October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

AUT Venture Fund gives entrepreneurs a welcome kickstart

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Four startup projects led by entrepreneurial AUT University alumni and students got a boost last week thanks to the AUT Venture Fund.

AUT Business School alumnus Helgaard Theunissen and his teammate Ernst Jordaan won the alumni division with their business plan for Vermicast – a company that will sell compost produced by earthworms.  Vermicast will use its $5000 capital injection to import the specialised machinery needed to automate production of the compost.

“The Vermicast submission was outstanding in terms of the business plan and oral presentation. Helgaard Theunissen and Ernst Jordaan, the two partners, had done both desk research and their own trials.  They had studied the competition, and had come up with a unique proposition in terms of their product.  This was not an unattainable dream; they had the knowledge and passion to make the business a success,” said judge Tony Falkenstein, CEO of Just Water.

“This funding is very significant – it takes a lot of pressure off us and means we can get our business started much sooner,” said Theunissen, who completed a Conjoint Bachelor of Business in Accounting and Bachelor of International Hospitality Management at AUT in 2013.

AUT Bachelor of Business student Lee Powell, topped the student division with LifePod, an affordable emergency location device targeted at the outdoor sports market.

“This win is great news for my business – the investment of $5000 means I have the funding to manufacture a prototype so I can put the LifePod into large scale production, something I hope to achieve by late 2015,” said Powell.

“The AUT Venture Fund demonstrates AUT’s commitment to providing real world support to help students and alumni succeed as entrepreneurs across a range of different areas, with an emphasis on collaboration across disciplines,” said competition leader Associate Professor Simon Mowatt from the AUT Business School.

“I hope that other students and alumni will be inspired by this year’s entrants and the success of past winners like Nick Barrett, the 2011 Venture Fund winner whose Imagistory children’s storybook app is now available in the Apple iTunes store.”

A record number of entrants from across the University took part in the first round in May.  Seven entrants were chosen to submit full business plans, and four ideas made it to the finals, where team members presented to an experienced ‘dragon’s

via AUT Venture Fund gives entrepreneurs a welcome kickstart – AUT University News.

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