Entrepreneurship @ AUT

Two articles surfaced in the NZ Herald last week relating to entrepreneurship at AUT University

1: Entrepreneurship SummitIn response to the job summit Just Water’s Tony Falkenstein is organising an entrepreneurship summit for April 24th @ AUT University where 100 entrepreneurs will present 100 ideas which “could range from infrastructure to education solutions”. The top 20 will then be presented to Mr Key.

Despite my disappointment that it won’t take part at NZ’s most entrepreneurial university (yes I will fight this fact to the death), it sounds like a cool idea.

In terms of both infrastructure and education, I suggest a look at what is being done already at our universities. For example UoA = Spark and Chiasma , Canterbury = Entre, Otago = Audacious and Kickstart. But this is only part of the picture. Speaking on behalf of UoA, it is the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem (ref. Mr Geoff Whitcher) that has become the force that both captures new innovations and converts them into wealth. This ecosystem surrounds what is ‘just’ a business planning competition. To do this, it means providing supporting education, access to capital, access to networks, access to resources to make sure those ideas are converted to businesses which are converted to successful exits.

Tony refers to the below fund as an ‘idea’. While this is largely true I hope some further considerations will be taken on board (refer below)

I also hope the government continues to support these ideas through to fruition and not evaporate them like the previous government did to the knowledge wave.

Put me down for a seat please 🙂


2: Venture FundIn a nutshell AUT is seeking to establish a $10 million fund for investment to help students (both now and former) convert their ideas into businesses. On face value it seems like quite a good move and in most part it is. At the University of Auckland there are various avenues for getting such funding, Spark and Uniservices being the two main examples. Hopefully sometime in the future we (UoA) can also establish a similar fund. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was established from successful entrepreneurs that have actually come out of the universities entrepreneurial initiatives.

Back to the fund in question, based on the info given in the article there are a few issues with this:

  • Giving money without education. There needs to be a parallel education infrastructure around this student start-up culture. The article refers to “First-year AUT business students are already required to set up their own small business in groups”, but being an ‘in-class’ exercise you have to be certain not to confuse an academic take on the situation with what really occurs in business start up (i.e. Market validation vs. Marketing). You need successful entrepreneurs in front of budding entrepreneurs conveying their perspectives, their journey and their learnings, not a textbook. Considering AUT focuses on the practical teachings I hope this is true.
  • “this would allow a health student to set up a private practice” “wealth stimulates wealth”. These two phrases are contradictory and if the fund is going to be utilised to fund such ventures then it is simply a waste of money. If you are looking at creating real wealth then invest in knowledge driven, high value propriety technology ( incl. IT/Web) with large and increasing global markets mixed with an outstanding team driving the venture.
  • What about the Staff? Why not provide access to funds for staff as well. Make it easier for them to commercialise their research, fund the spin offs from the uni IP driven by these staff members.

I may sound like a sour-puss, but there needs to be a sense of reality especially when you’re talking about $10million given the scarcity of money in this country let alone the scarcity of money available for startups. Despite this I look forward to seeing how this fund develops. Maybe I should take a paper at AUT so I can qualify for this fund when it eventually matures ??? 🙂


Graeme @ graemefielder.com


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