USC student teams compete for $50,000 prize

Clean energy, a mobile app for survey taking and a product that eliminates the everyday “hassle” of making a bed are among the ideas vying to become startup businesses.

Next week, at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Lumpkin Auditorium at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, six student teams fostering such innovative new ideas will compete for a share of a $50,000 pot that could help them on the way.

But the winning teams first will have to convince a judge’s panel styled after the popular ABC Friday night reality show Shark Tank that their ideas outshine the others in three categories – technology, innovation and social impact.

After a five-minute pitch to the judge’s panel about their idea, each team will then face a buffet of questions from the judges in which they must convince the panel their idea merits money.

The University of South Carolina’s version of Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran include judges Katie Petersen, Innovation & Networks manager at Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation; Frank Dalton, Fulcrum Equity Partners founder; Aaron and Candice Hark, Maxient software company founders; Craig Heyward, Store Holdings founder; and Darin Thomas, Thomas Media Group president and Black Pages USA Inc. founder.

The remaining idea entries include a culture and language immersion service for the legal industry. In the social impact prize category, a suite of social media sites where people of all religions can gather to talk to other site members about their faith is offered, along with a sustainable land management and carbon offset credit company.

Two other teams will compete for a $1,000 prize in a “fan favorite” category this year, the fourth year of the university’s Proving Ground business plan competition.

The public is welcome, but participants must register at For more information about The Proving Ground competition, go to www.uscproving