The Proving Ground is a three-month, three-round, points-based competition culminating with a live pitch event on November 17. Each team will be required to submit a business plan for their concept, and the team left standing in each category wins.

All submissions must survive the three round elimination process to make it to the prize money awarded at the conclusion of the live pitch event.

The Proving Ground Experience
Stephen Bateman
2011 Proving Ground Winner
Founder, Garnet Report

Regardless of the outcome, this competition facilitates students to explore the world of entrepreneurship and test their innovative concepts against other high quality ventures. Our unique approach to this process wraps students around an entire network of seasoned mentors all with the same mission of helping student companies launch their businesses while they are all battling for that top prize.

This competition prepares students not only for entrepreneurship but builds essential professional skills necessary to compete in the business world.

Steady Growth in Our Brief History

The Proving Ground business plan competition was first held in 2010 and is part of the celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week in the Midlands of South Carolina. Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

The Proving Ground has grown steadily over its brief history, going from less than 25 entrants, all from the Columbia campus of USC, in 2010, to over 60 entrants in 2015, including entrants from other campuses in the USC system. The competition has also expanded the category option from one category to three: the Fluor Social Impact category, the Maxient Innovation category, and the Avenir Discovery category. These are explained in detail on our Questions page.

We only expect further growth as we enter this year’s competition. The entrepreneurial community continues to thrive and we will be a part of it!

University of South Carolina

More than 275 technologies are available for licensing at USC through the Office of Technology Commercialization.

As South Carolina’s flagship university, USC is a comprehensive institution with more than 45,000 students across eight campuses and 18 locations. As the University web site says, it is no wonder USC confers 40 percent of all bachelor’s and graduate degrees awarded at public institutions in the state. The main Columbia campus offers hundereds of degree options through its 16 different Colleges and Schools. To see what is offered, visit the "Majors and Degrees page" on the University web site. And as one of only 32 public universities to earn the Carnegie Foundation’s top-tier designations in research activity and community engagement, it is no surprise that USC faculty generated $243 million for research funding and sponsored awards in the fiscal year 2015.

With some of the country’s top ranked programs in international business, engineering and computing, education, hospitality, retail & sport management, plus the No. 1 Honors College among public universities, the talent level of USC’s students and faculty continues to set records.


As Gamecocks our leadership has No Limits. We are ready to tackle the challenges facing our state, our nation and our world.