More than 300 guests united at the Greenville ONE Center for the 7th annual Next Venture Summit on Thursday, including founders, funders and ecosystem partners from across the Carolinas to celebrate the best and brightest startups in the region.
Ten finalists out of 30 semifinalists and 94 applicants — two-thirds of which are Greenville-based — were each presented in front of a panel of judges in a question-and-answer session with some of the country’s top investors. All 10 finalists represented a diverse mix of industries. They all shared their stories and advice when it comes to starting up your own company.
The afternoon summit opened with the BetterCloud story. As the market leader in Zero Touch SaaS (softward-as-a-service) operations, their mission is to make work better by elevating the role of IT. BetterCloud CEO David Politis said he started the company 11 years ago and recently sold majority control to Vista Equity Partners.
Three recurring messages from the summit’s entrepreneurs: always trust your gut; own your expertise and be confident in that; saying “no” sometimes pays off in the long run, and when you are going into business with multiple partners, they must have personalities that will work well together; and create the company you want to work for and work your dream job.
The ten startup finalists were:
Earnnest LLC (Greenville): Earnnest is the largest digital payments platform in the United States to transfer earnest money in real estate transactions and is expanding services to include all transaction types in the real estate industry. “It’s like Venmo for real estate,” said Earnnest CEO Rick Altizer. He said his company helps solve a billion-dollar problem for the real estate industry every year, since there are 2 million transactions a year of attempted fraud. With his secure payment app, they have had 170,000 deposits in Greenville for residential real estate with zero cases of fraud.
Ecobot (Asheville): Ecobot helps companies in the architecture, engineering and construction industries with a workflow-based mobile/cloud platform, regulatory expertise and native integrations with partners. Their vision is to leverage data and climate change resilience through the digitization of manual pen-and-paper field work and making decisions in real time, said Ecobot CEO Lee Lance.
Girlology (Greenville): Girlology is a digital health platform designed to help every girl feel confident and informed about her changing body and mind with grade-by-grade mom and daughter support. Girlology CEO Dr. Melisa Holmes left her medical practice as a pediatric gynecologist in 2019 to pursue bringing this app to life. “I can make a bigger impact here than seeing 30 patients a day at the office,” she said. This app is for moms looking to help their daughters get better experience learning about her body and how it works.
Hook Security Inc. (Greenville): Training for nontechnical users to recognize cybersecurity threats and attacks through humorous training experiences. This next-level cybersecurity is more geared toward psychological security and is meant to retrain the brain to detect manipulation and give time to process versus just reacting to a phishing threat. The length of content is shorter and more entertaining to allow for consumers to digest easier while keeping them safe from cyberattacks. “Makes learning about cybersecurity worthwhile,” said Hook Security co-founder Adam Anderson.
Lucid Drone Technologies (Charlotte): Lucid builds robots that perform labor-intensive tasks, starting with drones that can clean windows, roofs and nearly every building surface up to eight times faster with less liability. CEO Andrew Ashur said the company targets existing cleaning companies to get jobs done safer and more efficiently, and the racing industry especially is a major target for them.
Momtech Inc. (Charlotte): Momtech makes products that solve problems for moms and babies by replicating the natural biomechanics of nursing. “This is the vitamin and the pain killer for moms,” said CEO and co-founder Hal Eason. This new type of baby bottle gives moms peace of mind by not disrupting her breastfeeding cycle, which gives her more freedom to get things done for herself that she needs, he said.
Omedym (Liberty): Omedym digitizes the B2B buying experience by empowering the buyer to buy and equipping sellers with digital guided product experiences. Founder and CEO Greg Dickinson said they focus on everyday content and the average increase in sales for their customers is 20%.
ProAxion (Cary): ProAxion connects the nation’s manufacturing machines with IoT and leveraging cloud-based predictive maintenance analytics to improve machine availability. CEO Eric Murray said his company’s technology provides early warning to manufacturers and the root cause of their machine issues. A few of their top clients are 3M and Cargill.
Scopestack (Greenville): ScopeStack is a software platform that automates part of the sales process for IT companies. CEO and founder Jon Scott said their platform provides a modern software solution for presales and a self-service experience.
TestedHQ (Mauldin): TestedHQ is a product development research company providing real-time end-user feedback to consumer product companies. Founder and CEO Michael D’Onofrio said his company redefines research for power tool users with a new way to test power tool products. One of their top clients is Harbor Freight.
Hook Security was selected as the Judges' Choice and will advance to the on-stage competition at Venture Atlanta in October.
The summit closed out with keynote speaker Marty Osborn. His dream was to be mentioned in Forbes magazine, which took 10 years for him to do — but he did it.
The Next Venture Summit is a one-day venture capital conference that brings together high-growth entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, world-class speakers and others to establish Greenville as an innovation and entrepreneurship hub in the Southeast. For more information, visit www.nextventuresummit.com.
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 the Upstate. For more information, visit www.nextsc.org.
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