Nearly 300 guests congregated at the Greenville One Center on Sept. 13 for the eighth annual Next Venture Summit, including founders and investors, and entrepreneur ecosystem partners across the region.
Moderator and host Johannes Mutzke, partner of BlueInc Strategies, set up the event, calling it a “lens” for the startup community.
“Helping companies wherever they are in their entrepreneurial journey take that next step,” he said. “Where you think affects what you think.”
VistGreenvilleSC President Heath Dillard moved to Greenville 10 months ago and one of the things he found when stepping into his new role with the nonprofit tourism organization is the community was at an inflection point with organizations like Next influencing tourism from a broader perspective.
“Our goal is to leverage tourism to make a positive impact on our community,” he said. “We are going to do it through the lens of elevating quality of life and prosperity for our community. So we want to collaborate with organizations like Next. We know that if we can continue to change the perception of what we have, not just the leisure community but a place where people can go to college, stay after college to work, and start businesses or move businesses here. We can impact not just the tourism industry but the entire community.”
Tips and tricks for early-stage startups
The first keynote speaker was Chris Heivly, cofounder of MapQuest and managing director of Build the Fort.
He said taking pride in the place you live creates a sense of community — people who care about the same things, who support one another.
“Entrepreneurship drives communities,” said Heivly. “It’s about being in a place that builds communities that set up a place for entrepreneurs to thrive. You can’t drive your community without founders. Ecosystems are like children. They should never be compared. Entrepreneurship is a complex theory.”
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So the question Heivly posed was: as a company, do you continue to evolve or be part of the revolution?
“Companies need to realize that my win is not their loss,” Heivly said. “Collaborate and share ideas, because when the community wins, you win.”
When it comes to an investor and founder relationship, Cultivation Capital cofounder and Managing Director Cliff Holekamp and ScopeStack CEO and cofounder Jon Scott talked about the importance of building relationships before trying to make a pitch for your startup capital.
Scott said he started having conversations and building a relationship with Cultivation Capital, an investor in ScopeStack, about two years before discussing the capital aspect of the deal.
“It’s easier to make a multimillion-dollar decision in a 60-day period when I’ve known the person for nearly two years and finding someone who is heavily involved in the community,” said Holekamp. “It’s less risk than someone with minimal-to-no community presence.”
Another word of advice from Holekamp: Don’t pitch until you’re ready because the nature of the relationship changes once you ask for capital.
“Get to know your potential investors ahead of time and ask what you need to do to get to the next round of funding,” said Holekamp.
Also at the summit, the nonprofit organization named its top 10 most exciting startups in the Upstate:
Hiring and scaling for company growth
“It’s not what you do but who you do it with,” said Marty Osborn, managing director of Advoco, which is now a part of Accenture. “Great people will take care of themselves and their customers.”
Osborn and Cocoa Experience Inc. CEO Derek Pedersen shared their rules for building a world-class team and growing your business.
- Hiring is hard work — “It’s a professional sport,” said Pedersen.
- Know yourself — take DiSC and other personality assessments to know who you are and in turn who you want to hire.
- Expose your company’s appeal — you have to know your company really well to be able to talk it up. People want to know exactly why they should work there and what will keep them there.
- Know what you need — identifying the role and what winning looks like. “To be unclear is to be unkind,” said Osborn.
- It’s always 100% your fault — take accountability for your hiring faults. This is not a metric but a mindset. “If you don’t believe this, you can’t build a world-class team, because you won’t fix what’s wrong,” said Pedersen. Osborn said employers tend to hire for themselves versus what’s best for the team.
- If you follow the rules, you can trust your gut.
For more information on Next and the annual Venture Summit visit https://nextsc.org/.