VANCOUVER+acumen Case Competition – From a Student’s Perspective

Stop for a second, and close your eyes. Go back five years, maybe ten, to a year when you were a university student. You have to wake up at 8:00am on a Saturday morning to present a case to a panel of judges and you’ve barely gotten any sleep over the past twenty four hours (this doesn’t sound promising)… but wait, this is the first time you actually want to wake up that early on a weekend day and you can’t wait to present!

Now fast forward in time. Imagine you are sitting at a beautiful desk in a New York head office and you are in front of a… a stock chart? No, of course not. An idea. Not just any idea, a breakthrough idea that could change the world.

Vancouver +acumen Case Competition. This is how these two scenarios come together, allowing for a group of undergraduate and graduate students to step into the shoes of a board member, an investor, or fellow for Acumen Fund, not only challenging them to think critically but inspiring them to think differently. On March 10th, students will spend 24 hours with a take home ‘open’ case and the following day, will present to a panel of judges made up of industry leaders in finance and social enterprise.

This is not an easy task, but thankfully we (the students!) have the wonderful Mark McCoy as our coach. Here is a summary of what Mark has taught so far:

Workshop #1

This workshop focused on strategies for case analysis as well as an introduction to Acumen Fund. Mark led us through an example of a boy named Arthur who had an unsuccessful first year at university. He then used this example to illustrate various techniques used in sorting out the facts of a case, fully understanding the problem, conducting analysis, and outlining a solution. We also had the opportunity to learn more about Acumen Fund’s investment criteria, portfolios, fellows program and the concept of patient capital.

Workshop #2

The topic of workshop #2 was implementation and presentation. The example of Arthur was applied again, and this time to Acumen Fund’s ‘10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty’ (! The students were intrigued and conversation was sparked. Mark went into more detail about Acumen Fund’s investment criteria and how Acumen Fund measures impact.

There was also an astounding guest presentation from Nikolas Laufer-Edel who taught the students how to create an effective, visually appealing power-point presentation. The energy in the room after workshop #2 was definitely one of excitement and anticipation.

Workshop #3

The upcoming workshop will be this Saturday and it will focus on financial modeling. Although Mark doesn’t expect us to become ‘masters of excel’ in just a few hours (or at least I hope not!), financial modeling is a fundamental aspect of determining whether or not a project is going to be financial sustainable. The Vancouver +acumen team will be tweeting live from this workshop!

Lastly, I have gathered some thoughts from a few of the other students who have been attending the workshops. Here is what they have to say!

“I heard about the case competition from a fellow student. I was curious about how finance concepts could be applied to something other than banking. I also found out that the women who wrote the book ‘The Blue Sweater’ founded the Acumen Fund. The workshops have been very interactive and Mark is engaging and very supportive. I am looking forward to the case and taking all of the skills we have learned and applying it to a meaningful cause!” – Jasmine

“I’ve been very competitive my whole life, and I really wanted to experience a real-life application of the materials I’ve been taught in Sauder. Hence, combining competition with learning is what attracted me to the case competition. The seminars have been very useful so far. My favorite segment was definitely “the presentation on presenting”, but the case-competition strategy talks have been insightful as well. I’ve learned how to present effectively and how to work as a team under tight time constraints. I am looking forward to spending an entire day looking at a case and creating an organized conclusion out of the disorganized collection of information.” – Tim

“I thought this would be a great learning experience because of the workshops. I love that there is that social, entrepreneurial aspect in this case competition because of what the organization works to fund. I had also heard great things about this case competition! I’ve only been to one workshop so far but I was surprised at the quality of the content! I am looking forward to the rest of the workshops and watching other people’s case presentations! From my experience, working on cases is such a unique way to learn about business problems and really working the brain to form a creative solution. I can’t wait to read the case and feel the sense of accomplishment at the end of everything!” – Elizabeth

Make sure to follow @van4acumen this Saturday at 10am [PST]!

– Rebecca Konsolos, @rkonsolos


About Vancouver for Acumen

A Vancouver volunteer-run chapter of the Acumen Fund, who is a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty.
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