As the March 1 deadline for applications to the FoundersForge entrepreneur bootcamp nears, the partners funding the program are eager to see the benefits it will provide. Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the city of Johnson City and SyncSpace, a Kingsport-based entrepreneurial support organization, both parties are putting $75,000 into Johnson City’s entrepreneurial programs. A third of SyncSpace’s contribution goes directly into FoundersForge programming.
“The city’s funding is coming out of funds designated for economic development,” says Joe Wise, Johnson City mayor. “Since we have funds for that purpose, there was an opportunity here with SyncSpace to essentially double the value of those funds.”
“In addition to that, cultivating that entrepreneurial, start-up oriented community in Johnson City is very much a part of, and is identified in, our strategic plan,” Wise says. “So, it seemed like a win-win in that regard. Then, the partnership with FoundersForge was really a way to take what SyncSpace and LaunchTN were doing and bring it down to the grassroots level in Johnson City.” SyncSpace has northeast Tennessee’s only LaunchTN grant.
“For me,” Wise says, “what was most intriguing about this was the idea of the bootcamp, where entrepreneurs could form relationships and encouraging that among this subset of businesspeople. That was certainly part of my own experience starting up my own business.”
Wise says city leaders had seen the benefits of investing in a deliberate push to develop entrepreneurial development during a visit to Chattanooga two years ago, and had been looking for opportunities like that presented by the SyncSpace/FoundersForge bootcamp partnership. “(Chattanooga) had cultivated an environment where start-up businesses could find each other and feed off one another. Those start-ups serve each other as sources of accountability and encouragement.”
In addition to the bootcamp agreement, the MOU between Johnson City and SyncSpace requires SyncSpace to implement and execute a rural health accelerator program in partnership with ETSU between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022.
“(The agreement) has a cut-off date right now, but if it yields the benefits that I expect, it has the potential to be something that makes sense for a longer term,” Wise says.
For more information on the bootcamp, visit myfoundersforge.com/bootcamp.