JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- A local entrepreneur network is re-branding into a nonprofit that hopes to shape the region’s economic future. The Startup Tri-Cities network will now be known as ‘FoundersForge.’ Members of this new organization believe the region has the potential to become a hotbed for tech startups over the next decade. A launch event was held at Spark Plaza in downtown Johnson City on Thursday night.
FoundersForge is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a structured staff to foster startup growth in the region. One goal is helping develop 100 startups in the region in 10 years.
“We’re looking at the Appalachian Highlands, saying how can we effectively curate events and experiences that help entrepreneurs and startups?” said FoundersForge board member Jose Castillo.
“Really our focus is high-growth startups,” said FoundersForge Director David Nelson. “We’re very much looking towards the tech businesses, the apps, the services, the devices. Businesses in that direction. We feel we can curate and support those best.”
FoundersForge is planning pitch events and an entrepreneur summit. The approach is centered around regionalism.
“We’ve had amazing volunteer organizations, government organizations that have been doing great work in their individual cities, counties, and areas. But this is really a concerted effort for the entire region,” said Castillo.
The launch of FoundersForge comes in wake of new reports released this month from Washington and Sullivan County’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. The reports identified entrepreneurial development as a key strategy for the region’s economic growth.
Event hosts recognized current successful regional startups, such as ActionVFX and Stone Mountain Technologies as showing the potential for growing others.
Of the 100 startups they hope to foster in the next decade, they hope at least 10 will be successful.
“We want 10 companies that are either well-funded, they bootstrap themselves to success, they’re hiring people, and they’re stable. That to us is a successful startup,” said Nelson.
“Right here in this whole little pocket of Northeast Tennessee, the opportunities are just incredible, and people don’t know it yet,” said Nelson.