Corporate finance team wins regional business competition, ACG Cup Northwest

Oregon State University OSU College of Business
OSU’s MBA Corporate Finance team wins the Association for Corporate Governance’s case study competition, the 2018 ACG Cup.

In a regional showdown of corporate financial acumen, the OSU’s MBA Corporate Finance team bested groups from the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and Seattle University to bring home the ACG Cup Northwest.

The ACG Cup Northwest is a case study competition among MBA students placed in a high-pressure setting to solve a real-world business challenge. In the competition students analyze a finance-related case in the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity, and then develop and present a case solution to a panel of industry professionals.

OSU students ― Daniel Pitluck, Brad Stricklin and Patrick McBrien ― presented their winning solutions to a panel of judges comprised of leading finance executives. This was the college’s first year for the win, but the second consecutive appearance in the final round.

Team member Brad Stricklin lays out the bones of the case, describing a company at a crossroads, needing to evaluate whether to stay as a standalone company, merge with another company, or be acquired in a leveraged buyout.

“The company in question for the case study was in the defense industry,” Stricklin said. “We were tasked with analyzing strategic alternatives for the company presenting our recommendation to ‘our board.’ For the final round of judging, we faced a ‘board’ that included the VP of Commercial and Wealth Banking at Umpqua Bank, Torran Nixon, and Stephen Babson, the managing director at Endeavor Capital, a private equity firm based in Seattle,” Stricklin said.

The team members, who all live in different cities, would meet up at coffee shops along the I-5 corridor on Saturday and Sunday mornings and hold a conference call on Tuesday nights to stay on top of their analyses. They studied other business cases, reworking scenarios from past years and sharing news articles. These preparations began in November.

The ACG project solidified one team member’s career interest post-MBA. Dan Pitluck made the decision to work in financial services, after enjoying the intensity of their analytical work. Pitluck attributes the team’s success to these long-term efforts and a dedication to a deep understanding of the material.

“It was easy to tell how much time Brad spent learning the necessary skills to lead our analysis,” Pitluck said. “This was extremely helpful for me, since I do not have an extensive finance background, to have with teammates who would walk through any questions I had.”

The next team goal is to figure out a way to actually celebrate the victory together somewhere after all that hard work.

“We are all excited to finish our MBAs in June, though it’s hard to believe the ACG competition itself has already come and gone,” said team member Patrick McBrien. “The three of us seemed to have a natural unity of purpose. I was floored by their level of commitment. It really felt like we were exercising a professional level of dedication to working on this project, and I think that was borne out by the results.”

The Association for Corporate Growth hosts the annual event among the top two Oregon and Washington teams following preliminary rounds within the College of Business and against other Oregon university teams.

The team was mentored by OSU alumnus Nate Liebler, principal at Newell Craig, LLC and, at the college, by faculty advisor and assistant professor of finance Jonathan Kalodimos. Dr. Kalodimos has integrated preparation for the competition into the curriculum in his Advanced Corporate Finance course.

Through the term, six teams moved through two rounds of competitive eliminations to identify the two top teams to represent OSU in the semi-finals.

“In Advanced Corporate Finance the students learn the quantitative skills necessary to compete, but, importantly, we also give them a framework to evaluate the qualitative or ‘soft’ aspects of business situations and cases,” Kalodimos said. “The soft side of finance is underappreciated skill, but we think developing our MBA students’ understanding of the soft side of finance is crucial for them to thrive in a competitive industry.”


Photo credit: Ideagility

Logistics is big business

Randy Eck explained that "moving stuff" makes up 11 percent of the global gross domestic product.
Randy Eck explained that “moving stuff” makes up 11 percent of the global gross domestic product.

Think logistics is no big deal in terms of the global economy?

Think again.

Randy Eck, director of supply chain technology solutions for Intel, told MBA students May 12 that roughly 11 percent of the world’s gross domestic product is logistics: “just moving stuff.”

That percentage translates to $9 trillion – 25 times as much as the $350 billion accounted for by the semiconductor industry, Eck said.

Eck and another member of Intel’s Customer, Planning and Logistics Group, Cliff Parrish, gave an evening presentation in Austin Hall’s Robert Family Events Room regarding Intel’s approach to supply chain management. Parrish is the company’s product and customer data manager.

Eck and Parrish’s group handles the transportation and warehousing of the materials Intel needs. For a company of Intel’s size and scope, the responsibility is big business to say the least. If supply chain efficiencies result in even a 1 percent increase in gross margin, that means an additional $500 million in revenue, Parrish noted.

Those efficiencies can be gained, Eck pointed out, through moves as simple as giving truck drivers instruction on how to shift gears in ways that require engines to use less fuel.

A fundamental issue logisticians must deal with, the pair told the students, is balancing service with effective cost management.

Parrish provided an outline for successful strategizing, which begins with the vision to see what success is. From there comes the development of goals and objectives and an “environmental scan” to determine what obstacles are in place. Next comes making a strategy, and following that is “strategic exploration” to see if there’s an even better strategy out there than the one you’re using. Then you need a roadmap for executing the strategy and ways to measure performance. And communication is the oil in the engine – without it, nothing happens.

Other topics the pair touched on included the “Internet of Things” – the ever-growing collection of smart devices that share data with one another to create systems of systems – and Moore’s Law.

Moore’s Law is a 1965 prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that transistor size would be cut in half every two years, doubling the computing power of an integrated circuit while vastly improving its performance and efficiency. Fifty years later, the prediction has so far proven true.

Cliff Parrish noted that without communication, any strategy will fail.
Cliff Parrish noted that without communication, any strategy will fail.

Putting it in perspective, if a Volkswagen Beetle had improved at the same exponential rate as microchips, the car would now be capable of 2 million miles per gallon and 300,000 miles per hour.

Alumna Wassana Yantasee, Ph.D., Exemplifies Versatility of Oregon State’s MBA Program

headshot of Wassana Yantasee
Oregon State MBA alum Wassana Yantasee, Ph.D.

Oregon State alumna Wassana Yantasee, Ph.D. has a very impressive résumé and list of accomplishments. Certainly not least among them was that Yantasee completed her MBA at night while simultaneously earning her doctorate in chemical engineering during the day.

Currently an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine, Yantasee’s research focuses on implementing nanomaterials into medicine in order to treat cancer and toxic metal exposure.

In addition to her teaching and research, Yantasee is also the president of the small biotech company PDX Pharmaceuticals that has received a fast-track Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract award from the National Cancer Institute to develop a new drug that will potentially treat cancer that becomes resistant to the standard-of-care drugs.

Logo for MBA grad Yantasee's PDX Pharmaceuticals
Yantasee’s biotech company has received an award from the National Cancer Institute to develop new drugs to combat drug-resistant cancer.

“My MBA training helps me with my career as a scientist tremendously in terms of proposal development and doing scientific research with the market and customer needs in mind,” said Yantasee. “I believe that science and business can’t be exclusive of each other.”

Yantasee says that her MBA courses prepared her for the business planning and market analysis required to secure the SBIR grants and contracts from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, and to effectively manage them afterward. Yantasee’s MBA experience is also helping her give back to the next generation of students.

“I’m most proud of being able to give all four of my current Ph.D. students free education through funding from my research grants, and my MBA training helps me with balancing budget costs effectively as well as managing people and the resources that make it possible,” said Yantasee.

Even though she grew up in Thailand, Yantasee found Oregon State to be a perfect fit. “Although I was far from home, I felt at home at OSU. The university has great student diversity, and I had opportunities to make friends from all over the world,” she said.

Yantasee’s advice for current students at Oregon State? Take advantage of information technology. “Information is so easily accessible today, allowing students to learn new things both inside and outside of the classroom,” she said.

“I received excellent education through OSU’s MBA program, and would strongly recommend it to anyone who has an opportunity,” added Yantasee.

Wassana is proof that there’s truly no limit to the uses and applications that an MBA from Oregon State will have in any career, and we’re proud to count her as an alum!

Class of ’14 MBA Students Compete in the 12th Annual MBA Business Plan Competition


Last Friday, nine teams of MBA students in the Commercialization and Clean Technology tracks competed in the 12th Annual MBA Business Plan Competition. The two day event brought 16 business leaders from around the state to Oregon State’s campus to judge the competition and to serve as mentors.

Each team was tasked with creating a viable business plan based off of real-world scientific breakthroughs, then presenting their business plans in a variety of competitive formats. The presentation is a culmination of their Integrated Business Plan (IBP) projects which the teams have been working on since last October.

Oregon State MBA students wait to present their business plans at the 12th Annual MBA Business Plan Competition.

On Thursday evening at the LaSells Stewart Center, each team gave a brief “shark tank” pitch outlining their business’ market opportunities and objectives. Then, one student from each team presented their “elevator pitch” to one of the judges. This pitch is a simulation of a chance meeting with a potential investor in an elevator, whereby the seller has only 45 seconds (or about five floors) to pitch their business.

“As time intensive and energy-consuming as the Integrated Business Projects can be, the process is so valuable for our students and faculty that even though they’re very challenging projects, they’re equally rewarding,” said Ilene Kleinsorge, dean of the College of Business.

Team nine, composed of Jordan Stutzman, Wenqian Chen, Qinqing Song and Yuhang He took first place in both the shark tank and elevator pitch portions of the competition. Their business project is a technology for a storm water management company.

From left: Yuhang He, Wenqian Chen, Qinqing Song and Jordan Stutzman took first place in both the shark tank and elevator pitch portions of the competition

The next day, each team presented their in-depth plan to the judges, who are also potential investors. Each team had 35 minutes to present before being grilled on all aspects of the endeavor. By the end of the session, teams experienced more than an hour of a high-pressure, high-stakes sales meeting. On the second day of the competition, MBA candidates Jujie Hao, Pei Yu Lu, Muchen Liu, Milo Ullstad and Siqi Chen walked away victorious for their business plan for a technology company aimed at improving prescription drug label information.

While preparing for the Business Plan Competition was very challenging, the students know the real-world benefits the projects have.

“In a cross-functional business environment, being able to get all departments on board for a new project is the key to its success,” said MBA student Sam Pincock. “Knowing how to effectively communicate to each department motivates and inspires cohesion within an organization, and the Business Plan Competition definitely helps prepare us for the challenges ahead.”

“Every MBA class has unique and special attributes,” said MBA program professor Tom Dowling. “I was very impressed by how well these students took on such challenging commercialization projects, quickly grasping the complexities and possibilities of innovative breakthroughs. This year’s class never backed down from the challenges they faced week after week, and they should be proud.”

A huge thanks to this year’s team of judges and mentors!

MBA teams make the pitch at annual Business Plan Competition

It’s the dream of every entrepreneur looking to fund a new startup. You’re holding the elevator door open and in walks the investor you’ve been waiting for.

What do you say? Well, after watching the 11th annual Oregon State MBA Business Plan Competition Thursday night, here are some possible strategies:

  • Go right into the pitch, and wow them with your market research.
  • Take a quick phone call on a successful test of your product.
  • Start with an icebreaker, such as “Hey, my power was out last night, how about yours?” or “There’s a gas station down the street. The pump has one slot for your credit card and one for your 401K.”
  • Oh, and whatever you chose from above, don’t forget a business card.

Each year the Oregon State MBA Integrated Business Project teams take a real-world technology and spend nine months developing a commercialization plan around it, whether that’s a new company, product, licensing agreement or other plan.

The Business Plan Competition gives the teams a chance to present those plans in front of not only their teachers, advisors and other business professionals but the friends and family members who have watched the entire journey.

Thursday’s competition included a five-minute “Shark Tank”-style pitch to introduce the teams and technologies and the Elevator Pitch, which gave a team member 45 seconds to wow a potential investor.

Each team took a different approach, trying to get the investor’s attention while showing the best their business plan had to offer.

In the end the team of Eric Revell, Bi Tran, Raymond McGuinness, Edward Brown and Kelong Kim took first place for their presentation, including the Elevator Pitch from Brown.

In second was Yi Zhuang, josh McBee, Amanda Williams, Adam Welch and Sarah Che. Third place went to Chalo Masias, Ryan Meyer , Jenny Cheung and Michael Knapp.