The Brass Tacks, a team of four first-year UC Davis MBA students, delivered creative solutions for American Express and Hilton Hotels as one of 10 finalists at the 2008 Innovation Challenge in November.
News Release

The Brass Tacks among the 10 Most Innovative MBA Teams in the World
UC Davis MBA Team Advanced to Innovation Challenge Finals

Davis, CA)–A team of four UC Davis MBA students advanced to the final round of the 2008 Innovation Challenge, the world’s largest academic competition of its kind produced by consulting firm Idea Crossing and hosted by The Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Calling themselves The Brass Tacks, the group of first-year Full-Time MBA students emerged as one of 10 finalists from the initial round and a semi-final round of the sixth-annual international competition, which took place online in October.

The UC Davis team—David Ewell, Kristopher Kolve, Anita Lee and Srinivas Muppidi—then spent three days at Darden in late November, competing head-to-head in the finals. The Brass Tacks were the only team from California and one of only two from the West Coast to make the finals. It was also the second time in the past four years that a team from UC Davis made the final round.

The 10 finalists were winnowed from 264 entries with 1,140 contestants from 55 business schools in 48 countries—including four teams from UC Davis.

The competition gives MBA students an opportunity to solve real-world business problems from company sponsors, including American Express; Hilton Hotels; the Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative ideas in health care; and RBC Bank, the 40th largest bank in the U.S.

At the finals, teams had to present inventive solutions to problems posed by American Express and Hilton. A panel of CEOs, senior executives and innovation experts from non-sponsor companies served as judges. A team from the University of Virginia took top honors and the $20,000 overall prize.

Although they did not win, the UC Davis team brought back many lessons learned and valuable contacts from the journey. “It was an amazing experience—a crash course in team dynamics,” said Muppidi, the Brass Tacks’ leader. “We had about eight hours of sleep over two days. You are pushed to the boundary.”

“I realized that there’s an innovator in every one of us,” Muppidi added. “A new environment, a unique problem or the right set of keys is all that’s needed to let it out and explore the world”.