Student start-up business competition winners Hannah Carey
(left), Karyn Costello and Stephen Sugrue reflect on their
success. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
When three Otago Polytechnic information technology
students got through to the top 40 of the Audacious business
challenge, they were ''really stoked''.
What Karyn Costello (33), Hannah Carey (21) and Stephen
Sugrue (30) did not expect was to eventually win the
competition with their start-up Student Support, a mobile app
that allows students to access personalised support services
anywhere at any time.
''We had no idea, absolutely no idea. We were really happy we
got through to the top 15.
''Coming down from 40 to 15, to get that far, we thought was
fantastic. It [winning] was a complete and total shock,''
Miss Costello said yesterday.
Audacious is a year-long student start-up challenge jointly
supported by the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and
the Dunedin City Council.
From an initial 137 entries in this year's contest, 40 were
selected to enter the second stage. A panel of judges
comprising Otago Chamber of Commerce vice-president David
Frame, Jason Leong from PocketSmith, Paula Hellyer from Glow
Consulting and Alan Bauchop from ADInstruments, put the teams
through a rigorous assessment process.
The teams were judged on how well they could explain their
business in 60 seconds or less, a detailed business plan, and
a Dragons Den-style grilling.
For the first time, Audacious teams were able to tell their
story to a wider audience through an online tool that allowed
anyone to vote for the businesses they liked best, and those
votes contributed to the overall assessment.
The number of businesses that were ''more than just
concepts'' and had some form of validation from customers,
partners or investors came through strongly to the judges,
boding well for the future, Mr Frame said.
When it came to Student Support, the judges praised the
business for being well developed, having two major customers
already - the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic - and
for its global potential in the tertiary sector.
Miss Costello, Miss Carey and Mr Sugrue got the idea for
their project last year, as part of a software engineering
paper they were doing.
The app provided all the support services available at the
institution the user was studying at, whether it was for
study or personal assistance.
The trio had been working ''really, really hard'' over the
past 18 months and were in the process of trying to get into
some other polytechnics. They hoped it would go nationwide
''pretty shortly'', Miss Costello said.
They had worked with Otago University Business School Maori
student support officer Corey Bragg, who was still involved
with the project.
He had a research paper on students struggling with studies
and how that could be resolved.
Some students did not seek the assistance from support
services they required and it could get to the point where
they were withdrawing from courses, Miss Costello said.
If something like their app could be put in place, then it
could potentially increase the number of people completing
their courses, she said.
The trio had enjoyed their involvement with Audacious. They
believed the opportunities that the Audacious involvement
would provide were going to be ''absolutely amazing''.
''It's a big thing to get the recognition like we have ...
and it makes it feel completely worthwhile,'' she said.