What happens when a Shark Tank-styled event and Columbia entrepreneurs come together?
Proving Ground Happens.
The 2015 Proving Ground was the culmination of three months' worth of competition between local entrepreneurs, trying to jump-start their ideas. It was the final round of competition, featuring eight teams of entrepreneurs competing for $80,000 in prize money.
The categories included Maxient Innovation, which featured undergraduate business students at USC; Avenir Discovery, which featured graduate and undergraduate students, as well as alumni; and Fluor Social Impact, which focused specifically on addressing a social or environmental problem. There was also the SCRA Technology Ventures Fan Favorite category, which featured two teams with the highest scoring plans that did not make it to the finals earlier in the competition.
Each team presented their business concept to a panel of judges. They then had some time to answer questions from the judges. When the panel went to deliberate the winners, the SCRA Technology Ventures Fan Favorite portion of the competition occurred, during which the two teams presented their ideas to the audience, and the audience voted for their favorite.
The Maxient Innovation Category Featured the Following:
Crunchwall: a mobile app through which students and organizations can connect to provide better communication.
Vuepeer: a peer-to-peer rental app specifically for cars and boats.
The Avenir Discovery Category Featured:
ASSET: a technology-based resource that works with existing security systems to track intruders in real time through mobile devices.
Brevino: a business that provides a bottle cooler for wine bottles, keeping the wine cooled for hours without the condensation of an ice bucket.
The Fluor Social Impact Category Featured:
Koios: a web browser extension, connected to local libraries, that notifies the user when resources they searched for online are available at the library.
Carolina Community Farm and Garden: a hydroponics system that provides local and organically grown greens to USC’s Dining services, local Columbia restaurants, and the rest of the Columbia community.
The SCRA Technology Ventures Fan Favorite Category Featured:
Bonjou: a language learning application that pairs study-abroad students with local buddies, so each party can help the other better their ability to speak the language.
thinkINK: a greeting card system that sends personalized messages and reminds the user of upcoming events, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
After much deliberation, the judges came back to announce the winners in each category.
The $20,000 Maxient Innovation prize went to Vuepeer; the $20,000 Avenir Discovery prize was awarded to Brevino; and the $17,500 Fluor Social Impact prize went to Koios. The Fan Favorites were also awarded monetary prizes, with thinkINK receiving $4,000 and Bonjou receiving $2,000.
All winners of the Proving Ground were also awarded an affiliate membership in the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, to help them to continue to grow their businesses.