such as Clinique, Origins, Verizon FiOS, and Capital One. She has a diverse background in mass-awareness advertising, direct mail/CMR, branding, multicultural marketing and differentiation, 360 strategy and integration. Before coming to Smith, Tiffany left New York City to volunteer as a program developer and field reporter with a non-profit organization in the Himalayas. Outside of class, Tiffany serves as an Admissions Graduate Assistant working on women’s initiatives, is the President of the Smith Association of Women MBAs (SAWMBA), and is a Forte Fellow.