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Law, finance students win Proving Ground prizes

Staff Report //April 2, 2018//

Law, finance students win Proving Ground prizes

Staff Report //April 2, 2018//

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Third-year law students Tina Abbasi and Drew Ferguson and senior finance student Jason Thomas won the two main prize categories in the University of South Carolina’s annual Proving Ground competition.

Abbasi and Ferguson won the $17,500 Avenir Discovery prize for the undergraduate or graduate students or young alumni with the most innovative business concept focusing on an existing need or problem.  Their concept, Navibas, is a platform designed to increase access to emergency services at crowded events where cellular service is limited.

“The funding that we got from getting first place at The Proving Ground will help us begin to develop the minimum viable product that we need to then pose this to larger investors,” Abbasi said.

Thomas won the $17,500 undergraduate Maxient Innovation prize. His creation, Sow Inc., is an interactive platform that facilities the delivery of fresh farm products.

Thomas next plans to reach out to regional farmers.

“The hope right now is to go on a listening tour over the summer,” Thomas said. “We will go talk to farmers and try to figure out what they need and what it is we can do.”

A panel of alumni and entrepreneurs judged the two main categories, while audience members picked a fan favorite. That winner was Zachary Carlton, a 2015 graduate whose existing business, Amoya-Agri, is dedicated to the sustainable production of cash crops in East Africa.

“I think it’s just a business plan that goes to the core of what people believe in,” Carlton said. “It’s an ethical business plan and one that’s evolved around doing a little more good in the world.”

Dean Kress, director of USC’s Darla Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center, has overseen the competition since its 2009 beginning.

“We are seeing more and more technology getting into it, and it was great to have two winners that were agricultural-related,” Kress said. “That’s a very important part of the ecosystem and of the economy.”