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NEXT establishes a fund to grow Greenville-based startups

The early-stage fund comes from dozens of investor commitments in the Upstate.


The fund expects to make 8-10 investments over the next 18 months. | Photo by GVLtoday

$6 million. That’s how much capital local entrepreneurs want to pour into the next generation of startups in Greenville.

“It is Greenville founders investing in Greenville founders, the next generation.”

It’s called the NEXT Founders Fund, announced yesterday by NEXT — an entrepreneur support organization working with local investors and their ventures as they develop their ideas.

The fund — slated to close at the end of this month — will be run by Scott Millwood and Shay Houser, co-founders of Deal Strategies, who have each successfully founded and exited high-growth companies in Greenville.


“How do we help founders get to the next level?” Scott Millwood asked. | Photo by GVLtoday

“We don’t have enough fast-growing businesses in Greenville.”

Scott made the announcement highlighting the support NEXT is able to provide beyond funding, helping local startups feel the support beyond the capital. Local investors provide education and mentorship through NEXTs programs, allowing them to spend time with the next generation of founders.

If you’re interested in earning an investment from the NEXT Founders Fund, the first step is to make a connection with the organization and its members.

“We want to invest in lines, not dots,” Scott explains. “NEXT gives us a way as investors and limited partners in that fund to get to know the founder before we make that investment decision.”


“It’s invaluable,” Michael said of the knowledge NEXT has provided him as a founder. | Videos by the City of Greenville

“We can get you funding, but we’re going to be hands on.”

Michael Middleton, founder and CEO of SafeHelipad, is the first recipient of capital from the NEXT Founders Fund.

He developed his software platform to help manage helipads, helidecks, and vertiports for safety and compliance. Michael says it was inspired by his time flying helicopters in the Marine Corps, including providing helicopter transport for President Barack Obama.

“What I found is, with helipads, landing zones and heliports there is very little technology and knowledge-sharing being applied. That creates risk,” Michael explained. “We created SafeHelipad to address that and we’re doing it from right here in Greenville, SC.”

He lauds the caliber, quality, and grace of people in Greenville, calling them “phenomenal” as he builds his company.

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