Aarhus Case Competition 2020 marks the 9th year anniversary for ACC. It has been nine years with a steep growth and development curve for the case competition, which has undergone a transformation for each year it has existed.
This is, amongst other reasons, because each year a new committee is recruited to plan and organise the ACC events of the year. Each year this is an eager committee with fresh new eyes and a tremendous amount of motivation to continuously create the largest and (we believe) best case competition in the Nordics.
To celebrate the 9th birthday of ACC in 2020, we sat down with a cup of coffee and talked with the two men who started this journey - the Founding Fathers of Aarhus Case Competition - Anders Thomsen and Jesper Agerholm. They told us the fascinating story of two students with a dream and a goal to create an embracing and highly professional case competition in Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus. Today, nine years after the first ACC week was held, they are still involved in the evolvement of the case competition, and today they act as active members of the ACC Advisory Board.
Jesper Agerholm Anders Thomsen
Director CEO & Co-founder
Clearwater International NoMoreHours
How did ACC start, what was the motivation behind, and what do the founders believe Aarhus Case Competition
will look like in another nine years? These are all questions that will be answered during this blog post.
Thank you for following and happy reading.
A blog post by Julie Meldgaard Nielsen, Head of PR & Marketing, ACC 2020
How did ACC begin?
The initial thought to create, what we today know as Aarhus Case Competition, was planted in 2011. The Founding Fathers of this great competition, Anders and Jesper, had previously participated in case competitions themselves. Additionally, they both studied and had a small company together. Needless to say, they knew each other very well.
One day the two were discussing the universe of case competitions that had emerged in Denmark, and they quickly agreed to add Aarhus University to the map. They realised that if this were to become a reality and a success, they would have to hit the ground running - and this became their mantra moving forward.
They knew creating ACC would be a big challenge, but they were up for it! They also knew that they would not be able to achieve their goal and realise their dream alone, and they needed people with different skill sets to assist them. This was how the first ACC committee was ever assembled.
Additionally, they had heard that the Aarhus BSS student organisation Studenterlauget might have an interest in collaborating with events such as theirs. As so, they reached out and quickly entered into a partnership. Together with skilled people from Studenterlauget, Anders and Jesper put together an advisory board consisting of people with many different skills. Their job was to help develop and create the concept of Aarhus Case Competition, and it still is.
What separated Aarhus Case Competition, from those that already existed?
When meeting Anders and Jesper, they share with us that what they experienced back in 2011, was that most (if not all) case competitions at the time were very elitarian.
“A lot of case competitions are very elitarian in their way of thinking. It is only the best of the best students that are chosen, and that actually makes it a little nepotistic in my opinion” - Anders Thomsen
They wanted Aarhus Case Competition to be different. They made it their mission to change the terms of case competitions by creating one that invited every student at Aarhus University to participate no matter their background. They knew that getting top grades did not necessarily equal the capability to solve cases while under time pressure, and generally the ability to communicate appropriately.
Additionally, they wanted not only top students, but all students, to have the ability to learn new skills and tools that case competitions provides. This is why ACC from the very beginning was based on democratisation. Meaning that no matter what a person was studying or what grades they were given, they were welcome to participate in this case competition. Today, this is still the foundation of ACC.
To make sure this openness became a reality, they created two competitions within ACC:
1) The nine teams (today called ACC Advanced) and 2) ACC Aspire Case Camp.
The nine teams were created as a way to inspire the students at Aarhus University who were passionate about and interested in case solving, but not very experienced. These teams consisted, and still consists of very experienced and skilled case solvers and case competition participants from Denmark and other Nordic countries.
Dividing ACC into two parts with ACC Advanced being one, was not done to put on a show or for participants to brag. It was created to teach aspiring students at AU that if they practice hard, it is possible to solve and present extremely professional solutions within a limited time
Aspire Case Camp
Aspire Case Camp is an essential aspect of what the ACC concept is.
“The main competition for us, and the reason why it all started is really ACC Aspire, even though most people believe that it is ACC Advanced. And this is where Aarhus Case Competition separates itself from other case competitions as we want to teach every student how to do structured problem solving and communicate clearly. The focus is wide and not only on the top” - Jesper Agerholm.
They wanted every single student at Aarhus University to have the opportunity to be a part of a case competition, and work with real problems for real companies. Aspire Case Camp allows just that. Even though Aarhus Case Competition is still very BSS driven today, every student at Aarhus University is permitted, and furthermore encouraged by the organising committee and the various partner companies, to participate in Aspire.
What challenges did you meet in the start-up phase?
Even though Jesper and Anders had a mantra to hit the ground running, not everything was unchallenging in the beginning. They experienced first-hand how difficult it was to get people interested in something new like ACC. Primarily because no one knew what a case competition even was and with no reference to previous competitions, they were having trouble communicating all the significant aspects of the competition. However, this was already a lot easier with ACC 2013, as the first competition became a great success. Luckily, today, most students are very familiar with the concept of case competitions and the value they present.
Especially the ACC Advanced was a massive success from the beginning, with top students applying to be part of it. Aspire Case Camp did, for a good reason, face more challenges in the beginning. The very first year only 15-20 teams participated each day. However, each year the number has gone up, and for ACC 2019 more than 200 students were solving cases every day at Aspire Case Camp.