New leader for entrepreneurial organization to start in September see more
Entrepreneur Eric Weissmann has been named the new Executive Director of NEXT, an entrepreneur support organization in Greenville, SC that has impacted more than 120 companies, who in turn have raised $28 million in capital. NEXT provides connections to mentoring, capital, facilities, and access to a peer community of aspiring founders across the region.
Weissmann was part of the founding team at Cintrifuse, a similar ecosystem catalyst, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he serves as Vice President of External Relations. Weissmann launched “StartupCincy,” an initiative that started as a simple social media hashtag and bloomed into a full-fledged, connected community. He previously worked in the marketing and creative services industries. Weissmann has helped establish the Disney Cruise Line brand leading up to the maiden voyage of the Disney Magic.
“I’m excited by the opportunity and encouraged by the amount of collaboration I already see in the Greenville community,” said Weissmann. “We’re at a unique moment in time where cities across the country are fostering entrepreneurship by leveraging their unique strengths to attract talent and dollars with the goal of increasing economic development. Greenville’s got the raw materials to make a huge impact on the region and I’m ready to get to work!”
Find Great People led a nationwide, comprehensive search. The interview committee selected Weissmann because of his extensive experience developing innovation ecosystems, supporting entrepreneurs in securing venture capital, leading diversity and inclusion programs, and supporting ventures from concept to exit.
“Eric embodies the qualities we desired in the leader of NEXT: a proven leader with experience building world-class ecosystems for start-ups and developing innovative, collaborative teams and communities where entrepreneurs can thrive,” said Carlos Phillips, Greenville Chamber President/CEO.
NEXT was founded in 2006 and has three locations including NEXT Innovation, NEXT on Main and NEXT Manufacturing.
“As we look to the future, NEXT has a goal of tripling investment in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we serve,” said Scott Millwood, Chair of NEXT. “Under Weissmann’s leadership, we are confident NEXT will have the strategic and visionary leadership needed to accomplish these goals.”
The City of Greenville is an investor in NEXT, as part of its Economic Development strategy to attract small and medium sized companies that provide high wage, knowledge-based jobs. The Greenville Area Development Corporation (GADC) is also an active supporter.
“NEXT is the vehicle the city utilizes to support early-stage scalable businesses,” said Greenville City Manager John McDonough. “We ‘get’ entrepreneurs and the dreams that drive them. Hiring a founder who has successfully started companies, grown companies and marketed companies, to lead the NEXT organization showcases our commitment to becoming “the place” for brilliant minds to start and grow their business.”
Weissmann is expected to begin in September.
NEXT, launched as a production of the Greenville Chamber in 2006, 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 over 120 knowledge-based companies in Upstate South Carolina. For more information, visit www.nextsc.org
Program to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action see more
In partnership with the City of Greenville, Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC), and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is launching a new program this fall called GVL STARTS. The program is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action by connecting them with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and teaching them the skills they need to fund and grow their ventures.
GVL STARTS builds on the success of a “business and innovation boot camp” that the Institute launched for Furman students in 2018. After the students completed the boot camp, a select number received internship placements, funded by GLDC, with early-stage NEXT member companies.
“Engaging with the Greenville community is nothing new to Furman,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s Chief Innovation Officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “GVL STARTS is one of the many new ways we are collaborating with community partners to grow a culture of innovation and position Greenville as a national hub for entrepreneurship.”
According to Bryan Davis, Managing Director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Program Director for GVL STARTS, while startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, over 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation.
“Fortunately, a community like Greenville, which is fueled by collaboration and driven by a can-do spirit, has the opportunity to flip the script in an inclusive and equitable fashion,” said Davis. “There is a critical mass of collaboration partners around the table supporting the GVL STARTS program, and ultimately, the aspiring entrepreneur or founder. To me, that is the magical element of this. It’s not just about the great training, it’s about the connections and experience you’ll have that will absolutely give you a leg up to be successful in Greenville, regardless of your background, race, gender, age, etc.”
The eight-week program, which will be offered twice a year, begins on August 17, and is limited to 25 participants. Sessions will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their idea or new venture during the final week for a chance to win $5,000 to assist with initial startup costs and free desk space for one year in the heart of downtown, surrounded by other entrepreneurs, investors and support organizations.
According to Greenville City Manager John McDonough, GVL STARTS helps address the challenges facing every aspiring entrepreneur – the accessibility of training, connections and resources – and exemplifies the type of partnerships that Greenville is known for.
“Greenville is more than a vibrant place to visit and an affordable place to live. It’s a thriving community for entrepreneurs,” said McDonough. “We welcome, support and collaborate with innovators, and the GVL STARTS program powered by Furman will provide the educational workshops, coaching and networking they need to build confidence and ensure success.”
GVL STARTS is open to aspiring entrepreneurs from all demographics and business categories.
The deadline to apply is Friday, August 6 and the cost is $299. Need-based scholarships are available. Applications will be reviewed by an outside committee and the first group of participants will be announced on Wednesday, August 11.
The Institute offers a 30-minute virtual information session on GVL STARTS on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. Register for an information session. For all media inquiries regarding GVL Starts please contact Bryan Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Toyota executive to drive university’s innovation agenda see more
Furman University has taken another step to deeply engage its students and the greater Greenville community in innovation and entrepreneurship by naming Anthony Herrera the university’s first chief innovation officer, effective July 1.
In his new role, Herrera will create opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in entrepreneurial and innovative activities, build corporate and professional development certificates and drive the university’s innovation agenda.
He will also continue in his role as executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Furman I&E), which has built a strong foundation of relationships with public and private organizations and community leaders in Greenville, the Upstate and across South Carolina.
“Anthony has led the way in creating an innovation and entrepreneurial environment at Furman, both within the university and with state and local organizations,” said Furman University President Elizabeth Davis. “This new title recognizes the work that Anthony has already been doing — expanding and enhancing opportunities for students and helping our university work more innovatively with the community.”
Other universities across the country are creating chief innovation officer positions. The new roles reflect a convergence of factors happening in higher education, Herrera said.
“There is a need to deliver increased value and more opportunities for students, to be a contributor to communities in solving our greatest challenges, and to do this in ways that are financially sustainable,” he said.
For Furman, Herrera said, Greenville is becoming distinguished as an innovation and entrepreneurial hub among mid-size cities, “so the city’s putting intentional effort and resources toward this and the university can come alongside and be catalytic for greater impact. When the university and the city work together for common goals, everyone wins.”
As Greenville thrives, the opportunities for students include increased internship and job placements, and access to expert speakers and mentors from the business and non-profit sectors. Meanwhile, Furman continues to be a source of talent for the local area.
Herrera also will lead an effort to increase the offering of corporate and professional development programs and non-degree certificate programs, such the Women’s Leadership Institute, Design Thinking and Adaptive Leadership.
Furman I&E, which was named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center in 2020 by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, has already established relationships with area innovation organizations. In December 2020, Furman I&E joined the City of Greenville’s economic development team, NEXT and VentureSouth, to co-locate in offices in downtown. It also will launch this fall a program called GVL Starts, an eight-week experience that teaches community members how to launch a successful venture and provides access to coaching, mentoring and start-up grants needed to make it happen. The Greenville Local Development Corporation, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the City of Greenville and Venture South are all partners in the program.
“This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of a leading liberal arts and sciences university in a city that is being recognized on a national and global level, and at a time that is such a pivotal moment in higher education,” Herrera said. “Furman has all the right ingredients to be a national leader in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship and an integral partner to the city and Upstate’s entrepreneurial and innovation community.”
Before coming to Furman in 2018, Herrera spent more than 18 years in talent management and development roles for global organizations, including as the former leader for Toyota Motor North America’s executive succession and leadership development team. Prior to Toyota, Herrera served as the executive director at SMU Cox School of Business and launched a nationally recognized center of excellence assisting Fortune 1,000 and non-profits recruit, retain and develop diverse leaders. Herrera earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the SMU Cox School of Business.
Furman cited for excellence by global organization see more
Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, a group of more than 250 universities.
Other recipients of the 2020 award were Boston University, Eastern Washington University and Smith College. The centers, which had to have been nominated for the award within five years of launching, were judged on early success, engagement with stakeholders on and off campus, an established management team, novel or unique approaches and clearly established goals and objectives. Winners in recent years include Dartmouth College, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech and Babson College.
“This recognition is a testament to Furman’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and the unparalleled support by the campus community, alumni, parents, community members, administration and Board of Trustees,” said Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “In just two short years, we have built a globally recognized institute and paved a way for Furman to lead nationally among liberal arts and sciences universities in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
According to Herrera, three strengths set Furman apart from other universities.
“Our engaged faculty and students from across disciplines; strong ties with the community, including city and state government organizations as well as local venture capital groups; and a core group of alumni and parents who provide financial support, make the effort self-sustaining,” he noted.
“This award signals that a liberal arts and sciences education can be a catalyst for innovation, that students who come to Furman can have a profoundly impactful experience as innovators and entrepreneurs regardless of their choice of major,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “We are grateful that the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers recognized Furman’s role in creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for our students, faculty and the community.”
“The heart of innovation and entrepreneurship is creativity, in identifying opportunities and solving problems,” said Kem Wilson III ’98, a Furman trustee and alumnus, principal of Kemmons Wilson Companies and supporter of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The entrepreneurial experience Furman students can experience will benefit them regardless of their career path.” Wilson’s grandfather founded Holiday Inn. The company that bears his name now manages a diverse portfolio of companies spanning a myriad of industries, from hospitality to green technology to consumer brands.
Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship sprang from The Furman Advantage and its focus on self-discovery, engaging the community and experiential education. It launched in August 2018 with Herrera’s hiring and has become “a perfect vehicle to encourage cross-disciplinary thinking and provide students, faculty and community members a place to participate in engaged learning experiences,” Herrera said.
Early successes include:
- A pitch competition that attracted more than 80 student competitors and culminated in the most-attended pitch competition in South Carolina’s history; 530 people attending the final round between six students, where $30,000 in startup grants were awarded.
- The Summer Business & Innovation virtual boot camp that has attracted 42 students from 10 universities across the Southeast. Following the boot camp, the City of Greenville funded 10 student internships with local startup ventures.
- A virtual academy for high school students that led 62 teens from 11 states and 11 countries through a capstone project to pitch a venture in innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability or community health.
- The “Class E Podcast,” produced in partnership with the Furman Department of Communication Studies, which presents biweekly talks and interviews with entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors from the Furman network. Fourteen episodes have drawn more than 1,000 listeners.
- “Leading in Times of Crisis,” a series of six virtual workshops for corporate, entrepreneurial and nonprofit leaders that attracted more than 1,000 registrants.
- Collaborations, partnerships and ongoing relationships with organizations, including the City of Greenville, SCBIO, Upstate SC Alliance, Greenville Area Development Corporation, Build Carolina, Village Launch, NEXT, 6AM and VentureSouth.
In addition to continuing and expanding its programs, Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship has extensive plans to become more engaged and integrated with Greenville, the Upstate and South Carolina. Herrera expects to make several announcements over the coming months about partnerships with corporate and community stakeholders.
SCRA, SBA form Strategic Alliance to further economic development, innovation see more
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s S.C. District has partnered with SCRA to form a Strategic Alliance Memorandum.
The alliance is expected to further economic development through entrepreneurship, educational opportunities and access to capital and technical assistance.
“We recognize the common goals of SCRA and SBA in helping start, maintain and expand small businesses,” R. Gregg White, S.C. SBA district director, said in a statement. “This is an opportunity to leverage the resources of both organizations for the benefit of South Carolina small businesses.”
Bob Quinn, SCRA’s executive director, joined White in signing the memorandum at the Applied Technologies Center in Summerville.
“By supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and early-stage companies, we are creating opportunities for the citizens of South Carolina,” Quinn said. “We are excited to formalize our relationship with the S.C. SBA and look forward to our future collaborations with their team.”
SCRA, chartered in 1983, is a public nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs and academic research and connects industry to innovators.