NC IDEA, an organization that has supported innovative North Carolina startups with grants since 2006, said Thursday that its founder David Rizzo has retired and it is converting into a private foundation. Sean O’Leary has been named interim executive director.

Rizzo said, “I welcome the opportunity to transition to a less active role to allow me more time to pursue personal interests.”

Most recently, O’Leary was CEO and president of RTP-based StrikeIron, which sold to Informatica in June 2014. O’Leary has more than twenty years of technology sales and operations related experience with a proven track record with both Fortune 500 companies and venture-backed enterprises.

Under Rizzo’s leadership, NC IDEA’s grant program, a twice- yearly competitive award of up to $50,000 for North Carolina-based early stage technology companies with the potential to grow quickly and create jobs, will remain the centerpiece of NC IDEA. Since 2006, 98 companies have been awarded nearly $4 million in NC IDEA grants.

The NC IDEA board considered a number of possible organizational structures going forward but settled on operating as a private foundation, which it says will provide the most operational freedom and will allow the organization to more effectively expand its philanthropic goals while continuing to foster economic development in North Carolina.

“The board sees enormous opportunities for NC IDEA and the role it can play in our state’s entrepreneurial community for years to come,” Randy Myer, chairman of the board of NC IDEA said in a statement.

“The current grant program will still be the cornerstone of our organization; the conversion to a foundation provides a chance to strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial support network, informed by a strategic plan that will be developed under new leadership, in partnership with the community, and we are excited to have Sean stepping in to lead this charge.”