Astropad, founded by two former Apple Inc. engineers, Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli, won the $50,000 grand prize at this week’s finale of the Minnesota Cup business-venture competition.

Minneapolis-based Astropad is a professional creative technology tool that incorporates a “liquid” technology they developed to turn an iPhone or iPad into a graphics tablet.

Astropad also won $30,000 as the high-tech division winner, as well as several professional services and other benefits to help build its fledgling business. In all, $327,000 in prize money went to finalists and runners-up in seven categories in the competition, which attracted 1,300 entrepreneurs.

“In the last 11 years, more than 10,000 participants have sharpened crucial business skills with the Minnesota Cup, and our finalists have raised more than $180 million,” said Scott Litman, co-founder of Minnesota Cup, and managing partner of marketing firm Magnet 360.

“Our judges were struck by Astropad’s unique vision, well-honed presentation skills, and comprehensively prepared business plan. We look forward with excitement to watch this innovative idea grow into a dynamic business with real-world impact, including local job growth.”

Organizers said this year’s free competition, which began in May and was whittled to three finalists from each of the seven divisions this summer, saw the highest participation of women in its 11 years. Nearly half of the entering contestant teams had at least one female member.

The Astropad principals met at Apple in 2007 where Ronge worked on the QuickTime video player and Donelli on the Mac operating system OS X.

They were inspired by the original MacIntosh and early creative apps like MacPaint that opened up new possibilities. In the post-PC era, they concluded apps have become less powerful gadgets and professional creative tools have been underdeveloped.

Astropad, they said, is the first step on a journey to change that and redefine the graphics tablet by building simple, professional creative tools that work across Macs, iPads and iPhones.