Wharton Students Wins First Tesla Case Competition

by on October 30th, 2017

A team of students from the Wharton School have won Tesla’s first MBA case competition, which means they will be offered internships at Tesla this summer.

Held at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the competition brought together a dozen teams from business schools on multiple continents.

The starting point for the Tesla case competition was a fairly general question: what new features could improve Tesla customers’ experience?

Writing in the Wharton Journal, Wharton’s team explained that they began with extensive research. They polled their entire Wharton MBA class, with about a quarter of students responding. They also interviewed current students who owned Teslas.

They wanted to create a product that took advantage of Tesla cars’ constant internet access. In the end, they settled on an artificial intelligence feature focused on improving driver safety.

The AI system will observe how people drive, then give them customized suggestions to improve driving safety. Drivers who follow the suggestions are guaranteed to improve their insurance premiums.

If drivers are involved in collisions, the AI will call 911 and assess what new parts need to be ordered.

Beyond their idea itself, one reason the Wharton team stood out was because of the broad range of experience they brought to the issue. Between them, the five team members drew on professional experience in everything from marketing to data science to mechanical engineering.

According to Tobi Duschl, Tesla’s Head of Global Business Operations, this mix of experience made him “convinced that this is the right team to successfully implement this product.”

Wharton’s team took an important lesson from this: “coming up with a great product pitch is important, but making stakeholders believe that you can actually deliver is just as critical.”

For Stephiney Foley, a Tuck MBA student who originally pitched the idea for the Tesla competition, these kind of real-world lessons are part of what case competitions are all about.

She explained that her previous experience in case competitions “gave me a lot of confidence that I could pitch new ideas and attack real-life problems,” making case competitions an experience “very different than analyzing a case in class that a company has already solved.

The first round of the competition was fast-paced: teams had fifteen minutes to present and five minutes to answer questions from Tesla’s panel of judges. Teams represented top business schools from as far away as Switzerland’s IMD.

Ultimately, though, it was Wharton’s team that caught the panel’s attention. They will now have the opportunity to make their vision a reality in Palo Alto this summer.

But there’s one other perk: the team will be given a Tesla Model X to use for a weekend. So according to Shawn Xu, the team’s future includes not just internships at Tesla, but “a leisurely autopilot road trip along the East Coast.”

Wharton’s team persevered in a highly competitive contest, but then again Wharton students are no strangers to competition—the school is one of the most selective. If you’re thinking of applying or want to know whether Wharton should be on your list, get in touch with us for a free assessment!

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