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Columbia ODYSSEY, Outrageous Business Plan Competition Winners Announced

Following up on two recent blog posts about competitions taking place at Columbia Business School (CBS) in past weeks, we wanted to let you know who won.

Top prize in the first competition, a triathalon of business management contests pitting teams from 15 of the world’s top business schools against one another, went to London Business School.

Called ODYSSEY, the competition was developed by two CBS students who, at a conference in India just months after the Olympics in Beijing, decided that there needed to be an opportunity for students from schools around the world to exchange ideas and compete on more than a single topic.

“Basically, we set out to create an Olympics for MBA students,” explained Peter Novak, MBA ’09, one of the event’s co-founders. Novak and the event’s other co-founder, Mark Trayling, MBA ’09, identified the ODYSSEY 15, a list of 15 schools deemed to represent the top MBA programs in the United States and around the world. Teams from each of these schools were invited to travel to CBS to participate in ODYSSEY’s three events – the Negotiation, the Pitch and the Case.

“Most definitely the international aspect is what really makes it,” said Trayling. “It couldn’t function nationally, international was the real key component,” he continued.

The roster of winners reflects this claim. A team from Harvard Business School took second place, and a team from the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) took third.

For Björn Koertner, a member of the winning LBS team, what stood out most about the competition was the opportunity it provided to go head to head with teams from so many other top schools. “There was really a team from all the top 15 business schools in the world,” he said, compared to other competitions that only draw teams from six or seven schools.

That they were schools from all over the globe also was critical, he added. “For us this was very important because giving people a global education is one of the core elements of LBS and why most of the students are at LBS,” he said.

The speakers the competition drew – including Didier Lombard, chairman and CEO of France Telecom, Orange; Steve Forbes, Forbes chairman and CEO; and Ian Davis, McKinsey & Company managing director – were also a high point, Koertner said. “I don’t know another case competition or b-school competition where you have such a showing of high-level speakers,” he added.

Finally, the fact that the competition consisted of three distinct challenges to be completed under very tight time constraints also made it unique, Koertner said. “In other case competitions it’s sufficient to have one superstar on your team who has the ideas, but in this it was necessary that you have a team of five people who are all very good,” he continued.

Even though CBS didn’t come out on top, Trayling and Novak were thrilled with how the event turned out. “The students, participants, attendees, companies, speakers – from all aspects it was a great success,” Trayling said. “The question for us now is how to make it even better next year,” he added.

Upon winning, the LBS team broke out into a spontaneous performance of “God Save the Queen” on the steps of Columbia’s Low Library. Which country’s anthem will be sung next year remains to be seen. 

The More Outrageous, the Better
Also announced this week were the winners of the Tenth Annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition, which also took place at CBS in late March. The competition, open to teams of CBS MBA or EMBA students, challenges budding entrepreneurs to submit a business plan and deliver a two-minute elevator pitch to win the support of a panel of venture capitalist judges.

The title of Most Outrageous Business Venture went to two ventures this year based on their ambition, innovation, creativity and persuasiveness. The first-place winners were Megan Bordi ’09 and her business partner Nate Altschul for Green Panda Games™ (, a safe, free-to-play virtual world and game website for kids and tweens in China, and Joshua Hecht ’10 and business partner Darren Molovinsky for Curtain Call, a program book for Off-Broadway theaters and performing arts venues. Each team won $4,000 to help fund the launch of their businesses.

For more on the results of the Outrageous Business Plan Competition, click here.

Posted in: MBA News

Schools: Columbia, London Business School

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