For the first time in its remarkable 25-year history, students competing in this week's 49th Waikato Management School Case Competition had to livestream their presentations to an online audience of over 100 people watching from inside their own 'bubbles' at home, due to the current Covid-19 restrictions.
There was a certain beautiful irony in that fact.
The focus of this year's case competition was Shift72, a powerhouse Kiwi company based in Hamilton that's grown to become the global market leader in video-on-demand streaming technology for some of the world's most iconic film festivals, such as Cannes and Sundance.
Strategic Management Senior Lecturer, Dr Stephen Bowden, who convenes the capstone paper STMGT303 Applied Strategy, said: "This has been an amazing case for our students to work on, because it's absolutely of its time during a global pandemic when digital has become increasingly important for both employers and customers alike.
"I'm super proud of all of the finalist teams; they did an enormously great job. Despite trying circumstances in terms of having to present online, it's been as good a case competition we've ever had in terms of the quality of the presentations and reports."
The winning team was 'Prestige Strategies', comprised of management students Riley Malins, Sarah Gurnsey, William Parker and Charlotte Callaghan. Along with the sweet taste of victory, they will enjoy sharing a $2,500 cash prize sponsored by PWC.
Student Riley Malins said: "We know we were up against some really tough competition in the other three teams, so we're a little bit shocked and really proud of the team; and really stoked with the opportunity to present to you guys.
Shift72's founder and CEO David White said it was a huge pleasure to be involved in this year's WMS Case Competition.
"Shift72 is working with some of the largest, most powerful entertainment brands in the world. We like to say that we're powering Hollywood from Hamilton, so you've got to pinch yourself sometimes.
"We've gone on this wild ride over the last 18 months, in part thanks to a virus ... We've gone from 10 staff during last year's lockdown to 53 now, we've got customers across 55 countries, and we've delivered over 150,000 films to millions of fans all over the world.
"We've got this huge opportunity and a whole lot of decisions ahead of us, so this case competition was really timely for us as we look to take our next steps and grow this global company across different time zones," says White.
Many thanks to the rest of the judging panel: Mark McCabe (Managing partner at PwC Waikato), Brittany Oliver (Senior Commercial Lead at ZURU Toys), Andrew Johnson (Managing Director of IT Partners), and Genevieve Macky (Business Partner at Bank of New Zealand).