15 Jun 2009
Kiwi entrepreneurs received a boost last week with the launch of a venture fund towards start-up enterprise.
The AUT Business School has established the AUT Venture Fund to give students and alumni a head start in setting up their own businesses and to enhance their learning experience.
Just Water founder and CEO Tony Falkenstein has put up the first million dollars to launch the $10 million start-up enterprise charitable trust called the AUT Venture Fund.
Businessman Falkenstein is known for his support of academic endeavour and is founder and chair of the Onehunga High Business School, which began in 2002. He says he’s keen to grow New Zealand’s own.
“As part of any course, in whatever faculty, entrepreneurial students come up with ideas which they will not have the ability to pursue in normal circumstances,” he says.
“The AUT Venture Fund will enable them to follow up their ideas, while still having the safety of the mentoring by academics, business people and fellow students.”
AUT students will be able to apply to the fund from mid-2009. They will present business plans to a board of external directors, which includes Falkenstein, and a funding committee will grant funds based on business merit and contribution to New Zealand.
All AUT alumni will be eligible to apply to the fund if they involve current students in their business.
Faculty of Business and Law Dean Professor Des Graydon says the fund is open to all students from anywhere in the university, from robotics, physiotherapy to a whole raft of innovative business ideas.
Professor Graydon says traditionally, AUT business students have imagined themselves as entrepreneurs and now the goal is even more real.
“Our students are critical, creative and imaginative,” he says. “We take this, train it and extend it.
“The AUT Venture Fund will inspire our students’ imaginations and aspirations and they will see themselves as the exciting entrepreneurs we know they already are.”
Professor Graydon adds that this will light the fires early and students will be inspired to develop well-thought through, sustainable business plans as they learn.
“By knowing they can apply to the Venture Fund at any time during their degree, students will change how they interpret their business study,” he adds.
“While they learn about accounting, economics and marketing in their first year, for example, our students can ask: What do I need to learn about how a business operates? What do I need to know about these areas to set up my own business?
“This will mark a shift in thinking and make them even more effective and valuable business people when they graduate.”
AUT’s AuSM student president Andre D’Cruz launched an entrepreneurial networking group called Goldminds www.goldminds.org.nz late last year. He says there is already keen interest from students in the group to apply to the fund.
“Goldminds comprises students from across the university who have good ideas and a passion for business and learning,” he says.
“By being able to access funding from the Venture Fund and wisdom from business and academic mentors, students and alumni will be able to apply their skills in a real business that they've started.”
Students will have access to a pot around $1.5 million already in the Venture Fund Other contributors have agreed to support the fund, including distinguished AUT alumni and local and off-shore investors. Plans are in place to grow the fund to $10 million in the next five years.
The AUT trust will take a small shareholding in each business and the young entrepreneurs will remain accountable to the board with any profit returned to the fund. Business people and academics will mentor the successful applicants, who will be able to use their own business cases during study.
Notes for Editors:
For more information about the AUT Business School and its programmes, please visit: www.autbusiness.ac.nz
For more information about AUT University and its programmes, please visit: www.aut.ac.nz
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Belinda Nash | Communications Manager | AUT University
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For more information please contact : Belinda Nash