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April 15, 2021 (Greenville, SC) – NEXT Vice President and co-founder Brenda Laakso will be parting ways with the organization as she pursues other passions after an incredible era of dedication to NEXT, of which she was an integral power in chartering.

Laakso was part of the original team who ventured out to form NEXT as an initiative of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce in early 2006. Under Laakso’s leadership, NEXT has surpassed many milestones, such as the opening of the NEXT Innovation Center facility, the creation of The Upstate Carolina Angel Network (now VentureSouth),  the launch of the first TEDxGreenville event in the region, and the foundation and sustained growth of the NEXT Venture Mentoring Service program and its accomplished volunteer mentor community.

As she prepares for her departure, Laakso says “I have enjoyed my time here and will fondly remember the community members that have supported our efforts throughout my time at NEXT. As new leadership is installed, NEXT will continue on its path to do what we set out to do from day one, which is to support entrepreneurs in a manner that enables their long-term growth.” Transitional activities have already begun ahead of Laakso’s departure date of April 23rd.

As a celebrated member of the NEXT team, Laakso’s departure marks fifteen years of blood, sweat, and tears with the organization that grew from a Chamber in-house initiative to an independent entrepreneurial support organization (ESO). Interim CEO Ken Brower remarks “The impact that Brenda’s leadership has had on the local ecosystem throughout her time at NEXT cannot be understated. While she will be missed dearly, the fruits of her dedication to the NEXT mission and entrepreneurs over the years will be visible for a long time to come.”

NEXT is currently undergoing the search for a permanent CEO and announced its “3xNEXT” initiative to triple NEXT’s impact by broadening the number of entrepreneurs served in the region, scaling the resources it currently provides to entrepreneurs, and maximizing the capabilities for support of innovation within the local ecosystem.



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  

Contact: Susan Durden, NEXT | 864-735-7516 |