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Finalists set for USC’s Proving Ground finale

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Staff Report
colanews@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 12, 2015

The Proving Ground, the University of South Carolina’s annual entrepreneurial challenge, will see founders of startups pitch their ideas in the final round next week for nearly $90,000 in seed money.

Teams will present their concepts to a panel of judges in front of a live audience, much like the popular “Shark Tank” TV show. The event will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.

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“It’s been a really amazing experience watching students learn and grow from their involvement in The Proving Ground,” said Dean Kress, associate director of the Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center. “They’ve been able to get feedback on their concept so that they can really take it to the next level.”

Teams selected for the finale will compete in one of three prize categories.

The finalists for the $20,000 Maxient Social Impact Prize are Crunchwall, a mobile platform that connects students with organizations they’re involved in; and Vuepeer, a tech company that provides the best deals on rental vehicles.

The finalists for the $20,000 Avenir Discovery Prize are ASSET, which works with existing security systems to track intruders real-time on mobile devices; and Brevino, an iceless bottle cooler for large format beer and wine bottles.

The finalists for the $17,500 Fluor Social Impact Prize are Koios, a web browser connecting with local libraries to notify users when items are available; and Carolina Community Farm and Garden, a hydroponics system which provides local restaurants and dining services with fresh, local and organically grown lettuce.

Two other businesses will compete for SCRA Technology Ventures Fan Favorite Prize as the two highest-scoring plans which did not make the finals of the other three categories. They will pitch to the audience for a $4,000 first-place prize and $2,000 second-place prize. Those businesses are Bonjuo, a language learning applications with a social twist, and thinkINK, a greeting card system with advanced mailing service and diverse customization options.

All winners will be awarded an affiliate membership in the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator. Judges this year include Under Armour senior innovation director Kevin Culley and SCRA vice president of emerging technologies Greg Clark. Joining them will be Maxient founders Aaron and Candice Hark as well as Avenir Consulting principal Nancy Grden.

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