If the 50+ entities that applied for NC IDEA’s new Ecosystem Partner grants got their way, $10 million would be invested in boosting the state’s startup ecosystem in coming years. 

Unfortunately, NC IDEA has just $1 million a year to fund proposed partner projects. That means it’ll be making some tough choices this summer. According to the foundation’s new CEO and president Thom Ruhe, about $2.5 million of the proposals should get funded and another $5 million is debatable (The final $2.5 million should not be funded, he says). 

To help fill the gap, Ruhe and the NC IDEA board will delay award announcements by a month in hopes of consolidating some proposed projects and raising additional money to fund others. Expect answers in August.

He admits they’ll be taking a different strategy than other foundations or grant-making organizations. Most react to what was submitted and say yes or no, but NC IDEA will be more proactive, Ruhe says, thanking entities for their submissions and suggesting ways to rethink the plans or to integrate them with other complimentary proposals.

“We are using this vantage point we have from seeing everything else to suggest different things,” he says. Ruhe will begin talking to partners this week with the hope of narrowing down the project list.

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