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Darla Moore School of Business

  • UofSC Proving Ground

The USC Proving Ground Competition

Join us LIVE during the 50th Anniversary Celebration of International Business at the Moore School (IB50) on April 19, 2024.

The Proving Ground is an entrepreneurial competition to identify and accelerate innovative business concepts. We're looking for ideas that will create sustainable businesses in South Carolina, leading to more prosperity through innovation in our state.

Teams of USC undergraduate students, graduate students and recent alumni (within three years) are eligible to compete for more than $25,000 in seed money, and for the chance to turn their ideas into reality. 

On April 19, finalists will pitch their concepts to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and guests attending the IB50 celebration event. 

What is the timeline for The Proving Ground?

Feb. 7 Application opens
March 15 Deadline for submissions
March 20 Semi-finalists notified – Faber Speaker Series event featuring Mike Crapps
April 9 Semi-finalists attend Pitch Workshop (4-7 p.m.) and Pitch Filming (1 min video)
April 19 Finalists present ideas for a live vote at the IB50 event (1:30-3:15 p.m.)

What are the competition categories for The Proving Ground?

As part of the application process, founders should self-identify the stage of their venture. These will serve as competition and prize categories, assuming we receive enough applications in each category.

Some resources allocated, some assets exist, pre-revenue

Business is operating with some modest success including proof of concept and early adopters

Special Awards

Focused on international customers, founder is of international origin

Focused on scalable digital or technology solutions

Founder is active, retired, or honorably discharged from military service

Voted on by the audience in the room on April 19

Applicants will have to specify what they plan to use the winnings for and Proving Ground winners will be revisited to see if the investment worked the way they expected it to. This is part of the sustainability effort of the program.

What is the review and judging process like?

  • Finalists are submitted by judges to the Faber Center team and the top 10 will be invited to the April 4 event. Applications not selected will be eligible for guidance and counseling by the Faber Center and student consultants.
  • During the April 9 event:
    • Mentors will work directly with contestants to polish their pitch and nail down important elements like value proposition
    • A professional videographer will record the semi-finalists pitches
  • Every semi-finalist will have their pitch recorded and shared, and will be invited to attend the April 19 event where they can access additional resources including funders, community partners, and mentors
  • From the videos recorded at the April 9 event, the best pitches (finalists) will be selected to compete live for the grand prize on April 19
  • Finalists will pitch live for awards in the two categories, and for the four special awards

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.