A picture tells a thousand words

Friday 30 September 2011, 5:19PM
By AUT University

What started out as an inspirational idea at a student party, this week became the winning entry of the 2011 AUT Venture Fund.

After four months of submitting business plans, developing concepts and presenting ideas, the finalists of this year’s AUT Venture Fund gathered to hear their fate at an award ceremony at the AUT Business School on 27 September.

Scooping the top prize for ‘best big idea’ was Create a Story Picture Book, a concept developed by AUT Business student Nick Barrett and his business partner Paloma Ozier. Unlike other children’s books where each page tells a story through words, this online wordless book allows children to follow a sequence of pictures, creating their own story. Utilising online media, it will be available as a tablet application.

“It’s not meant to replace traditional picture books, but complement them as a new way to share a story with a child – helping them to become creative and think for themselves,” says Barrett. “It’s a fun book, as well as an educational tool.”

This year’s judges, including CEO Tony Falkenstein who contributed to the $10 million start-up fund three years ago, Dr Stephen Bowden from Waikato Management School, and Pete Russell, founder of Ooooby and social entrepreneur, awarded the venture $2300, as well as an additional $5000 for ‘best big idea’.

Accepting the award from Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack, Barrett said, “We are delighted at winning this prize and thank both Tony and AUT for giving us this opportunity to develop our business venture. We will definitely make this happen.”

Also impressed by the innovation of the other finalist’s, the judges presented awards to Rebecca Dai and Tim Hall, to help them progress their ventures. Rebecca Dai, who has a bachelor of communication studies from AUT and is currently studying for a graduate diploma of business, was awarded $5900 towards developing Punch! Social - a collection of ready-to-use, self-service applications that enable businesses to create and manage promotions on Facebook. Tim Hall, AUT bachelor of business student was awarded a Rogen SI leadership mentoring session worth $2000, to help with the set up of Securus, a computer system which offers schools the chance to monitor computer use through his company Monitaur.

In addition to the funding, the finalists will now also receive mentoring and professional development.

Speaking on behalf of the judges, Falkenstein says the panel were incredibly impressed by this year’s innovative ideas and the enthusiasm of the students.

“The three finalists for funding showed a lot of creativity in their ventures. These are not just start-up businesses, but revolutionary ventures, which could well produce the next Facebook,” said Tony Falkenstein.

Faculty of Business and Law Dean Dr Geoff Perry, and host of this week’s award ceremony says taking part in the competition is a transformational experience for the students, and one that will set them apart from other graduates.

The AUT Business School established the annual 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.

Notes for Editors:

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

For more information about the AUT Venture Fund, please go to: