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MBA club hosts blockchain innovation challenge

| Friday, April 20, 2018

As a soon-to-graduate Notre Dame MBA candidate with an interest in technology, Vinod Krishnadas noticed a recruiting trend that did not sit well with him.

“Recruiters tend to look for technology talent on the West Coast, and then they jump all the way across to the East Coast, and so they kind of skip the entire Midwest,” Krishnadas, president of the MBA Technology Club, said. “So we wanted to give students a platform to showcase their technology talent and their capability.”

He hopes the MBA Tech Club’s first ever MBA Tech Innovation Challenge can serve as that platform.

Krishnadas said the Tech Innovation Challenge will kick off Notre Dame’s IDEA Week Friday where teams will present strategies for blockchain technology utilization.

Eight teams from Notre Dame, Washington University in St. Louis, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Maryland, University of California Irvine and Arizona State University will compete for prizes of $6,000, $3,000 and $1,000 in Jordan Auditorium in the Mendoza College of Business.

Krishnadas said the teams were selected from a pool of 20 first-round competitors after completing a challenge to showcase their overall understanding of blockchain technology. For the second and final round, they must present strategies for applying blockchain technology to the practice of value-added taxation.

The competition has reinforced Krishnadas’ perception that Mendoza graduate students are interested in technology and have tech talent to offer, he said. Nine teams from Notre Dame entered the competition, and two have reached the final round.

Jake Downs, a member of one of the final-round Notre Dame teams, said none of his team members had a blockchain technology background, but they wanted to apply their MBA knowledge to a new topic that has recently become trendy with the rise of Bitcoin.

“It’s been a lot of fun to tackle a subject that no one in our group knows anything about, so we’re all trying to learn something on the fly and come up with a solution that makes sense,” Downs said.

Ajit Vaidya, a member of the other final-round Notre Dame team and a longtime member of the MBA Tech Club, said he and some of of his teammates had technology backgrounds and had been fascinated by blockchain technology before entering the competition. Even so, he said the competition prompted them to learn more about the technology.

“We realize that there is so much more to learn each time we meet together as a team. As we’ve explored different applications of the technology, we’ve come to realize the pain points of a variety of stakeholders as the technology finds its use in supply chain, financial reporting, tax fraud, refugee management and diamonds trading, just to name a few,” Vaidya said in an email.

The teams will present their ideas in 30-minute segments starting at 1 p.m. Friday. Mendoza faculty and representatives from sponsors Thomson Reuters and SAP will judge the competition. The final round is open to the public, and audience members will be allowed to ask questions of each team.

“That goes back to the ethos of this competition, which is to make it a learning opportunity for everyone involved,” Krishnadas said. “Some of the judges when we started off either didn’t have a good sense of blockchain, or didn’t have a good sense of tax. So I think between the organizers, the teams, the judges and the audience, you know, everyone’s going to learn something from this competition.”

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About Micaela Powers

Micaela Powers is a senior majoring in Film, Television, and Theatre and Political Science.

Contact Micaela