NEXT Upstate Rebrands as NextGEN – Greenville Entrepreneur Network

NEXT Upstate Rebrands as NextGEN  

One of the region’s top economic development organizations looks to the future while continuing to support and grow the Greenville Entrepreneur Network (GEN)

February 8, 2024 – Greenville, SC – For almost two decades, NEXT Upstate, the organization that began as an initiative housed inside the Greenville Chamber, has grown in reputation and scope of services. Hundreds of startup founders from across the region have benefited from its support in the form of mentoring programs, networking groups and regional events drawing national attention to Greenville. The companies they support go on to raise millions of dollars and employ thousands of local workers, improving the economy of the entire Upstate of South Carolina. 

NextGEN references the Greenville Entrepreneur Network and represents a new generation of support for the founders, entrepreneurs, and innovators who call Greenville home. 

“Fostering entrepreneurship is not merely about building companies. It’s about building communities, encouraging change, and celebrating growth,” says Eric Weissmann, Executive Director of NextGEN. “As an organization evolves, we need to respect our heritage while driving forward with our eyes fixed on the future. There’s no better time to be an entrepreneur than now and no better place to follow your dreams than here in Greenville, SC.”

Over the last two years, NextGEN has launched new programs and services such as an accelerator program, workshops, and monthly events, widening the aperture of who it serves.  NextGEN is also the driving force behind #StartupGVL – the rallying cry and unifying brand for the regional community of entrepreneurs and the dozens of groups who directly support them. 

“The rebrand merges the legacy and history of the organization with its future,” says Carlos Phillips, President/CEO of the Greenville Chamber and NextGEN board member. “The new branding reflects the refined strategy and exciting direction as NextGEN supports Greenville’s high-growth entrepreneurs.”

It’s because of this firm foundation that NextGEN is one of the longest-running entrepreneur support organizations in the State of South Carolina and a draw for companies looking to launch or expand in a place they love to live. No one succeeds alone, so to have a built-in network of others to help you is encouraging. 

“NextGEN is a critical component to our overall economic development strategy,” says Shannon Lavrin, Greenville City Manager and NextGEN board member. “Greenville is a vibrant, thriving community, but we know we’re in a competitive space when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. A robust innovation and entrepreneurship network is critical to attracting high-growth companies and keeping them in Greenville.” 

For more information about NextGEN, connect with sydney@nextsc.org

Accelerating Success: Checking In on Cohort 1 Graduates

Where are they now?

As we reflect on the journey of our inaugural accelerator cohort, it’s thrilling to witness the remarkable strides made by these ambitious ventures. Let’s take a closer look at where they are now and the milestones they’ve achieved.

  • Bottle Titan:
    • Team Structure: New team in place with a software engineer, logistics engineer, patent writer, electrical engineer, and a previous professor at Clemson with expertise in patent writing.
    • Collaboration: Undertook a project with another cohort grad
  • Custom Donations:
    • Strategic Partnership: Established a joint venture with another company in their space
    • Next Steps: Ongoing progress and updates are expected, making it worthwhile to stay tuned for further developments
    • New Look: Worked with local company, Designli, a connection from the Accelerator program, to redesign product 
  • RAAMP:
    • Sales Impact: Showcased tangible sales improvements directly attributed to the accelerator program
    • Team Development: Expanded their team to support increased business demands
    • Support: Joined the VMS mentor program 
  • Ruffian Software (TechID Manager):
    • Investment: Received investment from SCRA and engaged in discussions with other potential investors
    • Team Expansion: Made strategic hires to fuel the company’s growth
    • Growth: Continued with the VMS mentor program 
  • TestedHQ:
    • Funding: Secured $300,000 from SCRA
    • Strategic Shift: Maintained headcount stability while strategically altering their revenue model. The focus is shifting towards a majority subscription-based model next year, emphasizing recurring revenue
    • Operational Enhancements: Dedicated efforts to improve internal efficiency, establishing repeatable and scalable processes
    • Mentorship: Joined the VMS mentor program 
  • Pixlmob:
    • Strategic Focus: Transitioned towards a more focused product approach, with an emphasis on a specific niche within the industry
    • Talent Acquisition: Added two new hires and currently seeking additional talent
    • Funding News: Received funding from Founderville; gave impressive report to investors at end of the year 2023 holiday party 
  • skillsgapp:
    • Recognition: Participated in Furman University Hill Institute Bootcamp; and was named one of the 10 Most Exciting Startups in the region at the #StartupGVL Night at the Drive
    • Future Prospects: Currently exploring additional accelerator programs and funding opportunities
    • Suite Stuff: Actively adding more games to their suite of games
    • Fun news: Co-founder, Tina Zwolinski traveled to Ireland in the fall of 2023 to speak on a panel at Saastock
    • Check out Tina’s full founder feature! 
  • Vicinity:
    • Team Growth: Welcomed a new co-founder, a strong market leader, reinforcing the leadership team
    • Support: Participated in the Furman University Hill Institute Bootcamp, assigned a team of students to complete a project
    • Funding news: SCRA and Founderville funding announced; and announced updates at the Founderville holiday party, updating investors
    • Good PR: Trueline case study was a tangible example of what they do by helping another business come onto the landscape 
  • WAVS Custom:
    • Progress: Successfully closed a funding round, including a significant contribution of $200,000 from SCRA
    • Growth: Expanded their team with two new hires, reinforcing their commitment to advancing WAVS’s innovative vision
    • Fun news: Recently exhibited at CES in Las Vegas and looking forward to launching new products (currently top secret – keep an eye out for the news); and gave inspiring update to investors at Founderville holiday social
    • Homerun: Was named one of the 10 Most Exciting Startups in the region at the #StartupGVL Night at the Drive
    • Read more about founder Ric Hoke

 

Update 2/13/2024 – we’re excited to announce that Mapsheet.com has sold! This is exciting news for founder, Willz Tolbert. We know it was a lot of hard work getting the company to this point.

The accomplishments of our first accelerator cohort are a testament to the dedication, innovation, and resilience of these ventures. We eagerly anticipate witnessing their continued growth and success in the evolving landscape of entrepreneurship. Stay tuned for more updates on their remarkable journeys!

 

Tina Zwolinski, tackling workforce & economic development with video games

Tina Zwolinski’s dedication to workforce development has its roots in her career beginnings at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. During her time on the marketing team, she witnessed the transition to manufacturing in South Carolina and the establishment of BMW in the Upstate. Her work in economic development exposed the importance of cultivating a sustainable workforce to meet industry’s needs, and underscored the impact workforce has on attracting new companies and in building thriving communities.

Tackling Economic Development & Workplace Challenges

skillsgapp, Tina Zwolinski, skillionaire games, startups
skillsgapp was named one of the 10 Most Exciting Startups in 2023 at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Night at the Drive

In 1997, Tina founded ZWO, a branding and marketing firm headquartered in downtown Greenville. Tina’s focus on relationship-building, forged during her Chamber tenure, became the cornerstone of her career. The firm tackled challenges in economic development and workforce across the US and within multiple industries. ZWO also focused on marketing to youth– both nonprofit and for-profit global brands. It was the combination of this work that exposed the gap, the skills gap, where youth and industry were not communicating effectively, jobs were going unfilled and youth were unaware of the opportunities after high school graduation for postsecondary pathways or jobs right around them, specifically in underserved communities.  

Around 2018, the inspiration to address this challenge took hold, and the concept for skillsgapp began evolving after working closely with Gen Z. Faced firsthand with the challenges her adoptive son encountered while navigating the educational and career landscape as an English as a second language student in high school, Tina recognized the need for a more effective approach. After leading ZWO for 23 years and expanding the firm to three locations, including a West Coast and Central American office, Tina transitioned from ZWO to launch skillsgapp in 2020 with cofounder Cynthia Jenkins (who also worked with ZWO), driven by a determination to create a better solution for individuals facing similar challenges.

The hurdles, particularly for those with English as a second language or from underserved communities, create barriers to progress, hindering access and pushing students into low-wage job cycles after high school graduation. Recognizing that 50% of high schoolers face such challenges, skillsgapp’s Skillionaire Games aims to break this cycle while supporting industry with a more vetted pool of early career talent to recruit from to meet their unfilled job needs. 

“The skills gap challenge is not a lack of talent but rather a lack of engaging career and pathway awareness earlier and barrier-free access into the career opportunities.” – Tina Z.

Tina recognized the need to communicate with youth (ages 13-22+) on their terms, using tools and language that resonate with them. Gen Z is on their phones 7+ hours a day, 97% of Gen Z has access to smartphones and gaming is their #1 form of entertainment. Skillionaire Games’ free-to-play virtual environments mirror real-world jobs in the in-demand industries of advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, life science, healthcare, etc., providing an engaging space for youth to explore industries, understand job requirements, and make informed career decisions without barriers or bias.

Let’s Talk Gaming

skillsgapp is a two-sided model focused on growing players and in growing their paying partnerships with companies and colleges that can promote their brands and opportunities in-game and even recruit the players to fill their seats and jobs. They are innovating early talent recruitment. Ideally, players will have learned through “hands-on virtual experiences” what their new job entails becoming a more qualified individual leading to better retention for companies. They currently have their life science, cybersecurity, soft skills, and healthcare games live with advanced manufacturing deploying Spring of 2024. Skillsgapp faces hurdles common to startups, including speed to market, player acquisition, and shifting industry mindsets. 

They’re early to the game although they have already had some big wins with receiving five global awards including Facebook Gaming’s People Choice Award in 2022 and EdTech Digest’s Top 100 Companies in Workforce and Education in 2023. Other notable traction includes the successful deployment of games into four regional markets, 25,000 players, growing revenue and renewals from paying partners, a national deployment partnership with American Student Assistance in the Fall of 2023 and the games have just begun. You can find their games on the App Store or Google Play under Skillionaire Games or at skillionairegames.com.

Unable to attend the Accelerator Showcase in person, Tina found a way to virtually present

Throughout this journey, Tina Zwolinski has drawn guidance from programs like NEXT VMS and the Accelerator cohort. The networks formed within these programs have become invaluable resources, offering diverse perspectives and expertise that contribute to skillsgapp’s ongoing growth. In January of 2024, Tina was selected to participate in the national Youth Skills First Cohort with Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all. After an extensive interview process, six companies were selected to participate from over 500 applicants.

As skillsgapp continues to evolve and the Skillionaire’s movement begins to grow, Tina Zwolinski envisions exciting partnerships and case studies that showcase the platform’s transformative impact on lives of players and the company and college partners. With a dedicated team with lived experience, passion for the mission, and the support of a robust network, Tina Zwolinski’s skillsgapp stands poised to nurture careers from early vision to global impact.

 

Kanga Coolers, from Shark Tank to Mr. Beast with lots of hard work and a little luck

Kanga Cooler impresses the Sharks

Kanga Coolers came to fame when featured on Shark Tank season 10 (2019) and they’ve recently risen in notoriety after a featured ad on Mr. Beast’s YouTube channel. Their signature product is the Kase Mate which wraps around a cold case of your favorite beverage but they’ve diversified their products with different sizes and a bookbag cooler. With a team of over 40, this college dream has turned itself into a multi-million dollar company with lots of hard work, great mentorship, and a little bit of luck.

What’s the real story?

What you saw on Shark Tank, for the most part, is the “real story” behind Kanga Coolers. Logan LaMance had a wild idea for a class project, recruiting partners who would eventually become the founding members of Kanga Coolers. Among them, Ryan Frazier stayed on board, while Austin Maxwell and Teddy Giard, of backflip fame, hopped in later. (Get it? Hop…)

Their flagship product, the Kase Mate, was conceived during this project – a koozie-style cooler wrap for your favorite drinks. What started as a college experiment soon turned into a full-fledged business. It wasn’t all smooth sailing.

How did this concept of a cardboard wraparound cooler get off the ground? Logan got right to work developing strong relationships to find manufacturing partners and did a test run of the product here in Greenville, SC. They sourced their materials from a supplier in Alabama and produced the first coolers at Carolina Manufacturing in Greenville, the only bandanna manufacturer in the US and the official producer of Willie Nelson’s bandannas. And, that my friends, is how Kanga Coolers and Willie Nelson are connected – someone send Willy a cooler and merch!

Kanga put out 200 custom-sewn coolers at Clemson and they sold out quickly. They also won a Pitch Smackdown competition for students through the Spiro Institute (now Clemson Launchpad) winning $8,000. They thought they were rich! Each founder, to date, has only invested $833 of their own money so 8k helped but they noticed quickly that it wasn’t much when starting a product company. After some additional investment, Kanga Coolers decided to launch a 60-day Kickstarter campaign in 2018. On day 30 of the campaign, Logan went to a class talk at Clemson featuring a Shark Tank alum, Daisy Cakes. Logan spoke to the owner after class and mentioned his dream to be on Shark Tank. She told him “You’ll never feel like you’re ready. Just go for it.” The guys skipped a final exam to go (don’t tell Mom), auditioning the day their Kickstarter campaign closed. 

In 2018, Logan, Teddy, and Ryan filmed an episode that aired in April 2019, marking a big moment for their startup journey. Despite some hiccups in cooler production, they miraculously got everything ready just in time—a stroke of luck that seemed to be a theme in their story.

Logan remembers the hustle during the time after the show aired—shipping boxes from his parent’s garage, loading Uhaul trucks with help from neighbors, and making sure deliveries reached the post office on time. The journey had its ups and downs, but Kanga’s ability to roll with the punches and adapt shines through.

From Covid to Shopify to…Mr. Beast?

After Shark Tank, Kanga got a lot of attention, but it came and went quickly. They were into selling promotional items to companies like Anheuser Busch, but when Covid hit in 2020, that market dried up. Facing the need to adapt, they shifted their focus to e-commerce, diving into Facebook ads and digital marketing, a previously untapped market. Kanga had to figure out a whole new customer acquisition strategy. Logan remembers having to pivot, “How do we show our product to potential customers in a way that will resonate and create an impulse buy online? Who are our customers; why do they want to purchase? It was a lot of trial and error, YouTube, podcasts, and duplicating what stuck.”

kanga coolers, mr. beast youtube
Logan LaMance & Austin Maxwell

Part of this focus on e-commerce led Kanga to Shopify, an e-commerce platform for their website. Shopify and is one of Mr Beast’s sponsors. Who is Mr. Beast? Only the most viewed YouTube channel in the world with 216 million followers. Shopify decided to feature one of its clients through a social media contest. And get this, all you had to do was comment to enter. One single comment. Austin saw the post, was quick to comment with a short elevator pitch, and they were selected. Now, that is a lucky break and some incredible ROI. They got a shout-out during the “$10,000 Every Day You Survive in a Grocery Store” video on the Mr. Beast YouTube channel and had over 80 million views in just a few days. See Kanga’s reaction to the press. (Check out Clemson’s take on the news.)

This ad was the single biggest moment of exposure in the company’s history, about 10x the exposure of Shark Tank. But, this time they had experience and warning to make sure they were ready for an influx of orders. “It was the craziest week we’ve had,” reported LaMance. Being featured on not just Shark Tank but Mr. Beast will open the door for much bigger opportunities in the future for the Kanga team.

LaMance’s advice to future and early founders is something he takes seriously, “Seize the opportunity when it’s there. Put your name out there even when it seems impossible. Always take advantage, always apply, and approach like you have a good shot.” 

Logan recalls their early challenge was finding their product fit in the market; figuring out demand and pricing. Covid was clearly another challenge they were able to tackle with nimbleness, determination, and a willingness to pivot. These days the company is figuring out how to scale their infrastructure, consistently improving systems and processes to run at a “big business rate with small business resources.” One thing Kanga has been great at is not letting fear get in their way. They aren’t afraid to quickly scale to capture opportunity even if they don’t have it figured out. 

Logan and his cofounders believe you have to lead from the front. They show up early and stay late. As founders, they are the last line of defense and they understand the importance of that position, not just for team culture but because it’s a logical business choice. They have worked every job in the business and step in when needed, trying to strike a healthy balance between doing all things and delegating. “The biggest thing that helped me was having an unshakable faith that it would all work. All I had to do was find the path. Success was a foregone conclusion in my head and I work from that. Do whatever it takes to walk that path.” – Logan LaMance

Rockstar mentors through VMS

Logan relies on his VMS (Venture Mentor Services) “rockstar” team of mentors. Having mentors early on at Clemson proved to him the benefit of these relationships. Experienced mentors can give advice, and helped them bridge the gap from college to real life. “It has been one of the biggest drivers of growth to push and provide guidance and coaching. I don’t feel like I’m on an island. The tactical advice has been incredibly helpful – having a team that is trying to help has been huge.”

Kanga Coolers has 17,000 square feet of office & warehouse space in the Merovan Center off Woodruff Road in Greenville. You can stay in touch with all they’re doing through their website, social media, and even by text.

2023 Year in Review

As we reflect on this past year (how is it already 2024?!), NEXT focused on our main goals: support the broader #StartupGVL community, engage high-growth entrepreneurs, and measure the impact of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our vision is of a robust community that provides entrepreneurs with the resources they need to scale a business in this amazing city we love. (ICYMI, check out our countdown to the holidays!)

Let’s look back on some snapshots of how we did this in 2023:

NEW Programs we have launched

  • Accelerator Program – Graduated 2 cohorts of 18 companies
  • Growth Labs – 2 focused on Design Thinking & No Code Solutions

NEXT Events

  • 10 Founders Forums – ranging from storytelling to angel investing
  • #StartupGVL Launchpad7 startups won packages from SEO to finance help
  • NEXT Venture Summit – including the very 1st Match Day!
  • 2 Accelerator Showcases – 18 pitches and lots of great memories
  • 1 SUDs – startup drinks in the summer

1st Greenville-based Match Day @ NEXT Venture Summit

  • 24 investors met with 47 ventures speed-dating style
  • 186 curated pairings = countless conversations, connections, and at least 1 investment (so far…)

Community Events [featuring NEXT]

  • #StartupGVL Night at the Greenville Drive (where we announced the 10 Most Exciting Startups in the Region)
  • October Beer & Napkins
  • Chamber of Commerce Leadership Exchange to Nashville, TN

Other City Visits to Greenville:

  • VOKA, 14 Flemish entrepreneurs traveled to the Upstate from Belgium
  • Hattiesburg, MS
  • Paragould, AR 
  • New Braunfels, TX 

Founders – You inspire us. Every day.

Here’s to our continued success in 2024 and beyond!

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!

Introducing the NEXT Accelerator Cohort 2

We’re thrilled to announce NEXT kicked off the second cohort of its accelerator program on Monday, September 18th. The 8-week curriculum, taught with the expertise of local former founders and business leaders, comprises eight high-growth companies. These companies will work side by side with each other and program leaders to build a growth plan to take their startups to the next level. The curriculum aims to grow and scale some of the region’s high-potential startups by providing dedicated resources to their specific challenges and needs with sessions dedicated to product market fit, sales and marketing, hiring to scale, funding, and more.

“The NEXT Accelerator is laying the foundation for Greenville’s entrepreneurial community. As a former technology founder, I wish I had a program like this. The teaching and leadership provided through the accelerator is exceptional. If I would have had the opportunity to attend a program like this, it would have saved me numerous headaches and mistakes. Along with NEXT, we are leveraging our network of fifty (50) Greenville-based investors to teach, lead, and foster growth.” – Shay Houser, Founderville.vc

The program culminates in a showcase presentation in November that is open to the public.

NEXT Accelerator cohort 2

 

Introducing Cohort 2:

“I’m thrilled to join the NEXT Startup Accelerator as it offers an invaluable opportunity for Susu Lend, a fintech dedicated to serving the credit invisible. Connecting with local support and resources is incredibly important during our pilot program launch. This local engagement fuels my excitement and allows us to deeply connect with the community we aim to serve, strengthening our foundational launch.” – Pedro Escobar, Susu Lend

The companies in Cohort 1 saw a direct impact from participation in the NEXT Accelerator. Three companies, Pixlmob, WAVS, and Vicinity, all received funding from Founderville.vc which was announced on stage at the 2023 NEXT Venture Summit.

“I’ve been a part of multiple programs and while those were all good in their own respect, this program was much more impactful. I guess that’s clear since I’m moving my family and business here [from Florence, SC]. But, there was really no hesitation on my part because we founders need a network of support and without a doubt this is where I need to be.” – Mike Smith, Custom Donations, Cohort 1 Graduate

Cohort members and their journeys will be featured across NEXT’s social media during their time in the program. To learn more about these companies, visit https://www.instagram.com/nextupstatesc/.

About NEXT

NEXT is a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps grow high-impact, knowledge-based companies by developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greenville, SC and connecting entrepreneurs to it. Our mission is to identify, engage and provide support for high-growth entrepreneurs and their teams as they build scaling, investor-ready companies through programming, connections and support whether just starting out or well on their way.

For more information, visit www.nextgengvl.org

NEXT awards $95k worth of prizes at second annual #StartupGVL Launchpad event

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- April 7, 2023 (Greenville, SC) – The second annual #StartupGVL Launchpad event took place on Thursday, April 6th, and was an incredible celebration of early-stage innovation and entrepreneurship. With over 50 applicants for prizes in 7 categories,  7 winners were selected to receive prize packages that, in total, represent more than $95k. 

Prize winners from the 2023 #StartupGVL Launchpad reception

The winner of the Business Consulting package provided by Elliott Davis was Modal, a globally-recognized and technically-advanced hostel concept shaping the short-term lodging industry. 

The winner of the HR/Team Development package provided by Find Great People was Avallano, a SaaS platform that improves patient recruitment and retention using a secure, personalized, patient-centric approach.

The winner of the Branding and Design package provided by SLANT was Incora Health, an innovative, data-driven solution for fertility health and wellness management. 

The winner of the Legal Servies package provided by Wyche was Bottle Titan, which produces customizable solutions to next-generation real-time asset tracking in any industry or sector.

The winner of the SEO and Digital Marketing Services package provided by DFS Creative Concepts was Metatomic, the premier company in dry spent nuclear fuel processing, by providing fuel salt for both thermal and fast molten salt reactors, which will produce carbon free electricity in the United States

The winner of the Seed Grant provided by SCRA was Builder Rocket, an intelligent digital platform that integrates builders, buyers, and brands to minimize or eliminate the communication gap between builders, home buyers, subcontractors, distributors, and manufacturers.

The winner of the bonus prize category Software Prototyping provided by Designli was AR Funding, which provides working capital through invoice factoring using Smart Contracts and Blockchain technology.

 

About NEXT

NEXT is a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps grow high-impact, knowledge-based companies by developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greenville, SC and connecting entrepreneurs to it. Our mission is to identify, engage and provide support for high-growth entrepreneurs and their teams as they build scaling, investor-ready companies through programming, connections and support whether just starting out or well on their way. For more information, visit www.nextgengvl.org 

 

CONTACT:

Susan Durden | 864-735-7516 | sdurden@nextsc.org

NEXT Launches Accelerator Program 

The first cohort, focused on tech companies in Greenville, includes 10 high-growth startups

NEXT kicked off its first-ever accelerator program on Monday, March 6th. This new program introduces a curated 10-week curriculum, taught with the expertise of local former founders and business leaders. The first cohort, comprised of high-growth tech companies, will work with program leaders to build a growth plan to take their startup to the next level. This accelerator aims to grow and scale some of the region’s high-potential startups by providing dedicated resources to their specific challenges and needs. 

“We saw a gap in the ecosystem and decided to develop this program to coach and lead in the specific areas where we know founders need the most help,” says Scott Millwood, cofounder of an early-stage seed fund in Greenville and a two-time startup founder himself. 

This program leads to a presentation in late May and the content is focused on leadership development, team building, business planning and funding. 

The 10 companies participating are:

  • Bottle Titan
  • Custom Donations
  • Mapsheet
  • North 7th
  • RAAMP
  • Ruffian Software
  • Skillsgapp
  • TestedHQ
  • Vicinity Capital
  • WAVS Custom

“Today, we’re taking a huge step forward for the future of innovation in Greenville, South Carolina to bridge a gap for founders,” says Molly Inclán, NEXT Program Manager. “We can’t wait to see where these companies end up in a few years. We’re gonna look back at this and know it was the beginning of something huge.” 

Cohort members and their journeys will be featured across NEXT’s social media during their time in the program. To learn more about these companies, visit https://www.instagram.com/nextupstatesc/

About NEXT

NEXT is a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps grow high-impact, knowledge-based companies by developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greenville, SC and connecting entrepreneurs to it. Our mission is to identify, engage and provide support for high-growth entrepreneurs and their teams as they build scaling, investor-ready companies through programming, connections and support whether just starting out or well on their way.

For more information, visit www.nextgengvl.org