In 2005, business leader and economic development street preacher John Warner convened a rather eclectic group of folks from around South Carolina at a Courtyard hotel in Charleston to discuss new strategies for improving the state’s economy. After hearing an inspiring update about the Charleston Digital Corridor, entrepreneur Jeff Papenfus scrawled on a paper napkin, “Why aren’t we doing this in Greenville?”

It was at that seminal moment that a group of Greenville entrepreneurs and community leaders began to coalesce into an effort that would soon become NEXT.

From its earliest days, the goal of NEXT has been to provide the support entrepreneurs require to build strong, successful, globally-competitive businesses.

We cater to risk takers and pioneers, because we believe that innovative small companies are critical to true economic development. We are also passionate about creating an ecosystem in the Upstate where such ventures can thrive and that generates high-quality jobs plus and “wealth through ownership”—serving generations to come.

Who could’ve imagined so much could start with a napkin?

In Memory of Jeff Papenfus

On July 30, 2011, NEXT co-founder, entrepreneur, community leader, outdoor enthusiast, and husband Jeff Papenfus passed away unexpectedly while doing something he greatly enjoyed: mountain biking. His passing was a shock to the family of entrepreneurs here and his leadership and commitment to action is greatly missed. However, Jeff’s infectious smile and entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the work of NEXT and the hard work and dedication of the many entrepreneurs he touched through the years.


John Moore

President & CEO

Brenda Laakso

Vice President

Christy Ashkettle

Director – Communications & Culture

NEXT is a Greenville Chamber creation.

NEXT Board of Directors

Peter Barth (Chair)

The Iron Yard

Peter Waldschmidt


Andy Kurtz

Vigilix/ProActive Technology

Matt Gevaert


Michael Bolick

Selah Partners

Frank Greer

Zipit Wireless

Earl Wagener

Tetramer Technologies

Nicole Johnson

Boyd Cycling

Jon Michial Carter


Craig Brown

Greenville Drive

John Moore


Carlos Phillips

Greenville Chamber

Brenda Thames

Greenville Health System

Keith Miller

Greenville Tech

Nancy Whitworth

City of Greenville

Joe Kernell

Greenville County