Support fellow USC business students by attending “The Proving Ground” challenge

When: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 @ 6 pm

Where: Darla Moore School of Business Lumpkin Auditorium (8th Floor)


Seven student startup teams in The Proving Ground, the University of South Carolina’s entrepreneurial challenge, were selected today (Monday) to compete ‘Shark-Tank’-style Tuesday, Nov. 13, for $40,000 in prizes and startup support.

Now, it’s the campus and community’s turn to participate by providing a full house for the pitch competition, which takes place at 6 p.m. in Lumpkin Auditorium on the eighth floor of the Darla Moore School of Business.

“This is where it gets really exciting, when students put it all on the line to convince a panel of judges why their big idea is the best one and why they should win the prize money and startup support,” said Dean Kress, associate director of the Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center.

Greg Hilton, executive director at Center for Entrepreneurial and Technological Innovation (CETI), said the role of the audience can be likened to that of fans at Williams Brice Stadium on a Saturday.

“Startups feed off the energy and support of others,” Hilton said. “This is the community’s opportunity to see and influence the next generation of entrepreneurs by creating a high-energy atmosphere for these students as they compete head-to-head.”

Students will vie for prizes in three categories:

• $15,000 SCRA Technology Ventures Prize for the best innovative technology idea for the marketplace

Venture: “Palmetto NanoCare,” a company that makes antimicrobial paints and coatings for the healthcare industry.

Venture: “HuddleHR,” a Columbia-based software startup that develops web and mobile products to help small businesses effectively manage their human capital.

• $10,000 Innovista Innovation Prize for the most innovative approach to a business concept

Venture:  “hoVee,” a college campus concept for a network of shared bicycles that students can access for a nominal membership fee.

Venture: “The Photographer Source,” a cloud-based tool for basic photo studio management that enables photographers to run their business from anywhere in the world.

               Venture: “MyBuddy,” an Internet-based language resource that pairs Korean students with native English speakers at a lower cost than traditional tutoring.

• $5,000 Maxient Social Impact Prize for the business plan best able to contribute or solve a social or environmental challenge

Venture: “Watsi,” which uses crowd funding to help people fund low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for people in need around the world.

Venture: “Cooking with Carbon Credits,” a company that sells carbon offsets created by the construction of new portable kitchens and reforested plots of land in the Andes. Kondrath, who is currently in Brazil, will compete via Skype.

The Proving Ground pitch competition is based on a concept called “IdeaSlam,” in which each individual or team finalists make a compelling case about a proposed venture to a panel of judges in a five-minute presentation.  The students will answer the following: What are you offering (product), who will buy it and why (market), why will you win (competitive advantage), how will you make money (finances) and how will you get this done (management)?

Then, in “Shark Tank”-fashion, the judges will pepper presenters with questions about their idea and award points based on one simple question: “If approached by this team, would you consider investing capital in this venture?”

This year’s judges will be Bill Kirkland, executive director of USC Columbia Technology Incubator and co-founder of 52 Apps; John Hackler, USC alumnus and founder of Spanish Vines; Aaron and Candice Hark, founders of Maxient Technologies; Chase Mizzell, student body vice president; and Doreen Sullivan, founder of Post No Bills.

The Proving Ground marks the third year for USC’s business plan competition, which is held during Global Entrepreneurship Week, an annual observance to unleash new ideas that includes nearly 37,000 events in 115 countries.

This year’s $40,000 in prizes and startup support places USC among the top colleges with business plan competitions.  The competition drew entries from students from a variety of disciplines and four USC campuses.

For more information about The Proving Ground pitch competition Nov. 13, visit the website or email

The Proving Ground is presented by the Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center, USC Innovista and CETi.

2012 Proving Ground participants, hometowns

Palmetto Nanocare

Graduate students Kristen Miller, Irmo, S.C.; Lei Wang, Hubei, China; and Anand Viswanath, Chennai, India.


Professional MBA student Sean Rankin, Aiken, S.C.


Senior business students Steven Kviklys, Marietta, Ga; Brett Bethune, Orangeburg, S.C.;  and Chris King, Greenville.

The Photographer Source

International MBA graduate student Rachel Browne, Lexington, S.C.


IMBA graduate students Ryan Nielsen, Logan, Utah; Hunter Moore, Manning, S.C.; Jamie Weneck, Spartanburg, S.C.; and Syliva Lee, Fairfax, Va.


IMBA graduate students Howard Glenn, Greensboro, N.C.; Hall Todd, Spartanburg, S.C.; Caroline Osborne, Augusta, Ga; and Thad Ball, Honaker, Va.

Cooking with Carbon Credits

IMBA student Michael Kondrath, Indianapolis. Kondrath, currently in Brazil, will compete via Skype.


The Proving Ground partners:

The Faber Entrepreneurship Center was established in 1997 following a gift to the Darla Moore School of Business from Tim and Karen Faber, two University of South Carolina graduates and successful entrepreneurs – people with the ideas, the vision and the perseverance to launch the new businesses that form South Carolina’s economic bedrock. Its primary mission is to promote and support student entrepreneurship.

Innovista is a strategic economic development effort that is connecting the University of South Carolina and university-spawned innovations with entrepreneurs, businesses and stakeholders. Innovista’s purpose is to attract, create and grow technology-intensive, knowledge-based companies, resulting in higher paying jobs and substantial economic growth in the Midlands region. Innovista supports the continued renaissance of downtown Columbia as well as the continued growth of USC as a nationally recognized, comprehensive research university.

CETi, the Center for Entrepreneurial and Technological Innovation, is the University of South Carolina’s launchpad for early stage startups. CETi finds, educates, connects and accelerates early stage technology and innovation-based startups centered around the University of South Carolina and Columbia’s entrepreneurial community. CETi is an Innovista Partners Initiative, powered by the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator.

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