Kellogg Home
Oct 20, 2018

Posted on
Apr 27 2017

MBA Student Team from Insead Award $100,000 First Place Prize at Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition

Plan to provide affordable housing solutions for manufacturers in Asia selected in fourth annual International real estate contest

Chicago (April 20, 2017) – The INSEAD team of MBA students left their mark on Wednesday night at the fourth annual Kellogg School of Management Real Estate Venture Competition. The three-person team, who traveled from France to make presentations for their People Pods housing concept, impressed the judges with their winning plan to provide affordable and safe housing options to Asian manufacturing companies concerned about the wellbeing of their employees. The team won $100,000 in combined cash and professional services for their idea, which they will apply to bring the concept to market.

In many Asian countries, employees of manufacturing operations live in substandard housing districts that are fraught with unsanitary conditions and lack of clean water. To address this inequity, the INSEAD MBA team of Daniel Layug, Panita Vongkusolkit and Willard Walker created People Pods, a unique venture that consists of delivering modular housing units in partnership with leading Asian manufacturing companies to provide safe and clean housing options for factory workers throughout the region. The team intends to implement its first People Pod community in collaboration with Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation in northwest Thailand.
“I thought it was a creative idea and filled a definite need in the region,” said competition judge Frank Cohen, Senior Managing Director, Real Estate Group, Blackstone. “Along with the other judges, we were very impressed with all presentations given by the MBA teams this year, and were honored to be part of such a unique competition within the real estate industry.”

The Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition brings together new venture ideas in real estate from such MBA programs as Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Business School, BerkeleyHaas, IE Business School, INSEAD, ISB, Johnson at Cornell University, Olin School of Business at Washington University, SAID Business School at Oxford University, Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech, Leonard N. Stern School of Business at NYU, and Chicago Booth. Preliminary competition rounds were judged by leading real estate executives and four finalists were selected, with teams from Oxford, Columbia, Cornell and INSEAD presenting during a winner-take-all round before an audience of more than 200 real estate professionals and students. Judges based their decisions on a variety of criteria, including quality of the presentation, feasibility, and the merits of the written plan.

“We each have first-hand experience with manufacturing businesses and saw the need to provide better housing for employees,” said Willard Walker, INSEAD team member and MBA class of 2017, after hearing the news of their first-place prize. “We had a brainstorm to come up with the idea for People Pods and felt that it really filled a need, but it was important to get the support from manufacturing companies in Asia in order for it to be successful. We are really happy to win and it makes it all worth it.”

The Venture Competition highlights the Kellogg Real Estate Conference, which brings together the industry in thought leadership and collaboration. This year featured panel discussions on capital markets, featuring Jeff Scott, Senior Managing Director of Eastdil Secured; Amy Diamond, Managing Director at Northwestern University Investment Office; Craig Solomon, Managing Principal at Square Mile Capital; and Jay Weaver, Managing Principal at Walton Street Capital. Rand Diamond of GlenStar Properties, David Moore of Equity Office, and John Rutledge of Oxford Capital Group spoke to the ongoing creative redevelopment trend in Chicago, including its opportunities and challenges. They also gave details on their current projects: Diamond with the redevelopment of the Chicago Board of Trade; Moore with the renovation of the Willis Tower; and Rutledge with the development of London House at the historic corner of Wacker and Michigan Avenues in Chicago.

The conference concluded with keynote speaker Sandeep Mathrani, Chief Executive Officer of the GGP group, on trends in retail and the future opportunities for retail centers to meet the needs for centralized locations for shopping, entertaining and exercising.

The final presentations of the Venture Competition capped the event as the distinguished panel of judges – Frank Cohen, Senior Managing Director of the Real Estate Group at Blackstone; Randy Rowe, Chairman and Founder of Green Courte Partners; and Laurie Smith, Chief Investment Officer and Portfolio Manager at Blue Vista Capital Management – heard presentations from the four finalist teams.
To learn more about the 2018 Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition, contact Denise Akason at

About the Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition

The Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition is hosted by the Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research and the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Conference will provide industry and research updates and relevant market information. The Venture Competition showcases MBA students, who have the opportunity to pitch to a high-profile panel of judges. The winning team not only receives $100,000 in cash and prizes, but also the opportunity to potentially secure as much as $10,000,000 in equity funding. The primary purpose of the competition is to encourage entrepreneurial real estate ventures. The event also serves as an opportunity to promote top student talent before prominent industry professionals.

About the Author