MONTREAL — The sole Israeli team at Concordia University’s annual contest for graduate business students is pleased with its finish in the top third.
The five students from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) tied for 11th place in the 31st John Molson MBA International Case Competition, held Jan. 3 to 8, at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
They were up against 35 other teams from universities in Canada, the United States, Germany, France, Hungary, Portugal, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and Finland.
The winner was Quebec City’s Université Laval, which took home the $10,000 first prize for its school.
Last year, BGU became the first Israeli or Middle Eastern school to take part in the competition, which has been international for 20 years.
Entirely student run, the competition describes itself as the oldest and largest MBA case competition in the world, and participants have called it gruelling. Teams are given reality-based business conundrums to solve within two hours, and their presentations are judged by business executives on the feasibility and originality of the ideas presented.
BGU, coached by Prof. Dov Dvir, fared better than a number of leading Canadian business schools including those at Queen’s and McMaster universities, as well as serious American contenders, like Purdue and Pepperdine.
BGU won its first two cases against the University of Ottawa and Miami University, respectively. It lost its third case to Sweden’s Lund University.
BGU was victorious over Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia in the fourth, and only live case, rather than one on paper. The head of a real company presents a real problem to solve.
This year, the company, announced only minutes beforehand, was the Montreal-based high-tech firm CGI. Its president asked students what its marketing strategy should be in an era of rapid globalization: should it expand into Asia or grow its existing markets?
BGU lost its fifth and final case to the host John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
“It was an intensive week. We were tired at the end,” BGU student Matt Rides said. “I wouldn’t say it was tougher than we expected – we held a mini-competition before we came – but we had hoped to do better. I think we can pass on some tips to next year’s team that will help them.”
The 2011 BGU team tied for 10th place.
The loss to Lund was a heartbreaker, he said. Unlike the other cases, which were scored according to certain criteria, the ruling was in the form of commentary.
And it was close: the jury was split 3-2. BGU prevailed over Lund in the total points tally.
Rides, an Australian native who has lived in Israel for 11 years, and his teammates graduated from BGU’s honours MBA program just days before heading to Montreal.
This is a two-year, 60-credit program, developed with Columbia University, compressed into an intensive 13 months. Rides returned to study after five years working in the financial services field.
He said coming to such an impressively run international competition was a valuable learning experience, whatever the team’s final standing. Networking with 230 other young people from around the world in the same field was a rare opportunity, he said.
At a reception for the team hosted by the Canadian Associates of BGU at the JMSB following the competition, Amy Wyron, the only woman, spoke for the team.
She quoted her favourite Israeli basketball player: “My guys play to win, but we love to play. That was our attitude.
“We worked hard and we learned so much. I’m proud of how we came together as a team.”
Although they didn’t go home with a competition prize, the Israelis did win one contest here: a scavenger hunt held on the first day.
“We ran all over Montreal looking for buildings and facts,” said Wyron, a Washington, D.C., native who is a software marketing specialist. “Our winning underlines how well we worked together as a team.”
The students participated in a number of extracurricular activities, and the Israelis particularly enjoyed attending a hockey game at the Bell Centre between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets.
The Canadian Associates helped sponsor the team’s participation. On hand to salute the team were Westmount-Ville Marie MP Marc Garneau, D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman, Israel Consul General Joel Lion, lawyer Peter O’Brien, chair of the competition’s independent board of directors, and Alan Hochstein, interim dean of the JMSB.