But First... See These 4 Steps
How to Apply
1. Review Competition Guidelines

All submissions will be subject to the same criteria throughout each round. Teams may only enter in one category. Review the information on the Questions page for a complete listing of all competition guidelines.

Your ability to present a compelling concept, demonstrate a feasible plan of execution, and win over a panel of judges will determine whether you have what it takes to survive.

2. Form & Register Your Team

Teams can be from one person or up to four people. Good startup teams have a mix of talents and creating a strong team is critical. In the Avenir Discovery category, teams may include USC graduate students, undergraduate students, or alumni who have graduated in the last five years (since May 2012). In the Maxient Innovation category, all team members must be undergraduate students. Looking for partners? Visit our Facebook page to find other entrepreneurs looking for partners. And come to one of our information sessions for an opportunity to network with others interested in The Proving Ground. In those sessions, we will also have seasoned entrepreneurs there to give you feedback about your idea.

Once you have your team, it’s time to register on the Startup Compete platform. You will create a profile and submit all necessary documents through this platform.

3. Develop Your Business Concept & Plan

Once you and your team have developed your concept, it is time to create your business plan, which must be submitted by February 28, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. The plan must contain an executive summary, no longer than two pages. The main body of the business plan can be no longer than 15 pages, with 1.5 line spacing and one inch margins. The plan may contain no more than five pages of supplemental information, e.g., financial statements, plus a cover page, which should include the name of the business. The plan should be in Microsoft Word.

As an applicant of The Proving Ground, you will have access to LivePlan, Palo Alto Software's award-winning business plan software, for a greatly reduced price. Click here to access LivePlan. If you do not wish to use LivePlan, there are numerous sources on the internet about writing a business plan. One you might find helpful can be found at the Small Business Administration website,

In addition, the Small Business Development Center, an organization whose mission is to advance South Carolina's economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses, is available to all Proving Ground applicants for consultation and advice. With 17 offices in the state, the SBDC is within reach of everyone in South Carolina. To reach the Columbia office, dial (803) 777-5118. For contact information for other offices, go to the SBDC web site.

4. Submit Your Application

Once you have your abstract and business plan, it’s time to submit. Teams must submit their ventures through the Startup Compete platform by February 28, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. and be registered before they can do so.

Stay connected to The Proving Ground for updated competition information and new announcements through