Mark Partridge, University of Washington The value of case competitions

While everybody else in America seems to be tuned in to the Super Bowl, I am busily researching tech company multiples in preparation for the regional Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) this coming Friday. In truth I do not mind missing the big game – especially since it is the wrong type of football anyway – the competition has been the highlight of my time at the Foster School of Business so far.

First year business students take core classes that teach the basics of finance, accounting, and management. While these classes are useful and interesting, they are also very broad in scope, so you need to look beyond the first year core curriculum in order to tailor your education to fit your interests. I knew early on that I was interested in venture capitalism so when I learned that a class was offered, I jumped at the opportunity.

The class focused on preparing for the VCIC by bringing in local venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to teach us how to critique business plans and make investing decisions. While the class kept me at school much later than most of my classmates – making it a dark, cold and usually wet bicycle ride home – I learned that many of these types of deals are based on general concepts about where markets might be going and whether the right development team is in place.

Teams of students were assembled to represent Foster at the VCIC and, low and behold, my team won. Since our intramural victory, life has consisted of a steady stream of meetings with VCs and lawyers and … well, researching multiples and comps. I have also grown close to my teammates and have formed friendships I certainly would not have made otherwise.

Competing in VCIC has meant balancing my course work and family commitments with preparations for the competition. In both respects, I have been lucky to be surrounded by understanding people. I’ll certainly have to make it up to them by a) winning the VCIC and b) buying them all a beer afterwards.

Although it’s been a much larger time commitment that I anticipated in September, I know this competition and other case competitions are an essential part of the business school experience. So it’s back to studying multiples.

But first, I wonder if the Patriots have scored yet…