Young entrepreneurs battle it out for 2011 AUT Venture Fund

Friday 23 September 2011, 12:38PM

By AUT University



Three young entrepreneurs will be rolling out their most polished sales pitch next week, as they enter the finals of the 2011 AUT Venture Fund.

The AUT Business School established the AUT Venture Fund in 2009 to give students and alumni a head start in setting up their own businesses, and to enhance their learning experience.
Entries to this year’s scholarship opened in May 2011, with the AUT Business School receiving applications from students across all disciplines. Just three finalists now remain and will battle it out for the $20,000 funding next week.

To enter, students are required to come up with a venture that is product, service or technology focused with a domestic and/or international orientation; however it must be New Zealand based. The funding committee then grants start up funds up to a value of $20,000 based on business merit and contribution to New Zealand. The winner also receives mentoring and professional development opportunities.

The 2009 winner, Andrew McDonald, went on to win the New Zealand Global Student Entrepreneurship Award and competed in the finals in Kansas City, USA.

Executive Director of Just Water, Tony Falkenstein, who backed the $10 million start-up fund three years ago, says experiential learning is the way of the future for all education, and the students starting businesses as they learn will really understand what business is all about.

“The AUT Venture Fund enables them to develop their ideas, while still having the safety of the mentoring by academics, business people and fellow students.

“It is the only known Venture Fund in Australasia offering funding for student businesses."

This year’s finalists will present their business plans to a panel of judges on Tuesday 27 September, including CEO Tony Falkenstein, Dr Stephen Bowden from Waikato Management School, and Pete Russell, founder of Ooooby and social entrepreneur. As part of the final assessment, the participants are also required to answer a selection of challenging questions about their venture. The 2011 winner will then be announced at an awards function at the AUT Business School later that evening.

Faculty of Business and Law Dean Dr Geoff Perry says since it began in 2009, the AUT Venture Fund has inspired the imaginations of many AUT students.

“The AUT Venture Fund has given students the chance to not only develop well-thought through, sustainable business plans but to also put them in to practice. Knowing they can apply to the Venture Fund at any time during their degree has changed the way students interpret their study,” he adds.

In considering this year’s three finalists, the judges have praised their creativity, hard work and originality.

Falkenstein says, “It would not surprise me if one of them ends up representing New Zealand at the Global Student Entrepreneurship awards in New York November 2011.”