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Alumni Q&A: How the Rooney Brothers’ Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Our Future

By Zach Driver | February 7, 2020

We all have something that drives us. It could be an A on a paper or a bonus check at work. But, for the Rooney brothers from Chapin, South Carolina, it was literally what drives us that inspired them to start their own company in the electric and autonomous vehicle industry called Elevation Proving Grounds (EPG).

Joe Rooney graduated from the UofSC College of Engineering and Computing in 2014 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. This former project engineer has a strong background working with electric motors and testing vehicles. However, it wasn’t until he teamed up with his brother John, a 2009 graduate of the Darla Moore School of Business and automotive enthusiast, that their entrepreneurial spirit started to hit full throttle.

Based in Denver, Colorado, the Rooney brothers started EPG in early 2018. They work with companies in the electric and autonomous vehicle industry to develop and build the best possible vehicles and technology. EPG focuses on three main services: in-vehicle testing and validation, staffing and recruiting, and training to help people and companies make the transition to these new types of vehicles.

We sat down with the Rooney brothers to learn what drives their ambition, and how their time at South Carolina shaped their company.

What was the most important thing you learned at the University of South Carolina, and how did that impact your job today? 

Be curious. Keep learning as much as you can as often as you can. This helped us to find what we are passionate about and to be ready for life after college. Also, have fun! Go to class and get good grades but learn how to go out and meet new people and have a good time.

Did you ever see yourself working with electric and autonomous vehicles or running your own business? 

Running our own business, absolutely! Electric and autonomous vehicles specifically, not so much but definitely something in the automotive world. Our family has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and we always knew that we would one day run a business of our own. It was just a matter of finding the right type of business for us. Growing up, electric and autonomous vehicles weren’t at the forefront of the automotive industry, but as the industry has started to change over the last 10 years we’ve found that it excites us and is something that we love contributing to.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in starting this business? 

Breaking into the industry and being the new guys on the block. We’ve always had confidence in ourselves and our abilities but it’s not always easy to prove that to potential clients when you first start out. The biggest lesson to overcoming this challenge is to never give up because you might get 10 no’s but that 11th try might be the yes that you need. Also, support can be a challenge for entrepreneurs, but that’s never been the case with us. We are grateful for our friends and family who have supported us along the way, especially our Mom and Dad.

What advice would you give to a student who’s about to graduate? 

Don’t settle.  Find out what you want to do and go after it. Find that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and find a way to make a career out of it, and don’t give up until you do.  It’s advantageous to take risks while you’re young and have fewer responsibilities. Also, go meet up with friends down in Five-Points and enjoy your remaining days as a student. Some of the best times we’ve had in our lives were at USC and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What are you excited about for the future of your industry and the role technology will play in our daily lives? 

The most exciting thing is that we are just at the forefront of electric and autonomous technology and our business allows us to help with the advancement of this technology.  We enjoy seeing the impact that this can have on the environment, health, noise, safety, traffic, and everyday life. Twenty years from now the way that we get to and from work, school, and other activities will be dramatically different, and that is extremely exciting.

Anything else you’d like to add or want people to know about you and your job?

Feel free to reach out to us if you ever want to chat or if there is some way that we can help. Also, if you’re ever in the Denver area and want to talk business or Gamecock Sports, give us a shout. We love USC and always enjoy the opportunity to connect with fellow Gamecocks. Check out our website for more information at

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.