Belief in the Underdogs

We believe in the underdog Entrepreneurs in the Appalachian Highlands and helping them on their Startup journeys

The Mission

Our Mission is to be the catalyst behind all successful startups in the Appalachian Highlands and beyond

Start Here. Build Here. Stay Here.

Our Region is an Incredible Place for Startups to Thrive

Our Region was Built on Innovation
The forges in Johnson City glowed brightly as hardworking Americans forged their future with new technology and innovation. Eastman built a city around an innovative venture. Bristol is the birthplace of country music. Innovation has always happened here. Medical devices, products, and services have started in our region and scaled to success.

The Forge Ignites Once Again
Now its your turn to carry the torch of innovation once again. A new future awaits those that seize it. Our region’s future will be built by hardworking Americans that pioneer new technologies and develop new products that don’t just impact our region, but the world around us.

Our region’s quality of life, outdoor resources, and ease of access to business opportunities set us apart from other places in the Southeast.

It’s time to #StartTheForge once again and build our future together.

Launching a Startup is Hard. But You’re Not Alone.
We became a 501(c)3 non-profit to provide the connections and support you need to achieve success in your new ventures. We are constantly making connections to the local, state, and National Startup Organizations (NSOs), venture firms, and government entities.

FoundersForge is building a stronger network to help Startups cut through the red tape, find meaningful connections, and support our local Entrepreneurs through community, high-impact programming, and creative spaces to meet as well as work.

FoundersForge does not charge for it’s mentoring and advising services. And we rarely charge for our events. We believe in a give before you get mentality and we know our Startups will give back to the Startup ecosystem if we support them every step of the way.

This is why we are FoundersForge

You Are Why We Exist

Founders of the Forge

of the Forge

The FoundersForge Team Consists of Entrepreneurs, Early Startup Team Members, and Those Dedicated to the Entrepreneurial Success of Our Region

David Nelson


David Nelson is a serial Entrepreneur that has started 5 companies, lived in multiple Startup ecosystems, and loves helping Startups start small and scale quickly.

David believes the key to our region's success is through Entrepreneurship.


Karlee Goodwin

Chief Operations Officer

Karlee Goodwin knows Startup ecosystems. She was the Community Director of Atlanta Tech Village and has worked for multiple Startups.

Karlee believes culture is the key to any company's success.

Rodolphe Pierre-Louis

Entrepreneur in Residence

Rodolphe Pierre-Louis is and award winning film maker and CEO of ActionVFX, an industry leading special effects company based out of Johnson City.

Rodolphe believes focus should be a key part of any Startup Founder's work.

Jose Castillo

Host | MC

Jose Castillo is a serial Entrepreneur, host of NASCAR Live, and inspirational speaker that brings flavor into everything that he does.

Jose believes that everyone needs to stay Spicy and share their uniqueness with the world around them.

Ryan Hayes

Technology Ambassador

Ryan Hayes is the founder of TriDEV, the region's largest software and technology meetup group and he leads intrapreneurship efforts at Heartland Payment Systems.

Ryan believes that providing innovative opportunities makes amazing things happen.

Darla Engle


Darla Engle is the founder of Engle CPA and works with most of the Startup community in Johnson City. Her support of the Startup community is helping our region grow.

Darla believes that for Startups to thrive, they need to know their numbers.

Grace Lockhart

Grant Coordinator

Grace Lockhart is a finance major with a concentration in corporations & investments, and a minor in English at East Tennessee State University. She has a strong devotion for non-profit work and thrives in fast-paced situations that require creative solutions.

Edwin Williams

Startup Ambassador

Edwin Williams is a serial Entrepreneur and the Founder/CEO of ZenHammer, a Startup that automates and simplifies the business side of contracting.

Edwin believes that a Startup's network can make or break the business.

Arnab Chakraborty

Mentorship Ambassador

Arnab Chakraborty is the co-Founder of Flow MedTech, a local medical device Startup that is helping prevent complications from atrial fibrillation.

Arnab believes that when Startups share their stroies, great things happen.

Lydiah Merritt

Marketing Director

Lydiah is a graphic designer specializing in traditional printmaking, corporate branding, & social media management for many local and statewide companies within Tennessee.

Partners & Supporters

Have a Passion for Entrepreneurship and Local Startups? 
Help Our Region Grow. Become a Supporter!