It’s been a good year for NEXT, the entrepreneurial ecosystem supporting tech innovators in the Upstate, even if it got off to a bumpy start.
NEXT has just released its 2020 impact report, a yearly tradition for the network, which catalogues the number of companies supported, the number of jobs created, total wages, total capital raised, real estate occupation, community impact and more.
The takeaway from 2020?
“Much better than expected,” said Christy Ashkettle, operations manager with NEXT. “Even if some of the numbers might be a bit low compared to 2019, given the disruption of the pandemic, we exceeded expectations, and so did our entrepreneurs.”
Among the 121 companies supported by NEXT — 33 of which were new members in 2020 — 238 jobs were created, bringing the total number of NEXT-supported jobs to 1,528. That’s a dip in terms of growth rate compared to 2018, when the network added 428 new jobs, although it still beats the 204 jobs added in 2019.
Salary-wise, NEXT-supported jobs continue to outpace Greenville County’s median, with average pay sitting at just under $80,000 — or 1.6 times the median.
But by far the most surprising result of 2020 was the amount of funds represented by investors at the network’s annual venture pitch, a conference that brings together venture capital investors and entrepreneurs from across the Southeast.
This year’s conference saw $34.5 billion in funds represented by investors, a sharp increase compared to the $7 billion represented in 2019. For local entrepreneurs, this means a vastly larger pool of money to attract toward their businesses.
“Because last year’s event was virtual, we were able to more than double the amount of VCs and reach people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend our conference,” Ashkettle said.
That allowed NEXT-supported companies to raise $28.6 billion last year, even as the pandemic had led to more weariness among investors.
Ashkettle said the success of the virtual event has inspired the network to adapt this year’s conference in September to be a hybrid of in-person networking and virtual offerings.
“We don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, of course, but we’re going to make sure we cater to what’s best for Greenville and the Southeast,” she said.
NEXT-supported companies have spent 13,184 hours volunteering for the community since the network was founded
The network has brought in a total of $325 million in capital investment since its founding