By Andrew Grigolyunovich, CFA, CFM, FMVA
Chairman of the Financial Modeling World Cup
So, the official birthday of the Financial Modeling World Cup is July 16, 2020. This is the day when we had a meeting here at our AG Capital office and I announced to the team that the decision is made and we will be launching the project. I believe that it could be interesting to know what happened these days here.
The idea was somewhere around us for a couple of months. Back in June 2020, we were seriously thinking of ways to create a “study group” for FMI’s CFM exam. We thought of creating some 12 cases to cover each topic of the exam, but at the end of the day decided not to go ahead due to limited demand and little amount of returning customers (as we expected them to pass the exam after our study group).
The missing piece of a puzzle appeared when I went to take part in Sudoku National Championships at the beginning of July. The best takeaway from the event (worth even more than the prize for 5th place) was the information that there is a Sudoku World Grand Prix that takes place online every month. So, instead of creating a study group for a small number of people, why don’t we make a global online competition for hundreds or thousands of financial modelers? Those who study for FMI’s exams could use them for training. And we would have a lot of other people registering either for learning or for competing. This setup started to make sense.
My wife typically has a good intuition towards my new business projects. So, when I told her about the idea, her reply was something like “Definitely, go ahead, who else in the world if not you, would make the best competition of that kind!” – “But you understand that the $10k prize money would come out of our own pocket if this doesn’t work?” – “It will work, I know.”
And we went ahead 😊
The key decision was about the launch date. We had 2 options – start in September with a 4-stage season or start “well-prepared” in January with a full season. Everyone on the team was in favor of the January start. You can’t really start an international financial modeling competition from scratch in less than 2 months, can you?
Well, I disagreed and insisted on kicking off in September. There were 2 key reasons for that. First, the longer is the deadline, the more time will the work take. And at the end of the day, we would still find ourselves in a rush over the last couple of weeks before the start.
Second, it was great luck for me to read the book “Blitzscaling” by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh just a week before we launched. These guys have really shown an alternative way to fast-launch projects and businesses. The first draft of the FMWC project tasklist that our team has created “as taught in a business school” contained things like market research, focus group discussions, etc. And after reading “Blitzscaling” our mindset changed towards “Come on, just start selling – this will be your focus group and market research!”. At the end of the day, even if we fail, we would know it within a couple of months. Regroup, recover and go launch other projects.
Good news – the summer was not so good here in Latvia last year (I even have a post on Facebook with my fireplace on in the middle of July). So hopefully the team was not too mad at me for not having too much time for their summer vacations.
Then there was a lot of work to find the best technical solution for running the stages. I believe that the current system powered by FlexiQuiz is the most efficient in terms of price/quality. I still can’t understand how the market for these systems works, as we have received offers from several vendors and the price range for the annual subscription was varying from hundreds of dollars till many-many thousands (and that’s after a special discount for a new business). I think that our first sales we happening while we still weren’t sure whether this would technically work at all. At the end of the day Emils and Mahidul, our website designer, did a great job to launch it on time and without any significant glitches.
By the way, this fast launch led to some problems later. We have initially selected one of the affordable hosting plans (you can always upgrade, right?). But when we had a huge success of the 888 Battle in June 2021 and thousands of viewers launched our website simultaneously, the website has inevitably crashed.
A great amount of work was spent to attract the right partners to the event. Most of them were interested and helped us a lot. I have to say a lot of thanks to Danielle Stein Fairhurst for having our exhibition round early in September (and for all the other support later on). There was a lot of support from the Financial Modeling Institute and Eloquens.com as well.
And then there was a lot of hard work. But that could be described in one of the next articles.
What were your initial impressions from the first rounds of FMWC?