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UofSC leads statewide pilot for virtual support of entrepreneurs

The McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise at the University of South Carolina is piloting a digital tool, StartupWind, to assist students and alumni with new venture development, including connecting them with advisors and resources to propel successful launches. The McNair Institute is one of nine recipients of the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation Relentless Challenge grant program, and is partnering with Beaufort Digital Corridor, Georgetown Innovation Center, South Carolina Research Authority, South Carolina Small Business Development Centers, and current Liberty Fellow Rozalynn Goodwin for the pilot project. The South Carolina Department of Commerce grant empowers projects that focus on fostering the relentless pursuit of transformational ideas, specifically in the areas of entrepreneurship, talent development, and access to capital.

“This tool enables us to coach and advise students, alumni and clients remotely, providing real-time feedback and video-based advising meetings. It is an ideal tool to work with aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators, especially during this time of crisis,” said Dr. Dirk Brown, faculty director of the McNair Institute. “Our goal is to advise students, alumni and partner clients, while connecting them with unique advisors, tapping into the rich resources of the UofSC campuses, alumni network, our partners and the state of South Carolina.”

The StartupWind platform is readily accessible to entrepreneurs, innovators and advisors 24/7, effectively creating a virtual innovation center. It provides ease in connectivity to South Carolinians willing to serve as advisors, regardless of geographic locale. Finally, it allows resource providers to track the progress of their clients, and engagement of advisors, while scaling the number of entrepreneurs and advisors the McNair Institute serves by eliminating the “9 to 5 EST” time bracket to our work. 

"Empowering localized efforts for the innovation community is crucial as South Carolina's knowledge economy continues to grow," said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. "Access to capital, talent development, and high-scaling entrepreneurship are key elements for a thriving innovation ecosystem. We look forward to collaborating with each Relentless Challenge project over the coming year."


As the state’s flagship institution, our first priority is to attract, inspire, challenge and enable our students to become innovative thinkers and transformative leaders.  The StartupWind platform, made possible by this grant from the SC Department of Commerce, enables us to offer more resources to our student entrepreneurs and to connect them with the people and resources necessary to launch their ideas into the marketplace,

- University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen

Interested entrepreneurs can create profiles and business model canvases on StartupWind . Advisors and mentors can connect with Katherine Swartz Hilton ( or 803-777-1717) to learn about the program and schedule an onboarding session.

About the McNair Institute
The McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise promotes scholarly activity and educates students about the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in enhancing economic growth, and encourages students to contribute and participate through entrepreneurism in creating a better America. The Institute is funded through the generosity of The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation which also funds centers at multiple other universities across the nation supporting entrepreneurship and free enterprise education. Under the guiding vision of Robert and Janice McNair, the foundation is committed to developing a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who have both the technical skills and the philosophical understanding of how free enterprise systems forms the basis of economic opportunity and prosperity for individuals in our country.

About SC Commerce
From assisting with the location of new sites and buildings to offering grants for community development and infrastructure improvement, the South Carolina Department of Commerce supports the growth of new and existing businesses. SC Commerce promotes economic opportunity for individuals and businesses through initiatives like workforce training.

The Office of Innovation at the S.C. Department of Commerce advocates for creators, by promoting their achievements and appreciating their crucial role in long-term economic prosperity for South Carolina. The office champions the relentless pursuit of transformational ideas. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.