Creating a network of active, engaged entrepreneurs is critical for growing a region’s economy. In Upstate South Carolina, the creation and scaling of NEXT has generated thousands of new innovation-based jobs, hundreds of millions in new capital investment and more, as evidenced by the organization’s annual impact report.
Over the years, we also realized that coalescing entrepreneurs and connecting them into the larger community produces other favorable outcomes that no one could have predicted. Here are a few examples of the unplanned successes that emerged in our region:
- Iron Yard Ventures – South Carolina’s first technology accelerator was launched by local entrepreneur Peter Barth with assistance from NEXT in 2011. It went on to attract over twenty new tech ventures to the area including market leader ChartSpan and led to the creation of Iron Yard Code School which became the largest private coding school in the United States. Leaders from Iron Yard Code School went on to launch a local nonprofit, Build Carolina Corporation, that today teaches coding through Carolina Code School and exposes South Carolinians to coding as a potential career path with SC Codes.
- TEDxGreenville – The first TEDx conference in South Carolina was launched by NEXT and local entrepreneur Peter Waldschmidt to highlight local innovators in technology, entertainment and design. The conference continues today and attracts innovators, students, artists and others from around the region to connect and hear new ideas.
- NEXT High School – Entrepreneur Zach Eikenberry, a former educator turned tech entrepreneur, brought his idea for an innovation-centric public high school to the community and engaged NEXT and the larger entrepreneur family to make it a reality. Today, NEXT High School operates two campuses across the Upstate where new education methods are employed to teach traditional school topics intertwined with innovation and entrepreneurship principles to several hundred students every year.
When the Upstate region began emphasizing entrepreneurship as an economic development strategy years ago, we didn’t realize all the benefits it would generate. In addition to creating high-value jobs and wealth that only entrepreneurship can, I can’t wait to see what else this group of energized, inspired innovators produces in the years to come.
John Moore is venture partner with Material Capital Partners of Charleston and principal with Momenteum Strategies, a Greenville consulting firm specializing in developing innovation-based strategies for economic development organizations and communities.