Formerly ‘Startup Tri-Cities,’ non-profit ‘FoundersForge’ hopes to grow new local tech Startups

Feb 1, 2020 | Announcements

As part of an enhanced effort to serve tech entrepreneurs in Northeast Tennessee, a regional resource for startups has relaunched as a nonprofit under a new name.

During a kickoff at Spark Plaza on Jan. 30, Startup Tri-Cities announced it is rebranding under a 501(c)3 designation as “FoundersForge.”

“We believe these underdog entrepreneurs are a key piece to the success of our entire region and our existing tech startups are proving this to be true,” said David Nelson, director of FoundersForge. “With stronger support and connections to new opportunities, we feel we can add fuel to the fire and see our region’s tech ecosystem take off.”

Startup Tri-Cities began four years ago with its first Pitches and Pints event, a recurring competition that serves as an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to sell their ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win prize money.

Nelson said organizers were expecting 20 to 30 people to show up to that first Pitches and Pints event. They ended up getting four times that number. Since then, Nelson said the organization has been continuing to host Pitches and Pints and other activities like workshops for local entrepreneurs.

In the past four years, Nelson has seen the region change: More downtown businesses are popping up and scaling, and interest in tech entrepreneurship is gradually growing.

Nelson said members of Startup Tri-Cities realized the organization could be focusing its efforts on fostering that local tech community.

“So we regrouped, rebuilt the board, became a 501(c)3 nonprofit all for the sake of focusing 100% on this one area that’s just ripe for amazing growth,” he said.

FoundersForge will continue to host events in its new form, and Nelson said the organization’s 501(c)3 status makes it easier for FoundersForge to accept funding. Leaders say they are also hoping to hire full-time staff members.