This article initially appeared in The Wharton Journal (linked here), and its author is Shawn Xu.
At the end of September, Tesla Motors hosted its first-ever MBA case competition at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Tesla’s business operations team asked students a simple question – what new products or features can we build that can concretely improve the customer experience? They offered a tantalizing prize – the winning team would have the opportunity to build an MVP (minimum viable product) of whatever they proposed during the summer at Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto.
Teams from twelve business schools around the world – one from as far away as Switzerland – converged on the Dartmouth campus in Hanover, New Hampshire to compete for this grand prize. Along with my fellow first year MBA students Roxie Bartholomew, Daniel Katzew, Andrew Poma, and Khalid Quidwai, we formed a team to represent the Wharton School at the competition. Between all members, our team had professional perspectives from product management, product marketing, finance, data science, actuarial science, and mechanical engineering.
Over three weeks, we ideated around a number of concepts that focused on leveraging Tesla’s Internet-connected car capabilities, especially in the collection of car data. We polled the entirety of the Wharton Class of 2019 (~25% response rate!) to test assumptions and interviewed current students who owned Tesla cars for user feedback.
Ultimately, we pitched a smart AI product designed to maximize driver safety. The proposed AI can offer personalized feedback to users on ways to improve their driving safety. If drivers listen to these suggestions, they are guaranteed a decrease in their monthly drivers insurance premiums (e.g. commit to driving within the speed limit this week and you get $50 off your monthly insurance premium). Moreover, in the event of an accident, the AI immediately responds by calling 911, directing passengers to safety, ordering the spare parts needed, and even scheduling the repair process. This product takes full advantage of the Tesla car’s constant access to the Internet and collection of car data.
We’re proud to report that we’re bringing the trophy to Wharton – we won 1st place at Tesla’s case competition! The judges were particularly impressed by the composition of our team – Head of Global Business Operations Tobi Duschl commented that he was “convinced that this is the right team to successfully implement this product.” One key takeaway is therefore this – coming up with a great product pitch is important, but making stakeholders believe that you can actually deliver is just as critical.
We’ve been offered summer internships to help build the proof of concept for this product. But honestly, we’re all more excited about the cherry on top – we’ve be given a Tesla Model X for a full weekend to do with as we please! We’re planning on taking a leisurely autopilot road trip along the East Coast.
In the end, it was a fantastic experience, and we built solid friendships amongst each other along the way. Feel free to stop us in the halls and ask us more about our experience!