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AUT Venture Fund rewards enterprising students

The AUT Venture Fund awards nightFrom left: Tony Falkenstein, Rebecca Dai, Tim Hall, Paloma Ozier, Nick Barrett, Geoff Perry, Derek McCormack. Photo by Alyson Young

A young New Zealand entrepreneur has taken out the top prize in the 2011 AUT Venture Fund with his concept for a tablet app that enables children to create their own picture books.

AUT business student Nick Barrett and his business partner Paloma Ozier's Create a Story Picture Book was named the best big idea and awarded a total of $7300.

Barrett said unlike other children’s books where each page tells a story through words, their online wordless book would allow children to follow a sequence of pictures, creating their own story.

“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,” he said. “It’s a fun book, as well as an educational tool.”

After four months of submitting business plans, developing concepts and presenting ideas, Barrett and two other finalists were recognised at an award ceremony last week.

Rebecca Dai received $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 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.

Judges included Tony Falkenstein – who contributed to the $10 million startup fund three years ago – Dr Stephen Bowden from Waikato Management School, and Pete Russell, founder of Ooooby.

Falkenstein said the panel was 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 startup businesses, but revolutionary ventures, which could well produce the next Facebook."

The AUT Business School established the annual Venture Fund in 2009 to give students and alumni a head start in setting up their own businesses.

Entrants are required to come up with a venture that is product, service or technology-focused with a domestic and/or international orientation.

Startup funds are granted based on business merit and contribution to New Zealand.