dotflo recieves angel investment from serrendipitous meeting at Match Day!

John Barnett and Daniel Dye, the dynamic duo behind Supermoon, an AI-powered customer service software, serendipitously crossed paths with Spencer Tate and Nemath Ahmed during NEXT’s inaugural Greenville-hosted Investor Match Day at the NEXT Venture Summit. This encounter might seem coincidental, but the carefully orchestrated event aimed to pair 24 local and external investors with 47 ventures in a speed dating format. NEXT diligently curated connections based on industry, phase, and other criteria. The unexpected meeting of dotflo with local angels Daniel Dye and John Barnett, however, was not part of the planned matchups.

Daniel Dye enters Match Day with Vicinity Capital

While the goal was to facilitate at least four investor meetings for each founder, the essence of the event extended beyond mere transactions. Attendees were encouraged to network, connect in the provided lounge, and continue discussions at the networking reception. The magic of the event lay in fostering connections in an environment where serendipity could thrive.

Barnett and Dye stood out as the only attendees wearing both hats – representing their latest venture, Supermoon, while exploring potential investments as well. With a track record of building and exiting multiple ventures, including the notable Chroma Labs acquired by Twitter (Barnett was a founder and Dye an investor), they brought a wealth of experience to the table. Both have also invested locally, with Barnett investing in Pixlmob and Dye backing Vicinity, both graduates of the NEXT Accelerator cohort 1.

In a unique twist, John Barnett, playing the dual role of founder and angel investor, had a break in his Match Day schedule. Seizing the opportunity, Tate and Ahmed approached him for a spontaneous pitch, a decision that proved pivotal as it led to investments from both Barnett and Dye into dotflo.

When discussing what impressed them about Ahmed and Tate, the Supermoon founders’ answers were unexpected. While acknowledging that the dotflo pitch could use some polishing, they emphasized being most impressed by the two young founders themselves. Tate, a business administration and economics major at Furman University set to graduate in 2024, and Ahmed, a Georgia Tech grad student, had already experienced the highs and lows of launching and failing businesses while still in school.

Ahmed & Tate check in for Match Day!

For Barnett and Dye, the investment wasn’t just about the idea but about the founders – their drive, hunger, and resilience. Reflecting on their own early days, Barnett noted the duo’s lack of jadedness and their relentless pursuit of building and acquiring customers. They saw potential in dotflo’s founders and believed their investment could go further with this dynamic team than with more mature ventures.

According to Barnett, “They reminded me of the early days; starting things in school. You don’t know what you don’t know so you just plow forward. They’re not jaded; they’re just going and building and trying to get customers. I would hire them. There is a hunger and scrappiness; they’re not comfortable resting yet.”

So far, the Supermoon founders are pleased with their investment, noting dotflo’s exceptional communication, engagement, and eagerness to learn. Dye, who looks for that inner hunger and drive when hiring for his team, found the tenacity of dotflo’s founders appealing, especially at a life stage when most are still playing and exploring.

As co-founder of Supermoon, an AI-driven company, Dye was drawn to investing in another startup in the AI space. Beyond just the idea, he invests in people: “They’re doing the work instead of being college knuckleheads. I was attracted to that tenacity at a life stage when most people are playing. I have to like the idea but I invest in people. Early pre-seed investing, you are investing in the founder.”

Dotflo, an AI-based software specializing in helping businesses research potential customers, is expanding its focus under the guidance of Dye. He has actively contributed to sales and go-to-market strategies and found the app valuable for prospecting research in his own sales endeavors.

Building on the success of the 2023 Match Day, NEXT is already gearing up for the 2024 edition. Armed with lessons learned, the goal is to enhance the experience, fostering even more fruitful connections between investors and ventures. The recent serendipitous meeting of dotflo with Daniel Dye and John Barnett exemplifies the dynamic nature of such gatherings. Looking ahead, NEXT aims to refine its matchmaking process and event structure, aspiring to surpass the success of the previous year. While the conclusion of the 2023 Match Day story is yet unknown, ongoing conversations hint at the potential for additional investments resulting from the event. This anticipation fuels NEXT’s commitment to orchestrating events that catalyze connections and contribute to the growth of the entrepreneurial community.

Rich Johnston, Performance Enhanced Delivery: “I’ve always found a solution.”

Visual Communications to Plant Nutrition: A Unique Journey

Rich Johnston, the founder of Performance Enhanced Delivery (PED), brings a unique blend of creativity, business acumen, curiosity, and a deep passion for agriculture to the table. Literally, the NEXT Accelerator Cohort table. 

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Rich initially pursued graphic design at Pittsburgh Tech starting his career in the world of marketing before the internet era, honing both traditional and modern strategies. His journey took an unexpected turn when he found himself working for a rink facility management company in Michigan doing branding and marketing. Fun fact: Rich got to drive the Zamboni. This diverse background in graphics, marketing, and facility management set the stage for Rich’s eventual foray into agriculture.

From Penn State to Mango Farms: Nurturing a Passion for Agriculture

Back in Pennsylvania, Rich established his own branding agency. One of his potential clients was Penn State, a land grant university with a strong focus on agricultural programs. The university counter-offered; offering Rich a job instead of an account. This led to a unique position in outreach marketing and communications at Penn State where Rich worked in a visual communications role supporting online education, continuing education and cooperative extension initiatives that offer children programs like 4H, sports camps, continuing education, etc. This is when Rich’s advertising and agriculture experience converged.

From Florida to South Carolina: Growth Scripts and Growth in Knowledge

Relocating to South Florida, Rich lived on a mango farm while running his own agency. He began collaborating with a micronutrient company, managing their brand. His mentor guided him through the intricacies of plant nutrition, and Rich became intimately educated in the challenges faced by the agriculture industry, such as citrus greening, a disease impacting citrus trees. Through working with large manufacturing products, Rich started to think about how homeowners should not have to buy massive amounts of plant nutrition (bulk-size) to care for their own plants. Rich, always a tinkerer and an inventor, started turning that problem over in his head. Rich, is not just an idea guy. He’s an inventor, very product-focused in his solutions. He likes to have something tangible at the end of the day. 

Introducing GrowScripts. With a focus on citrus care, he partnered with manufacturers to provide plant nutrition to homeowners, in personal size care kits, aiming to simplify plant care for individuals. He repackaged the products into smaller portions… And this paved the way for Rich’s exploration of his own formulas and products.

Performance Enhanced Delivery: Bridging the Gap in Plant Nutrition

Rich did not want to depend solely on manufacturers for his products. Also, Rich is the guy that nothing is ever good enough so he goes into his workshop to experiment on how to make things better. Performance Enhanced Delivery (PED) was born out of these needs, to improve the quality of his product and to diversify his product base. Eight years of persistent experimentation with coating technology resulted in a patent-pending product that enhances plant nutrition. The innovative bio-based coating allows for a delayed, slow-release of nutrients (specifically fertilizers), reducing the time spent in the field, labor costs, and environmental impact by reducing micro-plastics.

While Rich was working on his time-release coating, his family made the move to Greenville, SC. We love the story of how Rich and his wife divided their research. He took on the best place to build a business and his wife focused on the best places to raise a family. It came down to Greenville or Raleigh, and ultimately Rich could see the budding entrepreneurial community in the Upstate. You can say he wanted to add some fertilizer to our ecosystem. 😉 They made their decision and moved to Greer in just 2 weeks! We’re so glad they did. 

Rich’s “what if” attitude and dedication to understanding each plant’s unique needs have led to his breakthroughs in plant nutrition. PED’s focus on bridging the gap between conventional and regenerative/organic practices reflects Rich’s commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Next Steps and Mentorship: A Community Approach

As Rich navigates the evolving landscape of agriculture and product development, he acknowledges the importance of mentorship and community support. The NEXT Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) program has played a crucial role in connecting him with mentors and a supportive network.

Rich’s journey has been shaped by his curiosity, obsession with improvement, and the desire to create something new. As he envisions a future that combines PED with GrowScripts products, collaboration with fellow founders, and ongoing participation in the NEXT ecosystem, Rich remains committed to pushing the boundaries of agricultural innovation.

In the face of challenges and the occasional bout of imposter syndrome (don’t we all?!), Rich stands as a testament to the resilience and creativity required to make a mark in the agricultural landscape. His story exemplifies the power of community, mentorship, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge in driving innovation and success in the business world. No matter what industry we are in…

 

Scott Pancoast: From Venture Capital to CEO; A Journey of Perseverance and Innovation

Embarking on a journey that spans venture capitalism to CEO roles to board memberships, Scott Pancoast’s career epitomizes resilience and adaptability in the ever-evolving business landscape. 

Venture Capitalist to CEO

Scott Pancoast, Zylo Therapeutics

Scott’s professional trajectory started after Harvard Business School with a decade at Chemed, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Cincinnati. He played various roles and eventually sought new challenges. A pivotal encounter in 1994 with an entrepreneur who sold the first ear thermometer company ignited Scott’s interest in high-growth tech startups. This marked the beginning of his foray into venture capitalism: Through a family investment firm in San Diego, he began investing in RFID, software, and life science companies. He not only invested in these companies, but was an active board member, guiding them through Series A and B (and sometimes C, D, and E) rounds, and wrapping them up with a nice little bow for future investments and exits. 

In 2004, one of these companies asked Scott to be the CEO, so he pivoted, becoming the CEO for the then-private company…a company that had no money.  So, he recast the business plan and raised $8 million, and shortly thereafter, took it public. Over the following ten years, he raised an additional $50 million and forged worldwide partnerships with Pfizer, Merck-Serono, J&J, and Biogen, which brought in another $40 million. After a failed phase 2 study, however, he stepped down and moved to Greenville, SC where his son was attending Furman University….thinking that he had retired. 

Retirement was not meant to be. In 2017, through a series of fortuitous introductions, unlikely heroes, unsavory events, and some legal drama, Scott found himself with a licensing agreement with Einstein College and access to $800k in funding that he had raised. And, Zylö Therapeutics was born! If you’re ever interested in learning all the details, we have found that Scott is an open book, believing we can all learn from each other’s pitfalls and failures. Ultimately, what began as the “worst year of his life” turned into a true “lemons into lemonade” story. Over the next two years, Scott raised an additional $3M in an oversubscribed Series A round and followed that up in 2021-2022 with an additional $5.2M in an oversubscribed Series B round. 

Zylö Therapeutics

Zylö Therapeutics is revolutionizing topical drug delivery through patented silica particles called Z-pods®. Licensed from Einstein College of Medicine, this technology forms the basis of a topical delivery system addressing bioavailability challenges. Zylö can load “active” ingredients into Z-pods®, which then get incorporated into a cream, lotion, or gel and provide a slow release of the ingredient.

Navigating Challenges and Pivots

In an industry marked by challenges, Scott’s leadership at Zylö has been defined by resilience. Zylö recently received their largest order, and, to say it was a saga to get the goods delivered is an understatement. From machinery not functioning, to working weeks on end (nights and weekends included), to making the drive (yes, the drive!) from Greenville, SC to Minneapolis, MN in the middle of winter (cue freezing rain in the mountains!), Scott and his team have proven they are willing to work to get it done. 

As Zylö advances, Scott faces the daunting task of scaling up operations and simultaneously instituting quality control. As far as the future, Zylö is focusing on the non-pharmaceutical cosmetic industry, with products boasting impressive results for hair growth, anti-aging, and UVB-protection (we’re raising our hands for the anti-wrinkle products!). Many of these products will have “Powered by Z-pods®” on the packaging, a la “Intel® inside.”

Apothec—Spinning Out Pharma Assets

Scott plans to spin out Zylö’s pharmaceutical assets into a new venture named Apothec, short for Apothecary. This strategic move aims to independently fund and advance pharmaceutical programs, providing a unique focus on areas like lupus, severe burns, erectile dysfunction, and diabetic foot ulcers. The objective is to realize an even larger ROI for the Zylö investors. Scott, as Co-Founder of Apothec, plans to remain Executive Chairman until he can get the right CEO in place, at which point he will remain an active board member. 

Mentorship and Community Engagement

Scott actively engages in mentorship programs. His recent participation in NYU Stern School of Business’s Endless Frontier Labs where Zylö was one of 78 accepted out of 1400+ applicants reflects a commitment to continue to learn despite all his experience. Scott’s involvement with NEXT highlights his dedication to connecting, educating, and providing mentorship within the business ecosystem. Scott’s name is synonymous with SC Angel Tax Credits as a local expert and advocate for improving the system. 

Scott’s journey from venture capitalist to the helm of Zylö Therapeutics is a narrative of tenacity, adaptability, and visionary leadership. As he continues to pioneer innovations in drug delivery and venture into new territories, his story serves as inspiration for entrepreneurs navigating the intricate landscape of business and innovation. 

Putting the Rebel into Rebel Rabbit

Rebel Rabbit was born out of a need for alcohol alternatives in the space—a rebellion. Drinking alcohol is one vice where you get judged for not doing it – it can be hard to be the only one at a party or a brewery (because everything is at a brewery!) without a drink in your hand. And, people are pretty comfortable with asking why you’re not drinking. Coming at this from mental health and substance abuse backgrounds, the founders of Rebel Rabbit found themselves tired of answering all the questions and decided to do something about it! Their guiding principle is simple: “You do you.” The outcome of this rebellion is a cannabis-infused seltzer, swiftly gaining popularity nationwide, with the added perk of leaving consumers hangover-free.

Rebel Rabbit extracts the legal D9 THC compound from the cannabis plant and integrates it into an all-natural blend. Founder Billy Goldsmith crafted two strengths and three all-natural flavors to counterbalance the occasionally bitter taste of cannabis. All their seltzers are natural, low-calorie, and boast minimal sugar content.

Having recently acquired the Brewery 85 space in Greenville as part of their second company Upstate Beverage Consultants, LLC, Rebel Rabbit directly sells its products to consumers and also distributes widely. Achieving remarkable growth since its inception in 2021, the company is on track to earn its third million. Operating in a relatively new industry, Rebel Rabbit faces unique challenges but provides valuable insights to fellow founders in the adult beverage sector in Greenville. They actively contribute to a series of meetings for adult beverage company founders in Greenville through NEXT, sharing industry insights to benefit others on the entrepreneurial journey.

Upstate Beverage Consultants has a contractual agreement to do production for Rebel Rabbit as well as for other non-alcoholic beverage brands. This allows their team to control their production schedule and change directions quickly as rules and regulations shift around the hemp market. It also opens them up to having other non-intoxicating products in our portfolio.  They have plans to expand the brewery later in 2024 to up their production capacity.

Co-founders Pierce Wylie and Billy Goldsmith, both alumni of the NEXT Accelerator cohort 2, sported Rebel Rabbit gear throughout their participation, emphasizing their brand identity. Pierce presented their journey and entrepreneurial challenges at the NEXT Showcase, shedding light on the sometimes isolating path of a founder. “It’s tough being a founder and figuring all this out. So when you can share stories and hear stories of people who have been there before and they can shed light on what you’re doing through it’s great. Leadership helped connect dots and also connect to people and building relationships that will continue to show dividends.” If you attended, they were also giving out samples!

Where can you find Rebel Rabbit locally? Check out Garners, Greenville Beer Exchange, Drop In Store, Palmetto Hemp Provisions, and their website for more locations. Or, just buy it online!