AUT student entrepreneurs celebrated

02 Dec, 2022
Stefan Hadži-Longinović
Stefan Hadži-Longinović, the supreme winner of the X Challenge entrepreneurship competition

AUT student innovators have been recognised for ideas ranging from a thermoelectric electricity generator to computerised equestrian equipment.

The supreme winner of the X Challenge entrepreneurship competition went to AUT Master of Philosophy student, Stefan Hadži-Longinović, for his Computerised Equine Bit idea following a series of seven, live finalists’ pitches at a grand final event.

Stefan is a dentist and horse lover and since moving to New Zealand in 2012 has been offering his dentistry skills to Aotearoa’s equine population. It was while he was peering into horses’ mouths that he noticed the damage ill-fitting hardware was doing and was inspired to begin working on a solution to alleviate the issue.

Unsure how to make it a reality, Stefan says he seized the learning opportunity provided by AUT’s X Challenge. “Being an unskilled entrepreneur, X Challenge appeared to possess an exciting start-up kit formula. I have a couple of professions and have been studying them for years, but X Challenge has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities and I’m definitely going to pursue this further.”

Commenting on Stefan’s winning entry, grand final judge, Dr Galia Barhava-Monteith, said the idea is “An excellent business plan from a strong team capable of executing the idea. A great niche market of passionate people with big global potential.”

She also said the panel was very impressed by the high standard of the finalists’ business concepts and live pitches. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of the judging panel. The energy, enthusiasm and talent were palpable to everyone here tonight and on behalf of the judging panel I commend the winners on their outstanding achievements. We very much look forward to seeing how the students continue to progress in the coming months.”

AUT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Damon Salesa, said the finalists’ ideas, business plans and final live pitches were outstanding. “A very warm congratulations to all those who have taken part in The Final Pitch. The calibre of the entrepreneurship demonstrated is testament to the talent, innovation and dedication invested by participants who have taken an idea and made it a reality,”

Winning teams receive a share of the $20,000 cash prize as well as a range of goods and services from competition sponsors.

More than 170 entries from 130 students were submitted across the X Challenge programme this year.

AUT BETA Director and Convenor of Judges, Martin Bell said “The grand final represents the culmination of a lot of hard work from a group of very talented students who have gained critical insights into launching a start-up and taking an idea from paper to real life.”

Prize sponsors included: Logitech, Amazon Web Services, Bridgewest Ventures, AUT Ventures, Stace Hammond Law, Stripe, Gait International, Rocketspark, NZVC and Hnry.

Other 2022 X Challenge winners

  • Runner-up: AUT engineering student, Chris McArthur, for his PowerFlue entry
  • Third prize winners: AUT Bachelor of Computer and Information Sciences students, Chad Reader and Blake Fernandes, for
  • Judges’ Choice award: AUT business student, Armani Greenway, and her sibling Lawson, for BlindSite.

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