Three AUT University student entrepreneurs were recognised for their kiwi ingenuity last week, after being named successful applicants for the AUT Venture Fund.
Now in its fourth year, the AUT Venture Fund attracts the creative minds of students from across every faculty at AUT University. Students are required to come up with a venture that is product, service or technology focussed, with a domestic and/or international orientation. The funding committee then grants start-up funds, mentoring and professional development based on business merit and contribution to New Zealand.
Announcing this year’s winners at AUT Business School last week, Dean Geoff Perry congratulated Andrew Macdonald, Chilayne Barratt, and Sean Hinton on their, “superb outcomes.” Collectively, the students were offered over $20,000 to help develop their ventures.
MacDonald’s venture, Absolute Wilderness was awarded $8,000 of funding. His product, a high performance outdoor food brand producing freeze dried meals, will target outdoor athletes and enthusiasts. MacDonald says his idea came from his genuine passion for outdoor life.
“I was inspired by the time I've spent in the mountains tramping/hunting/fishing, and the complete lack of decent freeze dried meals available. For me, winning this funding means that I will be able to give the business extra momentum in its early stages.”
Barratt’s venture, Dippies, a nutritional snack food for New Zealanders, was inspired by her desire to help tackle the growing problem of obesity. Barratt was awarded mentoring to the value of $3,000 with The Foodbowl - an open access pilot plant which helps food and beverage businesses to develop and test their initiatives through commercial pre-production.
“I wanted to create something healthy, as New Zealand is already overloaded with snacks which are heavily processed, high in sugar and lack in nutritional value,” says Barratt. “ I saw a gap in the market for a fresh vegetable/fruit product which would offer kiwis a healthier snack alternative that still tasted great, is convenient, nutritious and contributes to our 5+ A Day.”
Barratt says winning funding to operate alongside The Foodbowl is very fitting as it enables her to access technologies she might not have otherwise been able to use on a start-up budget.
“I also get to work alongside industry professionals who can offer advice and mentoring. This prize is really what I need to take Dippies to the next level.”
Accepting the award of $10,000 for ‘Best Big Idea’ was Sean Hinton’s venture Spinbox – a premier mobile video game from Gamekit Ltd, designed from the ground up to offer players a unique puzzle experience complete with social media integration.
“One of the reasons I began studying at AUT Business School was to acquire the knowledge I would need to start my own video game company, and thanks to the AUT Venture Fund that dream is now becoming a reality,” says Hinton.
“The knowledge and experienced gained through the entire venture fund process is absolutely invaluable in our eyes.”
AUT Venture Fund judge Tony Falkenstein describes Spinbox as, “a new innovation in a high growth market. This has the potential to be a global winner. I am very excited by the concept already in its beta format.”
Other judges included Colin Bass, Director of Business Lab, and Megan Sargent, Founder at ABE'S Real Bagels Ltd.
Speaking on behalf of all three judges, Falkenstein says, “All the students have demonstrated an incredible ability to identify products for high growth markets. They have showed real passion for their ventures, innovation and great teamwork. We can’t wait to see these ventures hit the market.”