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Competing at the Vanderbilt eStrategy Contest

Although they all envy our Cyberposium, other business schools have creative approaches to foster student enthusiasm for technology. The Owen School (Vanderbilt University), for example, organizes a major eStrategy contest every year, where MBA students from every school in the US are asked to provide advice to the leading sponsor on one of their major strategic issues.

This year, the issue was to help AT&T Wireless design a strategy in the booming field of wireless commerce. Thirty teams applied, from schools like Chicago, Florida, Michigan, and even from HBS, with the smiling author of this article (Benjamin Gigot) and Nadine Haj-Hasan, NA.

After a few hours of reading Forrester, crunching profitability figures and assessing competitive pressure, we came to the conclusion that AT&T Wireless would benefit from adopting a few ideas of its new Japanese shareholder, NTT Docomo, especially in the management of its content partners, in the tariff schemes and in the selection of the network technologies.
Our approach was creative enough for us to be selected as one of the six teams invited for the final in Nashville, Tennessee, to present our recommendations to the AT&T management as well as to the other sponsors like Proxicom and IBM.

It was an amazing experience: the flight schedule allowed us to skip the end of a C&S class, the warmth and the conviviality of our hosts in Nashville was truly impressive, the presentation itself was challenging and the interaction with the judges gave us a great opportunity to test our views of wireless strategy, marketing, and technology.

Unfortunately, neither the vibrant plea of Nadine in favor of a AT&T-Doubleclick partnership to deliver location-based advertising, nor my nerdy explanations of the impact of CDPD, GPRS and WCDMA were enough to make us win. It is the Michigan team, strong of a few former consultants of Northern Europe, who won the prize this year. But considering my strong physical resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger, it seems clear that next year … I’LL BE BACK!

February 26, 2001
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