Cohort 2: What are they taking away from The Accelerator? Lifelong connections and more…

We just concluded our second cohort of the NEXT Accelerator program designed to work with high-growth startup founders to supercharge their businesses. At the culmination of the program, the founders took the stage to deliver their 4-minute pitches on November 16, 2023 in front of a sizable audience of about 125 people, receiving support not only from their friends and family but also from an unexpected ally—Barbie. (You’d have to have been there!)  Part of their presentation is reflecting on what they learned through this eight-week intensive program. Let’s delve into what they learned and what they found most impactful – genuine insights from a cohort navigating the unpredictable startup world of business.


Strategic Focus and Storytelling Mastery:

  • The cohort 2 founders realized the importance of a clear strategy, incorporating insights from curriculum presentations and panelists into their big-picture plans. Improving storytelling skills became a game-changer especially when it came time to focus on their pitches – getting your whole story down to 4 minutes is hard!  

The Business Rollercoaster:

  • The program offered an MBA “crash course” in business, particularly sales and scaling – sans the textbooks. Participants not only sharpened their business acumen but also cultivated valuable leadership skills. It wasn’t just the presenters and panelists that provided valuable insight but each founder learned just as much from their fellow cohort founders. “As a sole founder, you kind of get caught in the hamster wheel of life. One month you may spend 4 days in finance, a few days in operations, and then you get caught in a marketing fire over there. One thing NEXT has provided on the accelerator front as well as the VMS program front is the blinders on the horse, helping to keep things steady. Also the continuity of mentorship. You can always get advice but having people that really know the story helps a lot.” Zeb Parsons, Bricolage Dynamics

Networking, Insights, and Tweaking Their Game:

  • Connections made during the program are invaluable – collaboration during the program was critical but even more so the ability to lean on their peers post-program will be incredibly beneficial. Across the board, the participants talked about being inspired by and building connections with fellow founders adding a sense of camaraderie to the process. Refining their approach and solving problems collectively were standout moments, especially during our Friday lunches! 

Sales, Customers, and Team are key:

  • Sales emerged as the heartbeat of their businesses. “I learned that sales is important and you want to have customers! You want to make money. Making money is good.” Julian Brinkley,’s tongue-in-cheek lightbulb moment. Also, finding the right person to make those sales is clutch – oftentimes the founder(s) is the initial sales person but finding the right people to join the team becomes critical as companies grow.

Cutting through Chaos with Focus and Professional Connections:

  • The program helped them focus amid the chaos of entrepreneurship, providing mentorship like a GPS for their businesses. Networking opportunities acted as a gateway to the business community, offering impactful connections and insights. We look forward to continuing to connect these founders with long-term mentor relationships. 

Leveraging Networks, Cheers to Resilience:

  • Their mentors became lifelines, helping them leverage networks and fostering camaraderie with fellow entrepreneurs. Immersed in Greenville’s startup culture, they learned to pivot swiftly and build resilience. Recognizing the importance of perseverance in the face of challenges became a crucial aspect of their entrepreneurial mindset. “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. The leadership helped connect dots and also connect to people and build relationships that will continue to show dividends.” – Pierce Wylie, Rebel Rabbit

From Where They Started to Where They’re Going:

  • We started the sessions with three main questions: what do you want, who does it serve, and how do you get it? The program catapulted them to where they needed to be and understanding the answers to these questions. 


This program was more than a pit stop; it was like rocket fuel for their businesses. As they gear up for what’s next, the impact of this experience will continue to resonate in their ongoing successes. They’re not just navigating the entrepreneurial landscape; they’re owning it, one lesson at a time.

“The NEXT Accelerator was more than a typical startup program; it was a gateway to a thriving community of innovators, mentors, and experts. As the founder and CEO of Susu Lend, a fintech startup aimed at empowering the unbanked and credit invisible, I found unparalleled support and guidance here. The program managers and staff’s dedication and expertise were instrumental in refining our pitch, making it resonate more strongly with our audience. NEXT didn’t just help us grow; it connected us with mentors and partners who shared our vision. Any entrepreneur in Greenville looking for a supportive, dynamic environment would find NEXT an invaluable resource.” – Pedro Escobar, Susu Lend

Storytelling: It’s Vital to Building and Growing a Business from Sales & Marketing to Pitching for Capital

Travis McConkey, of Cultivation Studio, led a Founders Forum presentation focused on how founders can start telling their story and capturing their audience’s attention. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part so having some frameworks to follow is helpful. A big thanks to Travis for coming out and sharing his expertise!

The Essence of Attention Capture

“The target of all business strategy is the human mind.” In a world filled with distractions, the ability to capture and sustain attention is a business’s most prized asset. Moreover, storytelling isn’t just another sales technique; it’s the linchpin to winning over customer attention.

The Ingredients of a Compelling Story

To comprehend what truly engages us in a story, Travis broke down the fundamental building blocks. Narrative arcs, identifiable characters, location in time and space, authentic emotions, and specific details were all vital components highlighted. The real secret, it was explained, lies in the unifying principles across various storytelling frameworks.

The Journey of Value in Storytelling

Travis introduced several storytelling frameworks. The Storynomics framework, which outlines the structure of a compelling narrative stresses that every story should commence by establishing what the protagonist desires or values, setting the stage for the conflicts that drive the narrative. As the story unfolds, the protagonist must invest effort, face challenges, and make sacrifices, introducing conflict and tension into the narrative. Crucially, the story must convincingly show that the desired value is worth the costs and challenges, engaging the audience emotionally, and ultimately, the story must provide a judgment on whether the desired value was achieved.

Frameworks that Guide the Way

We delved into other frameworks such as Pixar’s 22 Rules and the Storybrand approach, a popular guide from Donald Miller. (We actually read the Storybrand as part of the Accelerator program curriculum and highly recommend!) These frameworks provide storytellers with a clear path to crafting engaging narratives with a business’s client or customer as the hero of the story and positioning the Founder as a guide through a process to solve their client’s pain point.

Harnessing the Power of Gaps and Tension

The insights shared about what keeps us hooked in a story were intriguing. Knowledge gaps, emotional gaps, and action loops were highlighted as key components of narrative tension, driving business results. Knowledge gaps stoke curiosity, emotional gaps compel us to seek resolution, and action loops motivate customers to take that all-important next step.

Storytelling isn’t merely a tool; it’s a strategic necessity for capturing your audience’s attention. Whether you’re a marketer, a presenter, or an entrepreneur, mastering the art of storytelling is key to thriving in an attention-scarce world.

Remember, Founders Forums are monthly (with the exception of December and July) so keep your eyes open for the next one coming around the corner!


NEXT unveils Ten Most Exciting Startups in the Region at 3rd annual #StartupGVL Night at the Greenville Drive

Last night, the Greenville Drive hosted the 3rd annual #StartupGVL Night, a night out for innovation and entrepreneurship. Thanks to Village Launch for a lively Village Market on District 356. We loved seeing Walter, the beer-pouring Robot from Hop Robotics in the Front Porch, and Real Motors’ Tesla Recreational Vehicles in the Champions Club. It was an exciting night for Innovation in the Upstate.

Speaking of exciting… NEXT revealed the Ten Most Exciting Startups in the Region, who will be presenting on stage at NEXT Venture Summit on September 12-13th. Check them out!

The Ten Most Exciting Startups in the Region are: 

Boyd Cycling –  a craft wheel manufacturer specializing in high-end wheels for road, gravel, cyclocross, and mountain bikes. BOYD designs, produces, and assembles bicycle wheels made from carbon and alloy right in Greenville, SC. 

CarbonCents – a SaaS platform to provide insight into manufacturing, healthcare, education, and municipalities operations by collecting, measuring, and presenting data efficiently. Enabling quality decisions to reduce costs and emissions while creating a healthy working environment and more sustainable future.

KIYATEC – Kiyatec is disrupting cancer care by accurately predicting patient–specific response and non–response before treatment begins to enable physicians to isolate only the effective treatments for their patients as quickly as possible – making truly personalized medicine a reality.

Rymedi – A blockchain-enabled platform that empowers health workers and patients to improve the quality and efficiency of care by securely linking the patient, provider, institution, employer, and lab, creating a marketplace of health solutions with each module optimized for a client’s unique needs.

ScopeStack – ScopeStack is a unique presales automation tool for IT service providers, enabling engineers to increase efficiency, reduce risk, and improve service margins.

Skillsgapp – Skillsgapp transforms career awareness, access to job pathways, and skill development into engaging mobile video games. Their Skillionaire Games offer a scalable, trackable solution to attracting and growing a sustainable workforce pipeline both meeting a region’s needs and providing access to meaningful careers to students.

StarkRFID – Stark is a proven event and venue management solution provider for some of the world’s biggest brands. Their experience allows them to deliver the security, control, engagement, and intelligence you need to ensure that every event is a success by providing complete RFID solutions (hardware, software, consulting, and consumables) for brands.

SyncMD – Sync.MD® provides patients with superior mobile technology to collect, store, and share their personal health information. Sync.MD® eases the communication burden between disparate electronic medical record systems through patented, innovative technologies that place the patient at the center of their information exchange.

TrebleHook – TrebleHook is a project pursuit platform for architecture, engineering, and construction that helps teams centralize project data, enhance customer relationships, and pursue and land the right projects.

WAVS Custom – WAVS Custom is a music tech company dedicated to fine craftsmanship and better listening alternatives. Their patented process, allowing customers to 3D scan their ears from their cell phones, has made custom-fit earphones & IEM’s accessible and affordable for the first time ever. Each set of WAVS is digitally processed and handcrafted here in the USA.

What To Expect from 2023 NEXT Venture Summit, returning to downtown Greenville on September 12-13

Exciting Announcement: NEXT Venture Summit Returns Better Than Ever!

We’re thrilled to announce that  NEXT Venture Summit is back and ready to make an impact on the #StartupGVL ecosystem – eight years running!

Based on feedback from founders and funders, this year, we’re changing things up a bit and NVS will be a two-day event. We want to get more intentional with dedicating time for more meaningful interactions.

Mark your calendars for September 12th and 13th, 2023, in Greenville, SC for a can’t miss experience connecting capital with customers. 


Investor Match Day: Fueling Connections, Empowering Startups

On Tuesday, September 12th, we’ll kickstart the Summit with our groundbreaking Investor Match Day. This exclusive opportunity invites startups to apply for the chance to send up to two representatives for a unique “speed dating” environment with top investors in the region.

Entrepreneurs and investors will be paired up based on industry compatibility, to engage in 20-minute conversations that aim to be the catalyst for future success. 

And guess what? In between these exciting meetings, we’ve created a dedicated lounge where you can extend conversations, forge new connections, and immerse yourself in a buzzing entrepreneurial atmosphere.

To ensure the quality of interactions, startups must meet specific business criteria to be accepted into Match Day. 

Don’t miss your chance to participate – head over to our application and showcase your venture’s potential.


Calling all investors: we also have an open call just for you

Join us in discovering the most promising startups and be a part of their transformative journey. Head over to our application and sign up. 


Welcome Reception: Setting the Tone

On the evening of Tuesday, September 12th, we’re turning up the excitement with our highly anticipated Welcome Reception. 

Picture yourself on a stunning rooftop overlooking Downtown Greenville, surrounded by like-minded innovators, investors, and industry leaders. 

This stylish gathering sets the stage for what’s to come at our Summit Sessions and offers a prime opportunity to network and build relationships in a relaxed and vibrant setting.

Entry into this event is included in your Summit Sessions tickets, which you can buy soon on our event page

Not able to make it to the Summit Sessions and want to join us for networking? You can also purchase a Welcome Reception only invite. Inventory is limited.


Summit Sessions: Empowering Entrepreneurs, Inspiring Success

The main event takes place on Wednesday, September 13th at the Greenville One Center, with our signature Summit Sessions. 

Prepare to be inspired as remarkable entrepreneurs take the stage to share their success stories, valuable insights, and industry expertise. Their journeys will ignite your entrepreneurial spirit and equip you with the tools and knowledge to accelerate your own venture.

Stage content begins at 9:00AM and will end at 3:00PM. 

Lunch, beverages and snacks will be provided throughout the day. 

Doors will open one hour before stage content begins, so get there early to reserve your seat in the Greenville One Center auditorium! If you’ve purchased a VIP ticket, you will gain early access into the auditorium to reserve your seat.


Event Pricing: Admission into our biggest event of the year

General - $125 Welcome Reception Lunch VIP - $225 Welcome Reception - Early Entry  Summit Sessions Reserved Seating - Early Entry VIP Lounge Lunch Provided - Private Line With new ticket benefits like never before, attendees can choose their experience at the 2023 NEXT Venture Summit.

NEXT Venture Summit is your gateway to invaluable connections, game-changing collaborations, and transformative insights. Save the dates, and get ready to embark on a remarkable journey towards entrepreneurial excellence.

Stay tuned for further updates, and keep an eye out for additional details on our website and social media channels, and by signing up for our event emails

Don’t miss out on his opportunity to shape your future and unlock your entrepreneurial potential at NEXT Venture Summit 2023.

SCRA Supports Scalable Tech Startups Statewide

NEXT Startup Success Program Manager, Peter Micali, highlights the key takeaways from the 2023 SCRA Summit, a state-wide event for scalable startups hosted in Columbia, SC.

While the NEXT staff loves and calls Greenville home, the entire state of South Carolina is committed to supporting tech-enabled, scalable startups. One of the best representations of this support is the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), a state-chartered organization charged with fueling South Carolina’s innovation economy by accelerating technology-enabled growth of academia, entrepreneurship and industry.

For nearly 40 years, SCRA has been an instrumental part of the state’s startup ecosystem, providing grand funding, supporting academic research and local entrepreneurial organizations like NEXT.

I had a blast attending SCRA’s 2023 Summit (road trip!), which had the excellent theme of “Founders First.” Truly a celebration of founders and their impact on the growth of South Carolina’s innovation economy, this year’s summit featured great keynote speakers, fireside chats and of course: founders, founders, founders!

In addition to the wonderful keynote presentation by Joseph Hanna (Chief Product Officer of Magnit Global and Founder/CEO of ENGAGE Talent), the day was thematically structured around the different stages of a startup’s growth journey: Ideation, Development, Accelerate, Scale and Funding. Featuring fireside chats between SCRA moderators and SCRA member companies (startups) from all over the state, this format provided an excellent educational opportunity for the audience, which featured more entrepreneurs than past Summits.

It was invaluable to see the myriad challenges, opportunities, and evolving strategies for startups, and how those change during the lifecycle of a venture.


Education is an important area of focus for NEXT, and it was inspiring to see a statewide organization provide the platform and educational opportunity. Plus, as an added bonus, the Upstate was strongly represented through multiple Greenville-based ventures featured on stage. Incora HealthScopestack and 6AM City were represented in the Ideate, Scale and Fundraising sessions respectively.

In the interest of amplifying that education, we had a couple of key takeaways for founders:

  • Collaboration between support organizations and communities is vital and leads to greater impact
  • SCRA investments and support have led to a $1.5-billion-dollar impact on the state, and have led to the creation of over 5,300 jobs (with an average salary of over $80,000)
  • For founders: metrics, data and deep knowledge of your company’s performance are crucial, particularly when fundraising
  • When building software products, one approach is to start small with essential, well-executed features at launch, then adding customer-requested features from there
  • There are loads of support opportunities for startups from all industries: while SCRA and NEXT skew towards tech/tech-enabled ventures, many other South Carolina ESOs and national programs support startups of all types.

Make sure you check out the following:

A huge thank you and congratulations to the entire SCRA team on a job well done. The NEXT team is excited about the trajectory and momentum of our state’s innovation economy and SCRA is a huge part of that. Finally, if you’re part of a scaling startup located in the Greenville area, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to see how you can get connected to our growing ecosystem.

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 



Susan Durden | 864-735-7516 |

2022 NEXT Venture Summit Conference Shows Powerful Display of Momentum in Greenville, SC

On September 22, over 300 guests converged at the Greenville ONE Center in downtown Greenville, SC for the 7th annual NEXT Venture Summit. Founders, funders, and ecosystem partners joined from across the Carolinas to celebrate the best and brightest startups in the region.

We kicked off the day with the Founders Sessions sponsored by Shumaker Law, an educational series featuring four dynamic discussions ranging from how design choices can impact a company’s growth to how the landscape of investing has changed and tips for navigating the realm of venture capital.

During the Afternoon Summit, our opening keynote featured success stories from the founding team of BetterCloud, while our closing keynote highlighted local entrepreneurial success story, Marty Osborn, and Advoco’s acquisition by Accenture.

And for the main event, we welcomed 30 investor judges to interview our 10 finalist startups on stage in 15-minute lightning rounds. These founders showcased their companies as they fielded tough, educational questions from some of the top minds in venture capital and entrepreneurship.
Hook Security was selected as the Judges’ Choice and will advance to the on-stage competition at Venture Atlanta in October.Hook Security uses its learning platform to train nontechnical users to recognize cybersecurity threats and attacks through humorous training experiences. (pictured above: Eric Weissmann, Executive Director of NEXT with Judge’s Choice winner Adam Anderson, Co-Founder/Chairman of Hook Security Co.)
Closing out the day, conference attendees enjoyed a rooftop afterparty, sponsored by GADC, at Avenue. It was a celebration of all the hardworking entrepreneurs, their supporters, and guests were treated to beautiful views of downtown Greenville. To those who joined us for this year’s events – thank you for being here. We’re proud to be conveners of a growing, vibrant startup community.
Be sure to save space on your calendar in September 2023- we’ll be back at it again – featuring even more startups, making even more connections, all building towards an even stronger ecosystem. We’re just getting started.
About NEXT Venture Summit
The NEXT Venture Summit is a one-day venture capital conference that brings together high-growth entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, world-class speakers, and more to establish Greenville as an innovation and entrepreneurship hub in the Southeast. In its seventh year, this event promises to deliver value to the entire #StartupGVL ecosystem and the surrounding region. For more information, visit
About NEXT
NEXT is an entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps high-impact, knowledge-based companies grow by developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs to it. NEXT currently supports more than 120 knowledge-based companies in Upstate South Carolina. For more information, visit

NEXT Launchpad event awards 8 entrepreneurs with over $125k in prizes

The first-ever #StartupGVL Week was a huge success, with events from ecosystem partners including NEXT,  FlywheelThe Hill Institute at Furman University and the City of Greenville, all collaborating to turn the spotlight on startups.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- April 7, 2022 (Greenville, SC) – The inaugural NEXT Launchpad event was an incredible celebration of early-stage innovation and entrepreneurship! With over 80 applicants for prizes in 6 categories, 8 winners were selected to receive prize packages that, in total, represent more than $100k. 

And the winners are…

In addition, Carl Sobocinski, founder and president of Table 301 Restaurant Group, joined Beth Brotherton for a candid conversation on-stage about facing fear and gaining courage throughout his entrepreneurship journey. NEXT also unveiled the first iteration of the StartupGVL Ecosystem Resource map, which features more than 50 local resources for startups and entrepreneurs in the Greenville region AND had StartupGVL T-shirts for everyone who attended.


NEXT is an entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps high-impact, knowledge-based companies grow by developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs to it. NEXT currently supports over 120 knowledge-based companies in Upstate South Carolina. For more information, visit


Susan Durden | 864-735-7516 |

NEXT Announces new #StartupGVL initiative, bringing together ecosystem partners to champion entrepreneurship


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- April 7, 2022 (Greenville, SC) – At the first-ever NEXT Launchpad event on April 7th, NEXT unveiled the first iteration of the StartupGVL Ecosystem Resource map, which features more than 50 local resources for startups and entrepreneurs in the Greenville region AND had StartupGVL T-shirts for everyone who attended.

StartupGVL ecosystem map

Momentum is building across the Upstate of South Carolina. The region is realizing its potential as an innovation hub and making another storied move to anticipate where the puck is going, not where it’s been. StartupGVL is a destination. It represents the spirit of entrepreneurship and personifies innovation flowing from a diverse set of resources.  From the chefs and foodies following their dreams along Main Street to the software geeks building tech-based businesses on the banks of the Reedy River – StartupGVL provides inspiration, connections and support. We believe that the spirit of innovation and the bold bravery of entrepreneurs will stimulate our entire economy and invigorate an integrated community.


NEXT is an entrepreneurial support organization that attracts and helps high-impact, knowledge-based companies grow by developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs to it. NEXT currently supports over 120 knowledge-based companies in Upstate South Carolina. For more information, visit


Susan Durden | 864-735-7516 |

2021 Innovision Awards Celebration joins Global Entrepreneurship Week Lineup

Mark your calendars for November 9th, when Innovision Awards will be celebrating the power of innovation in South Carolina with their 2021 InnoVision Awards Celebration. You can Register Here for the online event.

In addition to showcasing each of the finalists and announcing the winners in the categories below, they will honor the recipient of the Dr. Charles Townes Individual Achievement Award and recognize the 2021 Ibrahim Janajreh Young Innovator program and students.

Click on the award categories below to view the finalists presentations from the Meet the Finalists Webinar Series, sponsored by the South Carolina Research Authority, earlier this month.

Technology Integration – sponsored by DartPoints
Diversey Holdings Ltd. (Fort Mill)
PunchList USA (Charleston)
QuicksortRx Inc (Charleston) 

Sustainability – sponsored by Milliken & Company
Clemson Composites Center (Greenville)
Ingevity (North Charleston)
GeoMat, LLC (Columbia)

Small Enterprise
Aconabolics LLC (Greenville)
Dru Feeding System LLC (Travelers Rest)
Veterans ASCEND (Simpsonville) 

Education – sponsored by TTI Consumer Power Tools, Inc.
Early College High School, Charleston County School District (Charleston)
IT-oLogy (Columbia)
SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (Greenville)


Technology Development – sponsored by Vikor Scientific
ArchCath LLC (Awendaw)
Elastrin Therapeutics Inc. (Simpsonville)
FRD Accel, LLC (Charleston) 

Community Service
Advoco: Connect for Good GVL (Greenville)
Camp Happy Days (Charleston)
United Way of the Piedmont (Spartanburg)