Nashville's Top Entrepreneurs and Startups Recognized at 2018 NEXT Awards + Entrepreneurs' Hall of Fame

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The 2018 NEXT Awards + Entrepreneurs' Hall of Fame, held November 7, 2018, at Rocketown celebrated the rebels, visionaries, and game changers who have made a significant impact on the economy in Middle Tennessee. All stages of companies, from emerging startups to well-established market movers, were celebrated by over 500 attendees during this SOLD OUT event as contributors to making Nashville one of the best cities in the U.S. to start a business.


Technology Startup: Acumen Technology

Sonny Clark, CEO of Acumen, accepted the award for Technology Startup, and shared his tip for future entrepreneurs looking for ways to navigate Nashville’s many resources is to, “personally, get involved.”

Technology Market Mover: Campaign Monitor

The winner of the Technology Market Mover award was Campaign Monitor, whose CEO, Wellford Dillard, said it was an exciting time to be a Nashville startup. “We’ve got a lot more acquisitions coming down the road,” he said. And as a result, “we’re moving a tremendous amount of jobs to Nashville.”

Products and Services Startup: JumpCrew

Robert Henderson, CEO of JumpCrew, accepted the award for the 2018 NEXT Products and Services Startup. Henderson offered some advice to future startups on how to find and recruit the best talent.

Products and Services Market Mover: Music City Tents & Events

The 2018 NEXT Award for Products and Services Market Mover was presented to Music City Tents & Events for their work as the largest event rental business in the Southeast. President Joe Freedman echoed what many others felt gave them an advantage as a startup, saying, “Nashville is the best business community that you could start a business in, by far.”

Navigation Partner: Pathway Women's Business Center

Pathway Women’s Business Center was the recipient of this year’s Navigation Partner award. Director Courtenay Rogers accepted the award and shared why she works so hard to navigate clients to the education, capital, and resources available to them. “It feels great to be making a difference, and truly helping small business owners get what they need,” she said.

Family Business Startup: 312 Pizza Company

The Family Business Startup award was presented to 312 Pizza Company. Staci Wolff accepted the award and revealed a few ingredients needed to create a successful family startup: “We have an amazing team, and you can’t do something this big without an amazing team.”

Family Business Market Mover: Advance Financial

The 2018 NEXT Award for Family Business Market Mover was presented to Advance Financial, a family owned and operated multi-state fintech company that delivers instant lending decisions and brick-and-mortar money services. Advance Financial is aggressively investing in the expansion of its market presence, and was named as 2018's fourth fastest growing company in the Nashville market by The Nashville Business Journal.

Social Enterprise and Sustainability Startup: Hytch

Returning to the NEXT Awards was Mark Cleveland, Co-Founder & CEO of Hytch, who won this year for Social Enterprise and Sustainability Startup. In 2014, Mr. Cleveland won for Entrepreneur of 2014. “It seems like ages ago,” he said. “And we think we’re an upstart not a startup.”

Social Enterprise and Sustainability Market Mover: Soles4Souls

The 2018 NEXT Award for Social Enterprise and Sustainability Market Mover was presented to Soles4Souls, the Nashville-based nonprofit organization that disrupts the cycle of poverty by creating sustainable jobs and providing relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world. CEO Buddy Teaster accepted the award.

Intrapreneurial Company of 2018: Vaco

Jerry Bostelman, CEO & Founder of Vaco Global, accepted the award for Intrapreneurial Company of 2018. After sixteen years, he shared one of the secrets to remaining entrepreneurial: “We’re always just getting started,” he said.

Music and Media/Entertainment Startup: Hurdl Inc.

Hurdle, Inc. founder and CEO Betsy McHugh accepted this year's Music and Media/Entertainment Startup award. She explained why Nashville is one of the best cities for music startups. “This community is full of tech, smart, innovative people, and I love running the business out of Nashville,” she said.

Music and Media/Entertainment Market Mover: Moo TV

The recipient of the 2018 NEXT award for Music and Media/Entertainment Market Mover went to Moo TV, whose owner Scott Scovill offered up what many others did was their advice to future startups, seeking out Nashville’s entrepreneurial community. “It changed my life,” he said.

Healthcare Startup: GreenLight Medical

The 2018 NEXT Award for Healthcare Startup was presented to GreenLight Medical, a cloud-based software company that serves as an all-in-one portal for new medical technology procurement. GreenLight Medical offers a collaborative platform between hospital systems and medical suppliers, coordinating and streamlining medical technology evaluation and potential adoption within a facility, ultimately helping new medtech to reach physicians hands to enhance patient care.

Healthcare Market Mover: axialHealthcare

The 2018 NEXT Award for Healthcare Market Mover was presented to axialHealthcare, a team of physicians, scientists, pharmacists, and technologists focused exclusively on pain and opioid care. axialHealthcare partners with state governments and health insurers nationwide to optimize pain care outcomes, reduce opioid misuse, and materially improve financial performance by identifying what is happening within a pain population and assist with the implementation of a custom solution based on specific needs.

Game Changer: IQuity, Inc.

Chase Spurlock, founder & CEO of IQuity, Inc., accepted the 2018 NEXT Award for Game Changer and shared why Nashville is the silicon valley of healthcare. “We are very lucky to have an ecosystem that is supportive of young companies and has the mentors that are capable of supporting us as we grow.”

Young Entrepreneur of 2018: Josh Durham, Weighting Comforts

The Young Entrepreneur of 2018 award was presented to Josh Durham, co-founder and CEO of Weighting Comforts. Launched from his parent's garage, Durham has since grown the business to over fifty employees, and partnered with a non-profit organization that provides sewing machines and sewing classes for international refugees that have been resettled in Middle Tennessee.

Entrepreneur of 2018: Michael Burcham

Michael Burcham is no stranger to the Entrepreneur Center or many of the winners of the NEXT awards tonight. As founding President and CEO of the EC, and now Entrepreneur of 2018, his win tonight brings things full circle. Mr. Burcham reminded future entrepreneurs and startups that the “the entire backbone of entrepreneurship is really knowing how to have a sound business model that scales.”


This year the Nashville Entrepreneur Center also welcomed three new inductees into its prestigious Entrepreneurs' Hall of Fame. This honor celebrates visionary business leaders and companies who have laid a foundation of support and helped foster entrepreneurship in Nashville.

Ron Samuels

One of those inductees, Ron Samuels, founder of Avenue Bank and now chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners, offered some advice to Nashville’s next business leaders as they continue to scale up and recruit new talent. “Instead of hiring for the skill set, hire for an attitude,” he said. “There’s very little difference in people, the little difference is attitude, the big difference is whether it’s positive or negative.”

Scott Borchetta

A positive attitude is what fellow Hall of Fame inductee Scott Borchetta, founder and CEO of Big Machine Label Group, credits for some of his success. When asked what he would say to his younger self thirteen years ago before becoming the number one independent record label in the world, he said, “don’t give up. It’s going to be okay!”

Tom Cigarran

The final Hall of Fame inductee, Tom Cigarran, co-founder of both AmSurg Corporation and Healthways and chairman of the Nashville Predators, reflected on his career and what he is most proud of: “The people I worked with, the way they felt and still feel about the companies that we ran and built.”

All three of these innovative leaders have made an indelible mark on Music City and represent both the great past and bright future of Nashville.

The podcast for the 2018 NEXT Awards is presented by the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. These interviews, and others like them, will be featured in Navigate, a new podcast coming soon from the EC highlighting stories of Nashville's entrepreneurs. Sign up to be notified first at ec.co/podcast. This podcast is a production of Relationary Marketing.