A team from University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has grabbed the $10,000 prize in the Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition, hosted by the Duke MBA Energy Club at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
This year’s competition brought together 34 teams from several continents. UC Berkeley was represented by a PhD student, Isa Ferrall, and four Haas MBA students: Felix Schadeck, Hao Shen, Chandler Sherman and Joe Swartley.
Competing teams were asked to answer a deceptively simple question: should a solar power company based in East Africa opt for Benin or Nigeria to expand its market into West Africa?
Of course, coming up with a convincing answer to this question required considering factors like competition, regulation and infrastructure in each country. Teams were then asked to present a strategy for breaking into the market in their chosen country.
In approaching this task, Haas’s team benefited from complementary areas of expertise that members brought to the competition.
Multiple team members had previously worked in energy in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as at companies like Tesla and SolarCity. Their expertise ranged form energy marketing to energy access to impact investing.
The UC Berkeley team didn’t just rely on their own knowledge, though. A core feature of their approach was an extensive set of interviews involving more than 30 experts drawn from the Haas network and their professional networks.
Chandler Sherman, a student in Haas’s MBA Class of 2020, compares the experience to “a five-week master class in energy access for emerging markets.” After all, the team had to consider all the major and minor logistical details that go into providing solar power to a new market.
Ultimately, the team chose Nigeria as the appropriate place for the company to expand, citing factors like the more developed regulatory climate and the availability of capital.
Isa Ferrall, a PhD student in Haas’s Energy & Resources group, says the “valuable feedback” the team received “guided all of our recommendations.”
The team’s success highlights a key advantage of being a student at a top MBA program like Haas: easy access to an extensive network of people with complimentary skills and areas of expertise.
Of course, being admitted to a school like Haas in the first place means showing that you yourself have something to add to that network.
At EXPARTUS, we can give you feedback on how to create an application that makes your unique strengths and experience clear to adcoms. Ask us for a free MBA assessment!