23 November 2015

Madsen Real Estate – Unfinished Business

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Henry Ford

New York City in November is stunning. 15-20 degrees, unreserved sunshine and a city desperately trying to capture the last embers of warmth before Winter hits. Places like Central Park, the mesmerising view from the Top of the Rock and other NYC destinations have an extra slice of magic to them.

Pictured from left to right: Kevin Oh, Thuy Thai, Howell Sze, James Pyo
So why were we there?
Well, our team Madsen Real Estate was representing the University of Sydney in the Cornell International Real Estate Case (CIREC) competition. The 7th annual CIREC competition ran from 5 to 10 November in New York City, with participants from 19 leading universities across the globe including Cornell University, Brown University, New York University, University of British Columbia and Cambridge University. So naturally, we arrived a few days earlier to soak in the sights and “acclimatise” through getting to know the night life and the locals…of course.

Our experience? 
It undoubtedly lies within the sheer vibrancy and culture of the city. People briskly brush past you, always with a purpose and yet this is contrasted with the abundance of talent that flocks towards the city, hoping to secure your attention for a night as their own fleeting careers grow. We had a chance to watch local comedians, catch Wicked at the famous Gershwin Theatre, attend the final World Series Game (Go Mets!) and also demolish bowls of ramen at the world famous Ippudo. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

World Series Baseball Game 5…GO METS!

What about the competition itself? 

The case centred around a portfolio of three properties in separate districts within the United States, including Oklahoma City, North Carolina and the LAX area of El Segundo. The properties themselves had unique features to them, including significant lease ups, rebranding projects and also a problematic tenant – being a 80,000 sq ft strip club of which we needed to advise our private equity clients as to what to do with them. Over the next five days, we wouldn’t sleep much, we would single-handedly support Koreatown’s instant noodle business and also had to sneak down for a slice of delicious New York pizza whenever we could.

Being the second year the University of Sydney has ever participated in this competition and standing shoulder to shoulder with Cambridge, NYU and British Columbia, it was difficult to remain calm on the day. We did not sleep much the night before, but we knew we had a chance to help expand the opinions of others and put the University on the map of global real estate competitions.

The heats

The heats could not have gone any better. The judges were delighted with our 100 page+ pitchbook and we managed to finish almost exactly on the 15 minutes we were allowed to present. It was thrilling to beat out the seeded team from the year before and suddenly we were filled with hope, more than just our usual bravado.

Our box of pitchbooks + a very happy Kevin

The final

A panel of 16 people who are effectively the “Who’s who” of New York Real Estate is imposing. It gets worse when they start asking questions. But it truly escalates when they’re fighting over each other to ask the hardest question they can and watch us squirm. And whilst we squirmed (only a little), I know we’re all a little stronger knowing we made it through an inquisition for the ages.

And whilst we didn’t bring home the bacon, we received a handy global 2nd place to make up for the disappointment. Two months ago, no one on our team knew how to value a building, our only experience in leasing was our own private negotiations for a cheap apartment to stay within and yet I know at the end of the day, what we did, was the best we had and I cannot thank my team enough for all the effort throughout the five days.

Post announcement that we had come 2nd in the world! We’ll get you next year Cornell!


So our parting advice?
It’s rare to have a team where everyone is on equal grounds, everyone speaks up about their thoughts and everyone not only can make fun of themselves but feel comfortable enough to laugh at each other. And a long time from now, we probably will not remember the experience, the result or the intricate details. But one thing we know is that the three others who shared some of the most difficult and proudest moments of our lives together – that is something none of us will ever forget.

Howell Sze

Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

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