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Pitching Ideas, Amazon Style

At the first Amazon Case Competition at the Yale School of Management, teams of MBA and MAM students presented solutions to a panel of Amazon staffers.

Last fall, Amazon worked with the Technology Club at SOM in hosting the first Amazon Case Competition at the Yale School of Management. Nineteen teams of first-year MBAs, second-year MBAs, and MAMs participated in the competition, where they simulated the roles of product managers, retail managers, operations managers, and financial analysts as they developed an end-to-end solution to a real-world Amazon challenge.  

Following the “real-world” motif, teams presented a white paper on their ideas in the same way that Amazonians present new ideas to management at Amazon—a one page “PR press release,” a one-page FAQ sheet, and attached appendices and tables; students were also encouraged to use Amazon’s ”working backwards” methodology. After researching, condensing, and presenting their ideas, teams had their ideas critiqued by a panel during an open Q & A dialogue.

From the nineteen submitting teams, a group of SOM professors—Professor Vineet Kumar, Professor Jennifer McFadden, Professor Aniko Oery, and Professor Subrata Sen—selected the top four teams based on a number of factors including novelty, completeness of the idea, and business potential. These four teams presented their ideas and answered the questions from the Amazon judges: Robin Mendleson (SOM '96), Land Anderson (SOM ‘03), Tiffany Dockery (SOM '13), and Chris Cooper.

Following the competition, the four teams were invited to a private reception sponsored by Amazon where the following results were announced:

First Place
Gene Sussman ’17
Dhruti Deshpande 17
Michelle Yang 17
Joshua Siewert 17

Second Place
Eva Zheng 17
Christy Sun 17
Cole Oman 17
Karan Moudgil 17

Honorable Mentions

Cian O'Dowd MAM ’16
Claudia Martinez MAM ’16
Thibault Maillet MAM ’16
Humberto Robles MAM ’16

David Delfino 17
Krishan Rele 17
Hannah Lee 17
Caroline Loevner 17

Mendelson, on behalf of Amazon, praised the teams for their big thinking and awareness of customer problems. The teams identified channels to access new customers and new ecosystems through leveraging Amazon’s assets, attractive financials, and downstream partners and connections.    

Antoine Broustra, the deputy director of relationship management at Yale SOM’s Career Development Office, said, “It always great to see close involvement of firms recruiting at Yale SOM with clubs and students as it demonstrates the collaborative environment in which we operate. Very recently, Mock Madness saw the participation of many recent alumni in consulting and investment banking who gave some of their time with the full support of their organizations. The Amazon Case Competition organized by Amazon for current MAM and MBA students under the leadership of Yale SOM alumni currently working at Amazon and the Technology Club was another example of the interaction that benefits the entire community of alumni and current students. It also demonstrates how Yale SOM is perceived so positively by companies in all sector of the economy.”

Gene Sussman, winning team captain, said, "Working on the Amazon Case Competition was an amazing experience. The case allowed us to think critically and creatively about Amazon and their products, applying tools and frameworks we’ve learned at SOM and using them towards a potential real world business scenario. It also let our team learn about each other’s strengths and passions, which we used in creating the idea and finally presenting in front of the Amazon judges. The competition highlighted the best parts of SOM, working with incredible people on innovative ideas.”